I woke up on the 22nd of February and there was a link from one of Zimbabwe’s leading newspapers in a Whatsapp group chat I’m in. The link led to a story in the Herald of a maid who had fatally stabbed a gardener who had tried to rape her. The headline of the story says nothing about the attempted rape and sexual harassment. Instead, it magnifies the killing of the man and labels the man a “sex pest” instead of the rapist that he is. What that headline has already done is made the crimes of the man look insignificant and small. That headline absolves the attempted rape to being nothing more than a “pest” problem, something that could be dealt with in a civil manner. It completely ignores the violent nature of the act in question. The two worked at the same residence and the on the day of the stabbing, the man had tried to rape her at least once. That got me thinking about how many more times he had tried to force himself onto her on previous occasions. From the way the story is narrated, you can sense that the advances had been coming for a while and probably happened every other day the two were alone.
According to the report, he entered the kitchen where she was and grabbed her, demanding that she be intimate with him. She managed to push him away and picked up a bottle of olive oil. She threw the bottle at him to try and scare him away but he continued to advance. She then picked up the knife and tried to ward him off. Still he advanced, she then stabbed him in the chest and he ran into the yard where he fell and died. The judge sentenced her to 3 years in prison for culpable homicide (half of the sentence was suspended on condition of good behaviour for 5 years). Now here is what really pissed me off. The judge, a Ms Bianca Makwande, said that “Your self defence was excessive since the deceased was not armed. You could have averted the danger by calling for help.” What? You think if she could call for help she wouldn’t have? This man is trying to rape her and you put a measure on how far she should have gone in trying to defend herself? The judge has completely ignored the danger this woman was facing. She has ignored the violent nature of events that were in the face of this woman. Ms Makwande has absolved the man of his crimes and had blamed the victim.
Another comment by the judge says “You stabbed the deceased on his vital organ of the body which shows force. His family moved to the village because of his death and his wife was pregnant at that time”. So what? Did he not know he had a pregnant wife when he tried to rape her? Why isn’t he responsible for the consequences of his actions? Why is someone else responsible? The blame for the misfortune that has befallen his family because HE tried to rape someone has now been laid on the one he tried to rape. That’s madness. Everything that has happened here is Chimuchenga’s fault. He is the one who sexually harassed and assaulted.. This culture of protecting men from the gravity of their actions must stop. He is the one who tried to rape. He is not the victim. Chimuchenga is the perpetrator. It is this kind of absolution that continues to offer rape culture a place in our society. Victim blaming must stop. The worst part is that these comments came from another woman. As a society we need to do better to protect women from sexual assault and rape. Zimbabwe, let do better. Africa, let’s do better. No to victim blaming.