Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent
WITH a bruised and battered face, Busisiwe Sibanda hands over a signed affidavit to a court prosecutor begging for the release of her husband who is in custody facing assault charges.
It’s clear to everyone sitting in the gallery at the Bulawayo Magistrates’ Courts that Sibanda is in pain, but what baffles everyone is Sibanda’s plea to the court to free the same man who brutally attacked her.
The reason for the attack was that Sibanda had defied her husband, Vincent Moyo’s instructions that she must not attend a party in Makokoba suburb. Moyo struck his wife with an empty beer bottle and punched her several times with clenched fists for defying his orders not to attend the party.
When Sibanda approached the court pleading for the release of her husband, the court had no choice but to release him.
Outside the court as the Saturday Leisure photographer Nkosizile Ndlovu tried to capture pictures of the abuser to be used in an article the following day in the Chronicle newspaper, they both started shouting obscenities at the news crew.
“What’s newsworthy about a husband beating up his wife? Don’t you have better news to report on, who takes pictures of you when you beat up your wife?” screamed the wife while shouting unprintable profanities.
The following day, on October 21, 2020, the Chronicle carried a story headlined, “Spouse bashed for going to a party”.
Today, the wife basher probably still walks the streets of Bulawayo a free man despite inflicting physical and emotional scars on the same woman that he should have been protecting and taking care of.
The fact that the victim saw it fit to defend her abuser brings to the fore a long-held myth by men and to a certain extent, women, that beating up one’s partner is a sign of love. Too many a time, the phrase “if he doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t love you” has been used by women to defend the heinous acts of violence inflicted upon them by their boyfriends or husbands. But one platform started by a man and targeting men as its audience, is out to dispel such myths that not only condone violence against women but also make society embrace the notion that beating up one’s spouse is a sign of love.
Known as the Men’s Conference, the platform tackles vices such as violence against women by openly talking about the scourge and its impact on society in general.
The Men’s Conference is the brainchild of musician, Emmanuel “RootzKolossal” Nkomo of the acclaimed tribal house trio Djembe Monks and its thrust is to help men connect with other men for their overall betterment.
“We’ve come to the realisation that there’re topics that sometimes might seem trivial and not necessarily worth giving attention and that’s what we want to explore. Some of the most ignored topics are what get men talking such as mental health and gender-based violence.
“The Men’s Conference is a space where we’re open to each other as men and tackle everyday issues that affect us. It’s not a ‘boys are stronger than girls’ kind of platform but a space for us to try and learn to be better people,” said Nkomo.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when the Government imposed total lockdowns to prevent the spread of the pandemic, domestic violence cases increased by more than 100 percent. Institutions that fight against abuse have reported that psychological, emotional, verbal, physical, economical and other kinds of abuses increased against both sexes as perpetrators spent every hour of the day locked down with their victims.
Recent statistics tell a discouraging story. According to a report by the UN Committee for Human Rights, the incidence of domestic violence is, in fact, on its way up. In 2020, the number of domestic assaults on women grew by 20 percent compared to a similar reporting period in 2015.
A victim of domestic abuse for over 10 years, Lucia Gondo says she walked away from her marriage with deep physical and psychological scars after it dawned on her that the relentless beatings were not in any way her fault.
“I always felt that I deserved to be beaten because maybe I was in the wrong. But honestly, how can one person in a marriage always be the one who is wrong?
“Nothing that I did was ever good enough for him and my family and his side of the family would always say they would not get involved because it was a family matter between him and me,” Gondo told Saturday Leisure from South Africa where she sought sanctuary after walking away from her abusive marriage.
Blaming the victim is another major trend that allows abusers to get away scot-free, said Gondo.
Padare/ Enkundleni/ The Men’s Forum on Gender director Walter Vengesai agrees that domestic violence against women should never be ignored simply because it’s viewed as a family matter.
“Communities must speak out against gender-based violence against women instead of turning a blind eye because it’s taken as a family matter. Each and every one of us has a role to play to expose perpetrators of gender-based violence and report them to the authorities.
“At Padare/ Enkundleni, we always engage traditional and religious leaders to speak out against gender-based violence because they have large audiences and they are voices of reason in our communities,” said Vengesai.
GBV activist Sibonele Mtupa believes that boys who grow up in a family where the father beats the mother also become abusers later in their lives.
“It becomes a vicious cycle where the boys grow up thinking that assaulting their partners is okay and there’s nothing wrong in beating up their wives later in life. Men are role models to the younger generation of boys and their actions have a bearing on the behaviour of their children when they grow up,” said Mtupa.
As a parting shot, Vengesai, whose team at Padare/ Enkundleni has been working tirelessly to conscientise men to be ambassadors of a gender-based violence-free Zimbabwe, had this to say: “If he beats you, he doesn’t love you”. — @RaymondJaravaza.