The European Union (EU) yesterday joined Britain and a growing number of people who have criticised Mr Nelson Chamisa and his MDC-Alliance for abusing female commissioners of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), including its chair, Justice Priscilla Chigumba.
The EU described the unwarranted insults and verbal abuse as a form of gender violence against women.
The EU’s comments follow those of the first female President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Mary Robinson who last week condemned the abuse of ZEC female commissioners by the MDC-Alliance.
Mrs Robinson was in the country to assess the pre-election environment as part of a delegation of the council of The Elders led by former United Nations secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan.
Justice Chigumba and the other ZEC commissioners have been victims of consistent abuse by the MDC-Alliance which has accused them of working with Zanu PF to rig the elections set for July 30.
The attacks have intensified in the past few weeks, with Mr Chamisa demanding access to the ballot papers, their storage and how they will be transported.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Phillipe Van Damme yesterday condemned the actions by the opposition, saying politicians should be exemplary when it comes to gender-sensitive issues.
He revealed that the EU was pouring in $21 million in Zimbabwe to fight gender-based violence.
In his tweet in response to ZEC Commissioner Netsai Mushonga’s attacks, Mr Van Damme said gender-based violence began with use of abusive language and disrespect for personal integrity.
“Gender-Based Violence #GBV starts with abusive language and disrespect for personal integrity,” said Mr Van Damme. “@UNZimbabwe & @euinzim are putting up a 21MUSD #spotlight initiative to fight against #GBV. Example has to come from political leadership!”
Reacting to Comm Mushonga’s tweet, British ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Catriona Laing said abuse of ZEC commissioners should stop.
“Good to see this abuse being called out,” she said. “It needs to stop.”
Political analyst and journalist Mr Hopewell Chin’ono also castigated the ill-treatment of women by the MDC-Alliance.
“Political parties and your supporters, you gain nothing by abusing and belittling those that don’t agree with your perspectives!” he said. “There is a silent majority that is not interested in your ability to abuse. You are bleeding supporters who are appalled by your verbal abuse.
“The political actors have been a huge embarrassment this election cycle. The level of gender bashing against women has been terrible, embarrassing and depressing. Zimbabwe is indeed a difficult place to live for women.”
Members of the public criticised gender activists and organisations over their deafening silence on the abuse of ZEC female commissioners and Justice Chigumba in particular.
They said this showed that some organisations were only interested in getting funding and but were not interested in their core business.
“It will not be surprising to see them coming out of their shell now that there is talk that money is being availed to fight gender-based violence,” said Mr Guide Mayo.
“I hope that the money will be channelled through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Community Development instead of these NGOs, which have the propensity of abusing funds.”
Mr Chamisa’s MDC faction members also attacked MDC-T leader Dr Thokozani Khupe when she went to the Supreme Court over use the party name and symbols and logos, with the party youths hailing obscenities at her and calling her a prostitute.
This led Proportional Representation legislator for Matabeleland South, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga to protest by wearing a red T-shirt inscribed “Hure” (prostitute) on the back and “Me Too” in front.
Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she was wearing the T-shirt in protest against people who insulted women and called them names.
“If you abuse one woman, you abuse all of us,” she said. “An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us. By wearing such T-shirts, we are saying you can call us (women) names, but that will not intimidate us or stop us from participating in politics.
“We will continue with politics even if we are called names.”
The MDC faction led by Mr Chamisa has shown over time that it has no respect for women.
It abused then MDC-T deputy president Dr Khupe at the burial of the party’s founding leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera in February this year by assaulting her and tried to burn the hut in which she had sought refuge.
She was rescued by members of the police.
Another MDC politician, Ms Jessie Majome recently raised similar concerns after she was abused by youths in the MDC faction led by Mr Chamisa, who called her names after she decided to stand as an independent in Harare West when she was elbowed out of the constituency during the primaries earlier this year.