THE European Union yesterday joined Britain and the growing number of critics of Mr Nelson Chamisa and his party for abusing female commissioners of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), including its chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba.
The EU described the unwarranted insults and verbal abuse as a form of gender violence against women.
The EU’s concern comes following first female President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Mary Robinson’s condemnation of the abuse of the female Zec commissioners by the MDC Alliance.
Mrs Robinson was in the country last week as part of a delegation of the council of The Elders on a two-day visit to assess the pre-election environment.
Justice Chigumba and the other Zec commissioners have been victims of consistent abuse by the MDC Alliance, which has been using derogatory language against them.
The attacks have been more pronounced as the country counts down to the 2018 harmonised elections set for Monday next week.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Phillipe Van Damme yesterday condemned the abuse, saying politicians should be exemplary when it comes to gender-based violence. He revealed that the bloc was pouring in $21 million in Zimbabwe to fight gender-based violence.
In his tweet while responding to Zec Commissioner Netsai Mushonga’s condemnation of the attacks on female Zec commissioners, Mr Van Damme said gender-based violence started with use of abusive language and disrespect for personal integrity.
“Gender-Based Violence #GBV starts with abusive language and disrespect for personal integrity,” said Mr Van Damme. “@UNZimbabwe & @euinzim are putting up a 21MUSD #spotlight initiative to fight against #GBV. Example has to come from political leadership!”
British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing reacted to Comm Mushonga’s tweet saying the abuse of Zec commissioners should stop. “Good to see this abuse being called out,” she said. “It needs to stop.”
Political analyst and journalist Mr Hopewell Chin’ono also castigated the ill-treatment of women by the MDC Alliance. “Political parties and your supporters, you gain nothing by abusing and belittling those that don’t agree with your perspectives!” he said. “There is a silent majority that is not interested in your ability to abuse. You are bleeding supporters who are appalled by your verbal abuse.
“The political actors have been a huge embarrassment this election cycle. The level of gender bashing against women has been terrible, embarrassing and depressing. Zimbabwe is indeed a difficult place to live for women.”
Some members of the public criticised gender activists and organisations over their deafening silence on the abuse of Zec female commissioners and Justice Chigumba.
They said this showed that some organisations were only interested in getting funding and neglecting their core business. “It will not be surprising to see them coming out of their shell now that there is talk that money is being availed to fight gender-based violence,” said Mr Guide Mayo. “I hope that the money will be channelled through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Community Development instead of these NGOs, which have the propensity of abusing funds.”
Mr Chamisa’s MDC faction members also attacked MDC-T leader Dr Thokozani Khupe when she went to Supreme Court, with the party youths hurling insults and shouting obscenities at her, calling her a prostitute.
This led the Proportional Representation legislator for Matabeleland South, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga to protest by wearing a red T-shirt inscribed “Hure” (prostitute) at the back and “Me Too” in front.
Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she was wearing the T-shirt in protest against people who insulted women and called them bad names.
“If you abuse one woman, you abuse all of us,” she said. “An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us. By wearing such T-shirts, we are saying you can call us (women) names, but that will not intimidate us or stop us from participating in politics. We will continue with politics even if we are called names.”
The MDC faction led by Mr Chamisa has shown over time that it has no respect for women.
It abused then MDC-T deputy president Dr Khupe at the burial of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera in February this year by calling her names and almost assaulted her and tried to burn the hut she had sought refuge in.
She was only rescued by members of the police.
Another MDC politician, Ms Jessie Majome, recently raised similar concerns after she was abused by youths in the MDC faction led by Mr Chamisa, who called her names after she decided to stand as an independent in Harare West when she was elbowed out of the constituency.