Rich makorokoza: Artisanal miners' wives bear the brunt of GBV

Zimbabwe Gender Commission CEO Virginia Muwanigwa said GBV against women and girls was commonplace in Zimbabwe’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector.

FOR Mebho Marumisa (not her real name), February 4 was a night of horror.

She is eager to erase from her memory the traumatic and distressing incident where her husband, an artisanal miner popularly referred to as mukorokoza, brutally attacked her with a machete, fists and booted feet because he was dissatisfied with the meal she had prepared, which he deemed to be of low quality.

The 20-year-old Marumisa who lives at Premier Estate in Mutasa district, is the third wife to the artisanal miner aged 29 and they have a two-year-old son.

“After seeing that l had served him with mackerel and sadza, he stood up in rage saying he was a rich person who should not eat a poor man’s meal. He slapped me and I fell. He kicked me all over my body. He picked up a machete and as l saw him coming to me with the machete and I could only scream,” she recalled.

 “No one could hear me. He continued assaulting me as if he was possessed. I was bleeding from the mouth and nose. I saw him raising the machete to chop and finish me off, but I don’t know how l got the strength to escape.

 Neighbours heard her cries for help and came to the rescue. The violence Marumisa experienced was so extreme that she was confined to a hospital bed for three months.

Marumisa had been enduring the assaults repeatedly over the two-year marriage.

 She reported her husband to the police several times, but he has never been arrested.

 She is not alone in the web of gender-based violence (GBV), as many young girls and women across all sectors are suffering from accelerated forms of abuse.

 Of late, cases of GBV have been escalating in mining areas.

 Marumisa is a victim of GBV and is living in a safe house in Mutasa district.

 The house is a haven for victims of GBV which provides temporary shelter and reprieve from the perpetrator while their GBV cases are investigated.  

She is at Mutasa Safe Shelter through the support from UNFPA under the European Union sponsored Spotlight Initiative.

The Mutasa Safe Shelter has been supporting victims of GBV deal with trauma, preparation for legal processes, economic and vocational empowerment to equip survivors with the necessary skills to lead independent and dignified lives.

 Mavis Betera, a mother of three, residing in Chiadzwa, within the Marange diamond fields, laments her predicament. Despite enduring violence at the hands of her husband, who is also an artisanal miner, she finds herself trapped with no viable options. This unfortunate circumstance arises from her husband being the sole provider for their family.

 “On so many occasions he beats me and verbally assaults me saying l am her property since he paid lobola to my parents. I don’t have a say on everything. We always argue and fight over monetary issues. He has also impregnated several women. He brags that he has a lot of money and can do whatever he wants with it,” she said.

 “I am scared that one of us will be badly injured or die if we continue fighting. Sadly, my family just looks the other way because they receive cash and groceries from my husband. My parents have let me down and they always support my husband because he is rich, but l am not happily married,” added Betera.

 As  Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, calls have been made to amplify campaigns aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women.

The United Nations estimates that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

 In an interview with NewsDay, Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government had strengthened efforts to fight GBV after President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed two documents — High Level Political Compact on ending gender-basedviolence and the National GBV Strategy.

 These documents are aimed at ending violence and harmful practices against women and girls, Mutsvangwa said.

 She said the government was in the process of setting up a GBV data management and information system that would enable the tracking of the prevalence of the cases throughout the country.

 “My ministry is committed to raising awareness and mobilising resources to address the root causes and consequences of this human rights violation that mostly affects women and girls,” Mutsvangwa said, adding that government and partners “will continue to hold awareness programmes and campaigns in various communities in Zimbabwe”.

 “This will give my ministry an opportunity to engage the community and its leaders so that we collectively fight GBV and strengthen efforts of stakeholders within the communities,” she said.

 “We are now working on how we can increase awareness as far as GBV is concerned. There is a need to embark on more advocacy on the assistance programme and legal aid issues.”

 Zimbabwe Gender Commission CEO Virginia Muwanigwa said GBV against women and girls was commonplace in Zimbabwe’s artisanal and small-scale mining sector.

 “Artisanal and small-scale mining has become a dominant livelihood strategy in communities that have mineral deposits. As the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, we are deeply concerned about the high cases of gender-based violence in mining communities, particularly the physical and emotional abuse of wives by artisanal miners. This is a serious violation of the rights of women and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes,” she said.

Muwanigwa recommended a multi-faceted approach in addressing the issue.

 "There is need to engage with mining communities to raise awareness about the negative impacts of gender-based violence and the importance of gender equality, which can be done through forms of media that reach a wide audience.

 “It is important to provide training and capacity building for community leaders and traditional leaders, to equip them with the knowledge and skills to address gender-based violence. It is ideal to strengthen the legal framework to protect victims of gender-based violence in mining communities to ensure they are gender-sensitive and provide adequate protection for victims,” Muwanigwa said.

 She added that the promotion of economic empowerment of women in mining communities through vocational training and access to financial resources would help to reduce their dependence on their husbands and instil confidence in them while making the women autonomous.

“There is a need to establish accountability mechanisms to ensure that perpetrators of gender-based violence are held responsible for their actions. There is a need to work together, we can create a safer and more equitable environment for all members of mining communities,” she said.

Shamwari Yemwanasikana programmes manager Esnara Kativhu said she envisioned a nation where the rights of the girl child are respected and promoted.

 “What usually happens is that these artisanal miners marry girls who are under 18 years. In most cases if they approach a young girl and she refuses they end up being violent. They will go after the girl and their family members and sometimes it becomes fatal. Due to their violent nature, the young girls end up giving in to protect themselves and members of their families,” Kativhu said.

 “The artisanal miners work in an environment that is associated with death, so their mental health cannot integrate into the society. They kill each other and they are now used to violence. They emotionally and physically abuse their wives.”

 Due to their financial muscle, the artisanal miners resort to promiscuity and polygamy, which have resulted in the escalation of abuse of women.

“There is a need for the regulation of artisanal mining. Armed forces should be deployed to the areas where the artisanal miners work because this is where the violence starts. We urge the victims of such abuse and violence to report the cases to police and other stakeholders,” she said.

 Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union secretary-general Justice Chinhema said GBV and sexual harassment were rampant and went unreported in the sector.

“As a union, we are developing a gender-based violence and sexual harassment policy that will address these challenges.

 “The policy when adopted, we want it to be a sectorial and community policy. We are using education and training to raise awareness among the mine workers, communities and other stakeholders,” Chinhema said.

Chief Bernard Marange said he received many reports on gender-based violence in his jurisdiction, adding that a combined approach was required to halt the scourge.

“Any meaningful intervention would necessitate multiple-partner collaborations between government and other social partners,” Chief Marange said.

 Marumisa and Betera believe that there are more women suffering in silence.

Today, Marumisa has escaped the iron fist of her abusive husband. She is now recovering at a safe space.

Related Topics