Examining how traditional chiefs can be critical in combating child marriages

1.0 Introduction

Traditional leaders remain an important and influential constituency in Zimbabwe. As such the campaign against child marriage in Zimbabwe requires the full participation of this group to succeed in the country. This report outlines a nuanced understanding of how traditional leaders can become champions against child marriage in their areas of jurisdiction. Child marriages are steeped in a system of harmful practices which are justified using custom and religion under a partriachial worldview that has no place in any democratic spaces. It is thus important to highlight how traditional leaders as the custodians of culture in Zimbabwe can be used to fight these practices. A study by Safaids (2010) indicates that traditional leaders and structures remain influential among a large majority of the population in urban and rural Southern Africa. Traditional leaders wield influence and command much respect in their communities therefore are in many ways the gateways to any intervention seeking the participation of local people. They are viewed as the custodians of culture which makes them important drivers of change because most of the discriminatory practices are justified as culturally acceptable forms of behavior. As part of the governance structure, traditional leaders have an important role in the development of societal values and ethics, including those on child marriages. Traditional leaders have a constitutional role to respect human rights and to uphold family values. Within the confines of Customary Law and Local Courts Act, traditional leaders are part of the judiciary and traditional court officials play an important role in dispute resolution and in adjudicating cases on child marriages. In rural Zimbabwe these traditional courts used more frequently by the people as compared to formal state institutions for conflict and dispute resolution. They are thus critical in eliminating child marriages.

2.0 Spaces that traditional leaders can utilise in ending child marriages

Interviews and desk research provided various ways in which traditional leaders can be influential in ending child marriages. The research highlighted numerous spaces where traditional leaders have influence and can be successful in promoting community and government programmes against child marriages.

2.1 Judicial

The judicial role of chiefs has to be understood as multi-faceted given that they enforce and also translate the law for people in their jurisdiction. These roles are important when discussing child marriages in rural spaces. Zimbabwe has multiple governance institutions and traditional leaders form an important part as shown by Constitution. According to the Constitution traditional leaders have the following roles:

  1. to promote and uphold cultural values of their communities and, in particular, to promote sound family values;
  2. to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines;
  3. to facilitate development;
  4. in accordance with an Act of Parliament, to administer Communal Land and to protect the environment;
  5. to resolve disputes amongst people in their communities in accordance with customary law; and
  6. to exercise any other functions conferred or imposed on them by Act of Parliament.

Traditional leaders are thus recognised constitutionally and this provides judicial recognition. The constitution provides for traditional leaders to resolve disputes and criminal cases but only of less serious nature such as theft and assault. This was supported by traditional leaders interviewed in this research who outlined that they sent serious cases to the police. One of the respondents however noted how some cases involving abuse of women and children are often not taken to the police. This is the case when dealing with child marriages where in some cases traditional leaders believe it is not criminal. Sibanda (2011:2) notes how ‘Chief Chiduku, a senator for Manicaland province in Zimbabwe and a member of the African Apostolic Church was quoted as having said there was nothing wrong with marrying off underage girls in a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting.’ There are however traditional leaders who are doing excellent work in combating child marriages. Their experiences can be important best practices that can be adopted by other leaders in their areas. One such example is Chief Musana in Bindura. Box 1 below outlines his work as narrated by Headman Chiveso at a meeting on child marriages.

Box 1: Chief Musana school tracking programme

Some traditional leaders are at the forefront of the campaign to end abuse of children and appeal to their counterparts to take the initiative. “We have put an end to all that in our area. We no longer settle cases involving child marriages at our courts,” Headman Chiveso said. He said all headmen under Chief Musana has been tasked to compile registers of all school going age children both girls and boys and to keep track of their growing. Headman Chiveso said the registers are submitted to Chief Musana who will follow up with the schools to establish whether the pupils were going to school. “He does personal follow-ups in the schools to see if the children are still going to school. That is where he picks up cases of those who have been married off,” he said. Once he picks up such cases, he then reports them to the police for further action in accordance with the laws of the land. The schoolchildren tracking programme started in 2012 and since then there has not been any known case of children married off in his area.[1]

They are however limitations in that they can only adjudicate cases which involve people in their communities in accordance with customary law.  Customary Law and Local Courts Act further elucidate the judicial power of traditional leaders. When resolving disputes traditional leaders tend to emphasise reconciliation rather than retribution to ensure harmony among neighbours and relatives in rural areas which is problematic in cases involving child marriages. There are many cases in which parents have been known to demand damages and bride price when an underage girl is abused or sleeps with an older person. This is often preferable to all parties; firstly for the abuser they avoid prison and secondly the family of the girl get money or cattle and they pass responsibility of the pregnancy to the abuser.

