Godwin Mawuru’s 1993 epic movie, Neria, a depiction of widowhood sent shockwaves across Africa as people re-looked at the patriarchal system societies still lived by, despite the universal declaration of rights and promotion of equality between the sexes.
Women’s position and experiences have not changed then, they are still at the short end of the stick. This has not been limited to poor and uneducated women, but also the rich and powerful as recently witnessed in Zimbabwe on Grace Mugabe after the demise of her husband, long-serving President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabweans were recently shocked, some filled with revulsion when the former President Robert Mugabe died in Singapore. Soon after his death was announced, political machinations from his rivals started.
There was the issue of where Mugabe would be buried and many threats to annex his properties if the family insisted on burying him at his Zvimba rural home.
For the first time, Zimbabweans were told that Zanu PF had the title deeds to the palatial Blue Roof mansion and the Quorn Road property. What remains shocking is that the properties appeared nowhere in Zanu PF financial statements at the party’s annual conferences or the congresses held after every five years.
Not only was Grace threatened with losing these properties, but also her hold on the Mazowe farms was now precarious. Weeks after Mugabe’s death, many people have approached the High Court seek to have their mining rights at the Mugabe properties restored.
This has been not limited to Grace, but we have also witnessed what happened to former Vice-President Joice Mujuru after he husband, General Solomon Mujuru, died in a mysterious fire at Ruzambo Farm, Beatrice. The General’s death marked the beginning of her political career and many other problems associated with the distribution of her late husband’s estate.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the widow of the late medical doctor Christopher Mushonga, also had a hard time after her husband was fatally wounded in a robbery at their home. The outspoken parliamentarian and former minister was emotionally bullied to the extent that she signed off all the properties she was entitled to.
It is interesting that if these things are still happening to political and economic influentially women, what could be happening to weak and vulnerable whose tribulations are rarely reported in the mainstream media.
Probably, the Grace story would help us to relook at widowhood and gender equality from a different perspective. It may be time that the country once again has a decent and robust discussion about inheritance, widowhood and general treatment of women after their husbands die.
A repackaged and updated Neria can do a lot of good for Zimbabweans to know and appreciate what widows go through, speak to women about their rights and how they can vindicate them.
By Rutendo Bamu