I never desire to wade into these sexual indiscretion scandals, or sexual abuse accusations, which have hounded well-known Zimbabwean leaders of late – both from the ruling and opposition formations – since, I vehemently believe these are matters largely based either on allegations (and, requiring substantiated evidence), or are of a legal nature, whose outcome should be determined by the criminal justice system.
I have a strong aversion to running to conclusions on any issue, unless and until incontrovertible proof, which is beyond any reason doubt, is presented before me – and as such, make it a point of principle not to publicly express my personal opinions on any subject I am not absolutely sure about.
Nonetheless, it becomes my business, and the rest of the country’s citizenry, when such emotive issues – which either expose a lack of self-control, moral integrity, and trustworthiness, as well as having the potential of being pure criminality – are treated with frivolity and flippancy, as if they were of no consequence or even a big sick joke.
Let it be clear that, how one behaves in their private life, has a most significant impact and bearing on the concerned individual’s or perpetrator’s suitability for an office of responsibility and leadership.
That is why, on 19 December 1998, the then US (United States of America) president William J. Clinton was formally impeached by his country’s House of Representatives – although, later acquitted by Senate – for his romantic encounters with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, between 1995 and 1997.
As much as these were consensual, the fact that this was a married man committing acts of adultery, seriously jeopardized his good standing, and made him unsuitable for a position of leadership – that carries with it high standards of integrity, and should be bound by exceptional levels of virtue.
Besides, why should a nation trust someone who cannot even remain faithful to his or her sacred vows of marriage, and cannot be depended upon to fulfil his or her promises, or be committed to values of honesty – since, such untrustworthiness can easily be transfered to his or her work ethics?
Therefore, it would be the height of disingenuousness for anyone to attempt to trivialize, or even outrightly dismiss and disparage any such allegations of sexual indiscretions, or sexual abuse – whether these have been substantiated or not.
No matter whom these allegations have been made against – the gravity of their significance can never be taken lightly – especially, being based on one’s political leanings.
Which is the most disturbing scenario we worryingly witness in Zimbabwe, as these accusations are either readily accepted or rejected purely premised on which political entity made them, or against a culprit from which side.
So, if the person being accused is from my political party, the allegations have to be false and baseless – most likely the work of political opponents.
And, if the victim is from my political party, then the allegations have to be true, and accepted at face value.
If this is how we are to deal with issues of such magnitude, then we are in serious trouble as Zimbabweans – and, exposes immaturity of the lowest order.
For instance, the most recent shocking utterances by the ruling ZANU PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa – in response to damning accusations made by Australian-based socialite, Susan Mutami, to the effect that she was repeatedly sexually violated by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, from the age of 15 years – cannot go unchallenged.
Instead of either keeping his mouth firmly shut, and refusing to comment on a matter whose details he may not be well informed – Mutsvangwa elected to ridicule the claims, by wondering why a huge deal was being made over the matter, yet “even trees and birds had sex”!
Need he be reminded that, these serious allegations are to do with sexual abuse, and were never based on consensual encounters, considering that the law frowns upon those who commit statutory rape – which is now regarded as pure rape, as she was supposedly still under the age of sexual consent.
Needless to say, even had these been consensual – between two agreeable adults, as we witnessed with the Clinton-Lewinsky case, when one of the parties was married – this still translates into gross immorality and untrustworthiness, that is not to be expected from a person occupying a position of authority.
For Mutsvangwa to dismiss the rape claims, out of hand, as insignificant, inconsequential, and even comedic – since the country had other more pressing matters to attend to, such as economic development – smacks of gross arrogance, and an affront on the broader fight against gender-based violence and sexual abuse…a scourge that has torn apart the fabric of our society as Zimbabweans.
What, then, does this say about the ruling party itself, and the government as a whole – with regard their perception of sexual violence?
Maybe, this is a silly question – considering that this is the same entity that was severely enraged, after a May 1996 movie depicting the country’s armed liberation struggle, ‘Flame’, captured the rape of female combatants by male ZANLA guerrillas.
Yet, these were real events that took place – with some female war veterans having even confided in me about what happened to them during the war – and, therefore, should never be ignored, denied, or swept under the carpet.
What more, this is the same regime that has been severally accused of using sexual violence as a weapon against female opposition activists.
Why, then, should we be particularly shocked when a very senior ruling party official – in fact, not just any official, but the face and voice of ZANU PF – pokes fun at grave allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of their own leader?
Any party that wants to be taken seriously by the citizenry should have expressed their disapproval and disgust of any incidents of sexual abuse, or at the very least, refused to be dragged into this issue, and distanced themselves from the matter.
By choosing to turn this into a comic matter – exposes a deep-rooted sickening trait within the psyche of the ruling party in Zimbabwe.
How, then, is the country expected to come out of the ravenous demon of sexual abuse, with such people in power?
-Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]