2.2 Advocacy

According to the traditional leaders interviewed, chiefs have influence at the highest levels of government. They interact with government officials, judiciary officers and policy makers. This gives them unique access to influential people and offices. Chiefs are also part of the Senate and have legislative roles through the Chiefs’ Council.  There are a total of 16 chiefs who form part of the Senate. One of the legal scholars interviewed in this research noted that:

Chiefs occupy an important political space which affords them access to even the president. This makes them an important advocacy asset. They can articulate and lobby with traditional authority on their side. In the case of child marriages, chiefs are an important asset in ensuring parliamentary and policy changes are achieved.

The idea then is to capacitate chiefs to play this advocacy role. The gender scholars interviewed noted the need to have chiefs fully engaged and invested in the cause. This can only be achieved through buy in and participatory approaches. The advocacy role of traditional leaders goes beyond lobbying parliament and policymakers but influencing their own communities through translating laws and implementing good practices. It is through traditional leaders that civil society campaigns can have an impact that is sustained.

2.3 Social

In terms of social spaces, traditional leaders can do more to promote measures that reduce child marriages especially marriages caused by teenage pregnancies. Such measures include the promotion of cultural systems that provide guidance to young people in issues relating to relationships and sex. They can also use their influence to help households where families have disintegrated due to reasons such as death, divorce and migration. The traditional leaders should open their homes to children from broken homes and offer guidance, advice, life skills and social support.

2.4 Promotion of good cultural practices

Traditional leaders are seen as the bastion of culture. They are viewed as promoters and protectors of cultural values, traditions and heritage of their communities (Section 282(1) (a)(b) Constitution; Section 5(1)(a)(b) Traditional Leadership Act.) In this capacity, traditional leaders also have a spiritual role and act as the moral compass of the communities. The traditional leaders are therefore constitutionally required to promote good cultural practices. The problem however is how some cultural practices are not compatible with laws and international human rights especially concerning child and women rights. Earlier in this paper various studies were cited which highlighted harmful cultural practices as a driver of child marriages. Gender expert interviewed in this research noted that:

Culture is the purview of traditional leaders. If we agree that culture is at the intersection of the causes of child marriages then chiefs become the starting point to address this issue. It is chiefs who have an influence on what we can accept as good cultural practice as a society. We have a population that is largely rural and even in urban areas, tradition is influential yet at times some of the so called traditions are invented. I believe that when it comes to marriage of children there is need to engage traditional leaders in eradicating these harmful practices.

It is thus important to have traditional leaders denouncing harmful cultural practices that support child marriages as well as promote good cultural practices. It is however important to realise that since traditional structures are still largely patriarchal, there is a need to capacitate traditional leaders to address gender power imbalances and perspectives and promote the acceptance of gender equality.

2.5 Role modelling

Traditional chiefs are more than leaders in their areas. They are also role models and thought leaders who influence people with their actions. This is supported by Safaids who argue that, ‘Traditional leaders, as custodians of culture, and role models for their communities, are in a strong position to be able to address harmful cultural practices in order to promote the prevention of HIV and gender-based violence (GBV) within their communities.’[2] According to a headman in Mazowe, traditional leaders need to lead by examples and not engage in the same behaviours they are castigating. Some of the respondents highlighted anecdotal evidence of some traditional leaders involved in abuse cases. This also relates to elders in the communities who must also be role models and provide a good example for others.

3.0 Programmes focusing on chiefs and child marriages in Zimbabwe

Various organisations are involved in working with traditional leaders including Legal Resource Foundation. The work has largely concentrated on training and capacity building. Below are some of the organisations identified in this research which has engaged traditional chief in child marriages programming: Plan International, Padare, Katswe Sisterhood and WLSA. PSAf (2015:11-12) media briefing provides a short narration of some of the interventions focusing on child marriages as outlined in Box 5 below. It shows that there is a coalition of organisations working with various government institutions to fight child marriages. The research however highlighted two critical issues which may need to be addressed. Firstly is the lack of coordination, sharing and learning from each other amongst the organisations working in this area. Without a way to coordinate and share experiences there are high chances of duplication and repetition of mistakes. Many documents have been produced on child marriages by various organisations but access remains difficult if not impossible. Secondly is the way trainings or workshops are the many and at times only intervention when targeting traditional leaders. It was not apparent whether this is based on any form of research that shows traditional leaders lack knowledge or capacity to understand their judicial role. 

