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Gender Commission under fire over NUST sexual abuse

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Gender Commission under fire over NUST sexual abuse

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ELLEN MLAMBO
MIRROR REPORTER

MASVINGO – The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC), a Constitutional body whose key mandate is to investigate violations of rights relating to gender equality is under fire from the public for remaining mum in the wake of allegations that a Government Minister has been demanding sex from a disadvantaged university student whose fees he is paying.
Minister of State for Agricultural Colleges, Water Resources and Irrigation Development, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Davis Marapira sponsored the intelligent National University of Science and Technology (NUST) girl since she was doing Form 5 at Zimuto High near Masvingo.
However, he allegedly started demanding sex from the girl when she was in Form 6 and putting pressure on her by sending threatening messages, according to WhatsApp exchanges in the hands of The Mirror.
The First Year Biotech student who cannot be named for ethical reasons has since opted out of Marapira’s education scheme as she feared for her life. The Minister is allegedly in the habit of inviting her to his hotel room at night whenever he visits Bulawayo. The last time was in April when he was in the city for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
Marapira who comes from the same constituency as the girl would also call the girl from her rural home to meet him at night. Marapira promised to call back The Mirror for comment but never did.
Readers have been inundating The Mirror with calls trying to find out what the Gender Commission and women organisations in Zimbabwe’s positions on the matter is.
The Mirror called ZGC CEO Virginia Muwanigwa who said that her organisation is investigating the matter.
The girl however said she has not been contacted by the Commission although it is now six weeks after the case of sexual abuse went public. It is not clear how the Commission would conduct investigations without involving the complainant.
Experts said ZGC runs the risk of becoming a toothless bulldog in a country where abuse of women is rampant particularly by politicians and the powerful.
“We are investigating the matter and we will be updating you ”, said Muwanigwa.
Female Students Network Trust executive director Evernice Munando said Government should intervene as the ‘abuse’ of women particularly by politicians and the powerful is being swept under the carpet.
“The student has been emotionally abused and Marapira should be arrested. We are saddened as an organisation that the person who is supposed to be representing these students is a perpetrator of sexual harassment. It’s sad also that there is no binding law that criminalises this act. Policy is not enough to address perpetrators of sexual harassment, we want to criminalise such an act,” said Munando.
The Mirror also contacted the director of communication and marketing department at NUST Thabani Mpofu who said that the University would find her holiday work to do so she can pay her fees. The Mirror could not confirm whether since this has since happened.
Shamwari yeMwanasikana director Ekenia Chifamba said her organisation’s role is to protect the girlchild by ensuring that justice prevails. She however said the girl should have reported the case to Police.
Efforts to get a comment from Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) were futile.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer Martin Mureri condemned the alleged sexual abuse and said it was worse because it came from a Minister.
The girl’s mother confirmed the case and narrated how she tried to intervene by approaching senior Zanu PF women who also could not do much. She also said that she confronted Marapira himself over the case.
The girl’s arts mentor, a teacher also confirmed the case and expressed shock at the turn of events.
“I least expect such from a Government minister. Her is a father, a guardian, a protector and an embodiment of everything good that should come from a community,” said the teacher.

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