Editor's Note

… when women kill their husbands

Something curious is happening in Zambia. An increasing number of women have begun to kill off their husbands, or at least it seems so, based on the media coverage. This week, Jacqueline Mwiindwa, 36, appeared in court for murdering her husband in Lusaka when driving off with their children after an argument about custody. The husband had clung to the car as she sped off. In addition, Meya Nanfukwe, 21, was arrested for killing her husband with a knife after a quarrel, also in Lusaka.

Our newly appointed gender minister, Victoria Kalima, immediately blamed the women, stating “the increased number of women killing men (…) shows that women are not getting the right training before marriage”, but did add that married couples should receive training on how to resolve differences. I think something big is at play here!

Imagine a couple arguing. In the not so distant past, the man could end the argument by asserting his dominance, not stopping short of beating up his wife or raping her. Only about a decade ago, the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey 2007 showed that 61.9% of women aged 15-49 in Zambia agreed that a husband may hit his wife for specific reasons, including burning the food, arguing, going out without telling him, neglecting the children, or refusing to have sex. However, many women in urban areas in particular will no longer accept such treatment.

Gender roles are in fluid development in Zambia, and women are obviously the first to embrace their newfound freedoms, while men are less enthusiastic about seeing their dominance waning. This can make for some nasty domestic arguments. If submitting to a physical husband no longer seems an option, what else can a woman do but fight back? Unfortunately, women cannot be de-developed – and they shouldn’t. Everyone agrees that gender equality is key to development in Zambia, so Kalima had better ensure that men are also getting the right ‘training’ before marriage. They need to learn that their wives cannot be coerced into submission.

Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly

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This Week’s Exchange

Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy and international development, Birmingham University, UK, stated:

“Until now, Zambia’s progress under multi-party politics has been quietly impressive. Over the last year, though, things have changed. (…) According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops – one of the most influential bodies in the country – Zambia doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy (…) it has become a dictatorship – or getting there. Many Catholic leaders were seen to be sympathetic to the PF, when it won power under Michael Sata in 2011, so what has changed? This is not the first time that a Zambian president has sought to consolidate his authority by manipulating state institutions. Nor is it the first time that opposition leaders have been arrested, or civil society groups intimidated. In the recent past, these moments of high political tension have often been resolved peacefully, (…) but it’s unlikely that Lungu will cede his quest to remain in office. First, key civil society groups such as the trade unions have been weakened by privatisation, informalisation and unemployment. Second, the Constitutional Court, that’s responsible for interpreting the constitution, was handpicked by Lungu. Third, Lungu’s case is more complicated than Chiluba’s. In 2001, the second president had served two full terms in office and wanted one more. Today, Lungu is arguing that he should be allowed to have a third term because his first period in office did not count, as he was just serving out the final year of Sata’s term. All of this means that Lungu is likely to get his way. (…) Opposition protests are inevitable, as is some civil society criticism. If past form is anything to go by, Lungu’s government will respond with threats and intimidation.”

Ruling PF party deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri reacted:

Cheeseman is nothing but an attention-seeking professor, who thinks he can lecture us about democracy. The people of Zambia spoke through the vote, and their wishes must be respected by all, including Cheeseman. Cheeseman creates the impression that there was a letter authored by all Catholic bishops, which labelled Zambia as a dictatorship. For the record, that was an opinion expressed by the archbishop. (…) It is irresponsible for Cheeseman to compare ours with late President Frederick Chiluba’s third-term bid. The view that the current constitution allows President Lungu to seek re-election (…) is before the courts of law. (…) the PF will respect the outcome of the court system. President Lungu’s good governance record remains solid. It was President Lungu’s administration that took the referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to the people. (…) it was UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who campaigned against it. It is President Lungu’s administration, which allowed for the 50%+1 clause in the constitution, the running mate clause, and reduction of presidential powers. President Lungu believes in an independent judiciary. (…) Today, Zambia has a Constitutional Court, something that was unheard of in the history of our nation. While the opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, President Lungu remained calm until the matter expired. We wish to correct the view that human rights of politicians in trouble with the law are being violated. Citizens, who are also politicians, and on trial, have appeared in court within a week of being charged, and (…) for continued trial. The due process of the law is clearly being followed to the letter. Professor Cheeseman‘s daydream, that Zambia is falling from grace because of HH’s arrest, is a lie. Zambia remains a shining example of democracy not only on the African continent but world over.”