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Sexploitation, sexualisation of women in politics: The Mohadi case

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TAONA T. DENHERE

THE late Zimbabwean musician Paul Matavire, who was a social commentary genius, in the late 1980s composed a song titled “Tangawandida”.

Loosely translated it means that “you must first love me”, but figuratively, the song was indicting the perverse culture of sexual exploitation of women in the competitive male-dominated job market and patriarchal society.

This practice became euphemistically known in Zimbabwe as “carpet interview”. The song demonstrated that the sexualisation of women in socio-economic affairs of Zimbabwe is an old age and deeply ingrained tradition.

Social psychological studies have provided evidence that sexualisation of female members of society is directly correlated with systemic gender inequalities and institutionalised patriarchy.

That is, in top-down and horizontal patriarchal societies, social stratification and marginalisation of women in socio-economic affairs of their country breed income inequalities.

This ultimately conspires to make them the unwitting subjects and victims of sexualised objectification.

Accordingly, the recent exposition of graphic sexual misdemeanours by Vice- President Kembo Mohadi (pictured) in the public domain has elicited public outcry and revulsion from certain sections of the Zimbabwean community.

Automatically, it reignited an intense and divisive debate on aspects of sexploitation and the gender and power dynamics that underpin such sexualised relationships or lack thereof.

Precisely, this article attempts to locate the socio-economic, cultural and political dynamics that normalise and encourage such behavioural traits.

It is also aimed at exposing the dearth of progressive politics of vigilante vanguardism in civil society, organised opposition and the sunshine and pseudo-feminist groups.

From beds to office desks
Veteran war liberation nationalist, educationist and a brilliant academic Fay Chung in her seminal war memoir titled Re-Living the Second Chimurenga aptly and forensically captures the objectification and sexualisation of women cadres by senior male Zanla commanders.

Senior Zanla commanders such as Josiah Magama Tongogara and others were notorious for engaging in midnight raids into female accommodation.

Their objective was to treat themselves to the rich pickings of female cadres for their selfish sexual gratification.

The powerless women were objectified and sexualised as warm blankets by senior Zanla military operatives.

According to Chung, these predatory sexual escapades which satisfy the criminal threshold of rape became so unbearable and traumatising on female cadres that at one point, they had to hide away each time the Tongogara raiding party invaded the female places of accommodation.

The trauma inflicted by this sociopathic and psychopathic sexual depravity of Tongogara and his comrades upon these powerless innocent female cadres was aptly captured in the paranoiac insecurities of female cadres.

In her book, Chung narrates a particular incident when she visited a camp clinic, but found it deserted.

However, upon searching around, she found female clinic staff hiding in the nearby thicket of bushes.

The female cadres then told Chung they had heard footsteps approaching in the direction of the clinic and, like rats in a granary, scampered for cover thinking that it was the raiding party of sexually addicted senior Zanla commanders.

Suffice it to say that, this warm blanket sexual misadventure was exported into the liberated zones of colonial Rhodesia by the rank-and-file Zanla cadres.

It is reputed that during the all-night vigils of political mobilisation and indoctrination known as “pungwes”, Zanla combatants would occasionally pick some teenage girls and young women, some of whom had acted as war collaborators, chimbwidos, for their sexual gratification.

Crucially, these two pre-independence sexploitations of female combatants and female war collaborators were all underpinned by inequitable gender dynamics that were informed by socio-political and power relationships that defined them.

Tongogara had Frankenstein socio-political and military influence and power that commanded both fear and respect from top-ranking Zanla/Zanu cadres to the lowest ranking foot soldier.

On the other hand, the Zanla guerrillas equally commanded fear and respect from the ordinary villagers in the liberated zones.

Symbolically carrying the Kalashnikov (AK) rifle tipped the balance of power in favour of guerrillas against female chimbwidos.

In post-colonial Zimbabwe, the high-profile case of adultery and infidelity in the top echelons of power undoubtedly involved the late Robert Mugabe and his then secretary and later wife Grace Marufu.

Mugabe engaged in an extramarital affair with Grace, when his wife Sally Mugabe was battling a debilitating kidney disease.

Prima facie, this typified the gross imbalance of socio-economic and cultural power dynamics.

A president had such an enviable astronomical profile that is irresistible to any particular woman and in this case the power was wielded over a mere typist by a powerful leader.

Taking this detour into the past was very essential to enable us to re-contextualise the sexcapades and sexual misadventures currently haunting Mohadi.

Over the past few days, the Zimbabwean social media ecosystem has been saturated with graphic sexually explicit hacked phone chats of Mohadi with four different women.

Clearly, from the recorded conversations, Mohadi sounded like a perverted sex-addict with prodigious unquenchable sexual appetite.

Moreover, the choice of the lexicon deployed was quite disconcerting and unsettling.

Especially, the word f*ck, this clearly shows the callous obscene sexual objectification of ladies who came into contact with Mohadi. It gives us an insight into the sociopathic and psychopathic mindset of Mohadi.

For him, women were mere sexual objects to be f*cked, not to be loved. Relationship specialists argue that a f*ck is an emotionally empty, but power and authority-driven sexual conquest that normally happens between a client and a prostitute.

F*ck is a pejorative term which in the context of Mohadi’s sex tapes show a hideous defilement of female bodies.

This is despite the fact that the telephone conversations showed consenting adults arranging to have consensual sex.

