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Nelson Chamisa and the demon of patriarchy

Nelson Chamisa and the demon of patriarchy. Some of us (men) are comfortable in that space, not because we are ‘naturals’ at it. We actually trained about, on and for it. Yet it takes a lifetime to rid our system of this other thing – the kind of unsavoury psycho socio-cultural phenomenon common only to African men. As an African, I confess to having plenty of it in my system – not what you think – but what iconic gender activist Sally Ncube ‘christened’ the Demon of Patriarchy.

In the past few weeks – ironically as late as last Friday – Zimbabwe’s restive but graphically acerbic social media has been abuzz with one subject – the seemingly endangered rights of women and girl children. I do not for once think we are done yet, given the inevitable 16 days of activism on the same subject.

Ordinarily, I would not have had to write about it since there are better ‘institutional beings’ who came long before my literary antics and made careers of it. Pricilla Misihairabwi. Everjoy Win. Yvonne Mahlunge. Luphi Mushayakarara. Ennie Chipembere. Choice Ndoro. Betty Makoni. Samu Khumalo. Grace Chirenje – the list is endless.

As I said, I am also comfortable in that space too, having spent the first 18 years of my life in a home of six glorious women – my mother and five sisters. It, therefore, would have taken very little prompting converting to the gospel of #WomanPower. If I make it sound simple, be forgiven for misunderstanding me. For good reason. The Demon of Patriarchy – let me shorten it to DoP – afflicts every African man. Even presidents of political parties.

As boys, growing up in multi-gender communities, we are socialised around the notion that we do ‘tough and hard’ tasks – that is ploughing the fields, dragging logs, carting manure and herding cattle. My mother, in her wisdom, always reminded my sisters that they should do things well ‘so that you don’t embarrass us when (not if) you get married’.

These ‘things’ – like doing dishes, cooking, polishing the floor, washing clothes – were the epitome of womanhood – and so we thought. Therefore, it is important to accept that every African man will occasionally lapse into an ‘anti-woman’ mode whenever his private space is challenged. An instinctive reaction, a default position that requires careful, articulate (un)learning to rid the system of this DoP.

Thus, when my friends alerted me to the Nelson Chamisa ‘microphone’ scene, it did not mean much until I analysed it in the context of typical men’s games. Most men play games where an individual ‘snatches’ one form or another of something from an opponent.

Nelson Chamisa


In soccer, you are a better player where you snatch the ball from an opposing player often enough. In draughts, gambling, armed robbery – name it – the more one ‘grabs’, the more they feel content. It is very unlikely that a (boy) man can date a (girl) woman without feeling satisfied about having deprived another (boy) man of the same privilege. This entire scenario – the snatch game plan – we could term it ukuhluthuna – read Umahluthuna as a noun – in local Ndebele lingua franca.

Yet the DoP is not just a bad habit. In a country like Zimbabwe where democratisation, civilisation and social advancement are in short supply, the DoP worsens the ‘state of the nation’ for one tragic reason. It alienates the critical woman element from the development algorithm.

Women are not only a majority, but they generally make better leaders less susceptible to corruption. Thus, their exclusion based purely on gender deprives our nation of critical human capital. In my researches for business member and civil society organisations, I routinely encounter empirical evidence on how the placement of women in positions of responsibility increases the ‘net worth’ of institutions – by way of goodwill, reliability and profitability.

The DoP ostracises, demeans, trivialises and subordinates women. No authority – religious, social, professional, let alone the hallowed presidential office can occupy the Umahluthuna space and hope to remain credible – at least in my world. Equal access to opportunity is not a fallacy or a myth. It is an extension of enlightenment. Gender equality is not situational or circumstantial, neither is it an act of benevolence. It cannot be coincidental or conditional.

Those who are reluctant to exorcise the DoP are on a trajectory to the galactic Black Hole. They may massage their ego all they like but that will not alter the direction of world civilisation. Unfortunately, Africa is moving slowly. Zimbabwe even slower, for that matter. It was very clear from the outset – even at the dawn of democratisation in 2000 – that we men were ill-prepared to place women in strong positions of presidential leadership. Perhaps, just maybe, the tragedy we find ourselves in as a country would have been averted.

We cannot change the rules of real legitimate Umahluthuna games, but we can unlearn the bad habits as a big step towards exorcising the DoP. Being stuck in old ways imposed on us by conservative traditionalism, gender phobia or religious fundamentalism is one way of keeping our development thumb on the self-destruct button.

African girl children and African women are no longer just objects of ornamental bliss as in the 1980s and before. In a normal democracy, everybody should be accorded equal time to say their opinion or have a go at top leadership positions. As a facilitator, I do occasionally get irritated by ‘discussants’ who deliberately ignore the stopwatch, but my best means of control is body language. Ukuhluthuna is not an option. The sooner men in my league realise and accept that the better. I rest my case.

Source – Bulawayo 24 News

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