Rural women as the invisible victims of militarised political violence: the case of Shurugwi district, Zimbabwe, 2000-2008
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Zimbabwe was beset by militarised politically-inspired violence between 2000 and 2008. How that violence has been imagined in terms of its causes, memorialisation and impact has been far from conclusive. As a derivative of this huge question that forms an important component of the framing for this dissertation, and to“visibilise” the subaltern, so to say, and to visualise “history from below”, I ask how the women of Shurugwi conceptualise it. This question has also polarised Zimbabweans into two, broadly the human rights and the redistributive, camps. But I ask, what do either of these frameworks enable or eclipse in the further understanding of the violence? Deploying genealogical and ethnographic approaches centred on the rural communities of Shurugwi that analyse the historical, socioeconomic and political factors that have engendered human rights abuses from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial moments, the dissertation problematizes both discourses and invites a much more troubled analysis.As a way to complicate the reading and to attempt to open the analysis of the violence further, I draw on the theoretical insights from Michel Foucault’s theory on the relationship between power and war. Inverting Clausewitz’s aphorism of war as politics by other means, Foucault argues instead that politics is war by other means. This inversion allows for a nuancing of the connections between the violence and the Chimurenga trope in Zimbabwe. In this way, the labelling of farm takeovers and other force-driven indigenisation modes in the new millennium as the Third Chimurenga, I demonstrate, was not a mere emotive evocation, but was meant to situate the violence as the final stage in a sequence with, and in the same category of importance as, the earlier zvimurenga, that is the First and Second Chimurenga that targeted to uproot the colonial project. I thus argue that the violence represented, in a significant way, the continuation of war for ZANU-PF to retain power amid dwindling electoral returns. This mode further illuminates the deployment of the spectacles of punishment for the public disciplining of citizens to achieve their passivity. Throughout the dissertation the central and animating question is to what extent were women the invisible victims of the violence? This question attempts to interrogate the political role of women in the violence. I attend to this question by privileging the narratives of women. Also, by articulating an Africanist feminist discourse that contests the dominant western one which atemporalises, universalises and fixes victimhood with females, this dissertation invites a re-looking of the violence in a way that locates agency at the site of performance. In this way I show that women were not perpetual victims, but were also important political actors whose actions, however small, greatly extended the violence. To conclude, I propose the adoption of the “traditional” Shona practice of kuripa ngozi as a transitional justice mechanism to help stamp out the culture and cycles of violence and impunity that have scarred Zimbabwe especially from the late colonial to the post-colonial eras.