The silent and dangerous patriarchs of our times: Nelson Chamisa’s boob about Zimbabwean women is not on!

7 May

Nelson Chamisa is in London meeting with the Zimbabwean diaspora community. He traveled there on Sunday 6 May and is scheduled to hold several meetings and rallies while on his tour. At the UK meeting he spoke about the values of the nation but he also did not shy away from making some very controversial statements. I want to focus on the one he made when he  apparently “pledged” his 18-year-old sister to Emerson Mnangagwa if ever the “Ngwena”  wins a “fair and free election” in the upcoming Zimbabwe general elections. As usual such kinds of statements arouse a lot of debate and attention from diverse Zimbabwean communities with some cheering him on while others question such. I am not too amused and think that Nelson Chamisa blundered in his reference to the “pledging of his young sister” in a bet over who will win the next election.

Calling out culture

It cannot be right that in this day and age where Nelson Chamisa speaks about “spaghetti junctions” and “rural airports” he still has the audacity to quote from old days’ cultural innuendos about how women can be pledged in a bet. Those who do not think what he said is offensive to women argue that the expression was an idiom used in Zimbabwe and it is part of our culture. But that cannot be right! Those who have defended him want to speak as if culture is some static thing that cannot be questioned.

No!

The idea of talking about women as if they are some commodity are long gone and if Zimbabwean culture condones such then it must be called out. Chamisa needs to be the first person to do that.

Perpetuating patriarchal nonsense

Chamisa was circumspect when he was making his speech and noted that this sister he referred to had just turned 18 and was looking for a husband. Chamisa is a lawyer and he is a public figure. He knows that what he says will be scrutinized at any given turn. It was no coincidence that he mentioned the legal age of majority. He knew he would spark an ire of criticism if he had not mentioned this but in his mind, he wanted to make a lasting “joke” of sorts to his audience.

Well, while people will cheer him on, what is left to be read after the speeches and when he has departed the UK is that Chamisa is a young man who is amenable to the idea that as soon as a woman reaches the age of 18 she can be married to any man who can even be suggested by the males in the family. These kinds of behaviors and thinking are not new to Zimbabwe – very patriarchal, backward and have caused many a young woman especially in rural Zimbabwe to be married off when their male counterparts are sent to university, go to work etc. Chamisa cannot be the one to perpetuate such kind of patriarchal nonsense. He can do better!

Do not make stupid jokes about women – it’s not on

To want to dignify what Chamisa said with any justification is just pure nonsense. One cannot make embarrassing and demeaning statements about women and try to pass them off as jokes or by the way kind of statements. Women in Zimbabwe and the world over deserve better and it is their male counterparts who should change the way they look at them and not out of pity or as a favor. It is not on to make stupid jokes and sexist innuendos about women. Chamisa should know better.

One thought made me ask if he should have used his wife or mother as an example, but then again it still would not be right.

What message does this send to his wife, his female relatives, and women who look up to him as a leader in Zimbabwe? Chamisa knows he can do better and he must do exactly that. How can someone even joke with the idea that an 18-year-old woman can be married to a 75-year-old man. It could have been a jibe, others will argue, but I will contend also that those jokes must be kept far away from us. They are sick jokes and they are not funny.

Find other things to politick around: Not women

Whatever was said yesterday has come and gone and people might even have forgotten about it. However, statements like these are reflective of how society thinks and regards women. From that perspective what Chamisa said becomes political and a dangerous position that seemingly sits in his head. Chamisa cannot want to hold the pole position as the spokesperson of such archaic thinking.

If ever he should politick, let him play with other things – run around and talk about bullet trains, spaghetti roads, rural airports and what have you but not refer to fellow human beings in degrading ways such as suggesting that they can be traded for marriage, they are only good to be given as bets in political battles and that their male patriarchs can trade them off.

The values of the nation that should form our software as Zimbabweans and give us a break from our “broken” past with Robert Mugabe should be a deep sense of respect for each other as Zimbabweans and human beings be it women, men, boys and girls.

Maybe it is high time that Zimbabwe started a conversation about a Female President in 2023.

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