Ruth Butaomocho :Gender Editor
With well-manicured nails, fashionable wrap-over summer dress, trendy hairstyle and spotting a pair of swanky pip toe heels, she exhibits all the feminine features that are normally associated with frailty, gentleness and vulnerability.
However, beneath that façade lies a bold gunner who can snipe an object 100 metres away with amazing precision.
She is a civilian “sniper” who orbits between the celestial highs of guns and rifles of all sizes.
“I love guns. They are my companions,” she revealed in an interview recently.An acting chief inspector with the Harare City Council – Municipal Police – Belinda is slowly carving her own piece of history as a civilian gunwoman who has clearly exhibited ingenuity, passion and determination in this field where women are a rarity.
At 34, Belinda who is an inspector with the municipality, is the youngest person to hold the position of chief inspector. She is also the captain of the City of Harare shooting club.
Her love for guns has not only raised her social standing among her colleagues and peers, but has also earned her recognition from the highest office in the land.
Belinda has won four gold medals in the Presidential Medal Shooting competition four years in a role – under the civilian category – in shooting competitions that are organised by the Zimbabwe National Army, the Air Force of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders on a rotational basis.
For someone who once dreamt of becoming a doctor, Belinda says marksmanship has become a fascination since firearms became the tools of her trade after being seconded by her supervisors to join a shooting club back in 2003.
“I was among four women who were identified by my supervisor to join our male colleagues and become part of the shooting club following an invitation from the Zimbabwe National Army,” she said.
During that time, Belinda did not learn much apart from being taught safety precautions, identifying types of firearms and basic training on guns.
However, it was during that short but exciting encounter with weapons of destruction that her fascination, interest and passion for guns developed.
In subsequent years she would muse on what it felt like to hold a FN or AK47 rifle at close range and shoot a flying eagle at an angle.
Belinda had almost lost hope of ever getting near a rifle again until 2011 when she was seconded again to the shooting club for training with possibilities of taking part in shooting competitions.
“I could see myself relive my dream. My hopes of becoming a great markswoman were renewed,” she recalled.
Determined to excel in her assigned mission, Belinda took her practice sessions seriously, shuttling between the gym and the shooting ranges to fine tune her act and improve on her level of precision.
Two weeks after rejoining the shooting club, Belinda took part in her debut competition, where she fared well.
Buoyed by the encouragement from colleagues, she further increased her training regiment which included hitting the gym regularly and even jogging to improve alertness.
Her zeal and passion finally paid off when she clinched her debut gold medal in the Presidential Medal Shooting Competition.
“I could feel my adrenaline pumping when I was announced the winner. I told myself I would never settle for less. Triumphing in the competition tripped me over the edge with excitement,” said Belinda.
And true to her affirmation, Belinda has never settled for less and has since earned three more gold medals – four years in a row.
Belinda says discipline, patience and precision are important tenets in shooting.
“High level of precision, patience and concentration are needed for you to become a marksman of repute.
“When you are face to face with the target, you often smile, thinking that you have nailed it, when in actual fact, you are miles away from the target. Precision is one of the important tenets in shooting,” she revealed.
While she revels in her own personal achievements in this rare sport, Belinda says she has had to play down negative undertones from her colleagues who believe that a woman has no business flirting with such dangerous weapons.
Fortunately for Belinda, her supervisors and the City of Harare have been supportive of her sport.
“When I was seconded to the shooting club, there were a lot of reservations from my colleagues who felt that it was a waste of time and resources.
“However, my supervisors and my employer stood by me. I am really humbled by their support for giving me an opportunity to shine,” she enthused.
Belinda might not have reached the status of the revered Soviet Union’s female sniper, Senior Sergeant Roza Shanina as yet, and she might not even get that far, but her romance with firearms is far from over.
Given the opportunity, Belinda wants to take her passion beyond the borders of Zimbabwe.
“The recently held Rio Olympics made me realise that there are a lot of opportunities on shooting and it’s one sport that opens so many doors in life.”
She urged women to take up the sport, which among other things improves one’s thinking skills and adds a measure of discipline.
“It is sad that not many women are keen to take up the sport, and yet it has so many advantages,” she said
When she is not at work, Belinda spends her time watching Medical Detectives series, or downloading videos on lessons to perfect her shooting skills.
Playing chess and darts also keeps her on her toes.