However, the aggravating factor to this consensus is the imbalance of socio-economic dynamics at play. For instance, one of the ladies can be heard saying that she was desperately in need some money for “round”.

Round is an informal collective savings scheme where individuals contribute to a pool of funds and get turns to be paid collected funds from that pool.

Therefore, the income inequality which is disproportionately weighed against this particular lady demonstrates the imbalance of power dynamics in these so-called consensual sexual relationships.

According to online tabloid ZimLive, one of the young ladies who Mohadi was supposed to meet at a hotel in Bulawayo was a beneficiary of his scholarship programme.

Consequently, there is a clear case of Mohadi’s conflict of interest and exercise of undue influence over this young beneficiary he had planned to meet at the Holiday Inn.

We could not know for certain whether this scholarship was awarded in “tanga wandida” fashion or it was above board.

Nonetheless, there is a great possibility that it came with conjugal rights attached to it.

These graphic and sexually explicit phone calls which implicate Mohadi prima facie have the hallmarks of gross misconduct, dereliction of duty and high disregard of professional boundaries by the public office holder, in this case the Vice-President of the Republic and second citizen.

This should have automatically resulted in the suspension of the Vice-President to allow investigations into abuse of office. Resignation would have followed forthwith.

Over the last 15 years, Zimbabwe had made significant inroads and positive developments in combating the scourge of HIV infection and transmission.

It has resulted in considerable reduction of HIV infections and death. Both government and donor-driven HIV awareness and education programmes had a profound effect on behavioural patterns and citizen responsibility.

However, the indiscipline and promiscuous behaviour of the second-highest-ranking citizen of the republic have the unintended consequences of reversing the hard-won gains of combating HIV and Aids infections.

Mohadi’s sexual escapades send a very wrong and retrogressive signal and message to the young and sexually active citizens of the republic, who happen to be the most economically active demographic.

Thus ordinary folks look up to public officials for exemplary and disciplined leadership and direction.

Deafening silence from stakeholders
As the deluge of Mohadi’s obscene sexually explicit phone chats saturated and suffocated the social media ecosystem of Zimbabwe, there was a small minority of Zimbabwean netizens and citizens who called for his resignation.

However, conspicuous by its absence in rebuking nor vociferously calling for Mohadi’s resignation was the organised opposition, both the MDC Alliance and MDC-T.

This was coupled with the fact that there were neither feminist outcries from the so-called women’s rights groups.

It is a historic fact that resigning on the grounds of incompetence, misrule or moral decadence is unheard of in both the government and Zanu PF.

Resignation is considered a sign of weakness rather than a sign of responsible leadership.
Zanu PF establishmentarians typify leadership without responsibilities.

Thus, the highs of responsible leadership of Maurice Nyagumbo who resigned and ultimately committed suicide as a result of his corrupt misadventures in the Willogate Scandal, nor that of Edmund Garwe who resigned as an Education minister after his daughter leaked an ‘O’ Level English language examination paper are a distant memory and far cry from the current moral debasement and ethical debauchery.

Accordingly, it was against this backdrop that despite the fact that the MDC Alliance was accorded an open mouth goal-scoring opportunity to claim the moral high ground over Mohadi’s acts of depravity and abuse of state power, it failed to display any signs of the appetite to advocate for the fair treatment of women in the patriarchal and unequal Zimbabwean context.

To the utter dismay of many people, the MDC Alliance was found wanting.

Neither its women’s assembly, information department nor the presidency issued a robust rebuke. There were no statements holding Mohadi to account over his depravity and gross misconduct.

The MDC Alliance failed to rise to the occasion by not demonstrating proactive alternative leadership acumen to Zanu PF’s gross incompetence.

Instead, they adopted the ostrich mentality by burying their heads in the sand and adopting a lukewarm business-as-usual approach.

Mohadi’s sexgate scandal was not only an opportune point-scoring moment for the MDC Alliance, but also an opportunity for them to demonstrate and prove their credentials as a government in waiting or a credible and progressive alternative to Zanu PF mis-governance.

However, another school of thought argues that the MDC Alliance senior officials have equally a fair share of aldultery and infidelity skeletons in their cupboards.

Hence, they lacked the moral courage to vociferously demand the resignation or the firing of Mohadi.

Crucially missing in action are the so-called women’s rights and feminist organisations.

Over the last few years Zimbabwe has witnessed the mushrooming of a plethora of gender activist organisations, all claiming to fight for the feminist rights of the girl child and women’s rights.

However, their deafening silence in light of Mohadi’s display of moral depravity was disconcerting and disappointing.

They were presented with an opportunity to show their feminist claws and fangs and to stand up against the abuse of power by powerful men in our society.

Nonetheless, they decided to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

There was an uninspiring belated rebuke and condemnation of Mohadi’s perverted behaviour from the conflicted Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, together with the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

Furthermore, the usually vocal Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, who at one time touted herself as the feminist-in-chief of the Zimbabwean chapter of #MeTooMovement, did not even so much as whisper truth to power against the sexually perverted Mohadi.

Civil society and civic republicanism is now considered as the fifth estate in the civic, governmental and public affairs of the country.

Therefore, this was a tragic failure of the civil society organisations in Zimbabwe, especially the so-called women’s  rights and feminist groups.

They failed to step up and exercise militant, radical and progressive vertical accountability against the sexual depravity and ethical debauchery of Mohadi and this was disappointing, to say the least.

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