Outspoken political activist and human rights defender Linda Masarira has written a open letter to Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri over army operations which have been accused of misconduct and lack of discipline.
Here is the full letter:
Dear Minister Oppah Muchinguri
I decided to write this open letter to you after failing to reach you on the phone about a critical issue which needs your your urgent attention as the Minister of Defence and a woman as well.
Women in Zimbabwe celebrated your appointment as the first woman Minister of defence with the hope that you would ensure the end of state sponsored brutality against women and sexual violation towards women by members of the security sector in Zimbabwe.
I have been following the events that have been unfolding in our country over the past week and a half with shock and disdain at how political parties can resort to political power contestation using innocent civilians to protest leading to government heavy handedness which led to injuries, death and in some cases rape. It is despicable that government gave a go ahead to soldiers to inflict pain and untold suffering to innocent Zimbabweans who are struggling to make ends meet. We expect the government to listen to the voice of the people and stop this reign of terror on innocent Zimbabweans.
ZanuPF, in its electoral campaign trail promised a good life to the citizens of Zimbabwe and as a concerned citizen I am demanding that you as the Honorable Minister of Defence ensure that the Army protects the people of Zimbabwe. Our country is not at war and as a peace loving Zimbabwean, I am humbly requesting for the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets Harare back to the barracks were they belong.
Violence, state sponsored brutality and sexual assault will not resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe, it is only worsening the trauma and further dividing the nation. Resorting to unconstitutional means to silent dissenting voices is a violation of the universal declaration of human rights. Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy and all organs of the state should comply to the constitutional provisions on protection of fundamental human rights.
It is barbaric, inhuman and disgusting that some soldiers have been raping women this day and age. This shows a lack of discipline in the rank and file of the army. I will not sit back and watch women’s dignity being taken away by some unruly elements within the army. As the woman in charge, mother and sister, I expect you to ensure that all those soldiers who raped women are brought to book, arrested and serve their sentence for the gross violation of women’s bodies. In November we joined the world in advocating for zero tolerance to gender based violence and two months down the line soldiers are violating women.
What I find more appalling, is how the government is trying to justify brutal and evil acts. The citizens have reasonable and genuine concerns which were unfortunately hijacked by power hungry politicians. The government should attend to the peoples concerns immediately instead of sending soldiers after them.
In conclusion, I demand accountability from your ministry. All those who used excessive force against unarmed Zimbabweans must be brought to book for prosecution expeditiously. Justice delayed is justice denied.
In anticipation of a favourable response, I remain.
Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
Pro-Development, Democracy and Gender Activist