Box 2: Child marriage interventions in Zimbabwe

Safeguard Young People (SYP) UNFPA Zimbabwe, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Youth Council and the Ministry of Health and Child Care, officially launched the SYP campaign in January 2015. Among others, the campaign is aimed at reaching young people with messages of healthy sexual and reproductive choices through a variety of platforms such as social media, art, music, entertainment, public events and live radio discussions.  

Ending Child Marriages: 18+ Campaign An initiative spearheaded by the women’s affairs ministry with the aim of reducing early and child marriages in Zimbabwe. The major positive thing that has been done under this campaign is to hold meetings with chiefs who have since agreed that there was need for traditional leaders to promote good cultural values that protect children. The chiefs have called for the harmonisation of laws to eliminate the current confusion regarding the definition of who a child is. They have also spoken against harmful cultural practices, such as child pledging and appeasing the dead with children saying it is the duty of traditional leaders to ensure that these were not practiced in their communities.  

Girls Not Brides Six Zimbabwean organisations are among the 400 civil society organisations from over 60 countries who form the membership of this campaign. These are Camfed, Dariko Trust, Katswe Sistahood, Padare Enkundleni – Men’s Forum on Gender, Plan Zimbabwe, Tag a Life International and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association. The organisations have various programmes aimed at ending child marriages.  

Plan Zimbabwe programmes Plan Zimbabwe is among other organisations carrying out programs on child marriage in various parts of the country. Among others, the organisation has worked with religious organisations and chiefs in a bid to help enlighten some of the influential groups of people as far as the practice of child marriage is concerned.  

The National Programme of Action for Children The National Programme of Action for Children facilitates and coordinates the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of some of the requirements in the CRC and the ACRWC to ensure survival, development and protection of children. This includes child protection and security mechanisms like the Victim Friendly Units, Victim Friendly Courts and the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.  

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission promotes awareness of and respect for human rights and freedoms at all levels of society. It also has the mandate to recommend to Parliament effective measures to promote human rights and freedoms and investigate the conduct of any authority or person, where it is alleged that any of the rights in the Declaration of Rights has been violated by that authority or person.

4.0 Practical action plans in prevention and elimination of child marriages

This section of the report focuses on practical actions that traditional leaders can be undertaken in their own areas to combat child marriages. This section is based on interviews and document analysis. It focuses on what is already present in communities around Zimbabwe. It is also based on the need to promote best practices from the work other organisations. What is provided below are suggested interventions which are also based on best practices that emerged during the course of this research. The important thing to emerge from the research is the importance of participation of not only traditional leaders but communities, women and children.

4.1 Isiphala Senkosi/Zunde raMambo: Combating drought and hunger

Loosely translated, Zunde Ramambo means “the chief’s granary”. This is a traditional system of food security in which the chief would designate land for Zunde Ramambo in order to grow food crops for distribution to the needy whenever the need arises. The programme worked on the basis of mobilising people to work in the designated fields on a voluntary basis (from preparing the land, ploughing to weeding and harvesting). Once harvested, the crops were stored in granaries that were kept at the chief’s homestead as strategic food reserves for distribution in the event of food shortages.

It was from this granary that older persons, widows, orphans and persons with disabilities were prioritised by the chief for food handouts ahead of those who could easily fend for themselves. In the late 1990s there was a push to reintroduce the programme through assistance to traditional leaders but this has largely failed due to multiple reasons including lack of funding. This programme however can be important in response to hunger and poverty especially in drought years so that families are not forced to marry off their underage daughters to get food.


4.2 School surveillance system

This programme has been described earlier in this report. This is a system in which traditional leaders monitor then patterns of children attending school in their areas. This will allow them to quickly know if they are any children who have stopped attending school. It may not be full proof in documenting child marriages but this will ensure girls remain in school. Schools can be used as girl child friendly spaces.

4.3 Knowledge sharing and community dialogues

Community dialogues have emerged as important platforms for community engagement for organisations such as Padare and Women’s’ Action Group. Changing communities through talking provides insights into how behavior can be changed through community discussions. Dialogues within communities which involve traditional leaders can be an integral part of fighting child marriages. They can be used as a means to share experiences and promote girl children’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights. This can provide a voice to all especially young girls. As organisations continue to work towards eliminating child marriages, community dialogues will be critical as interfaces of exchange and learning. It is within these spaces that communities can come to agreement for action to take to end abuse of all forms.

4.4 Engaging religious leaders

As noted in sections above, traditional chiefs are in essence the most recognisable form of authority in rural spaces. As such they are viewed as guardians of the areas they reign over and people in those areas have to accept and respect their authority. According to the legal scholar the traditional leaders thus have constitutional mandate when dealing with religious leaders in their areas. Religion (especially some apostolic sects) was highlighted in research as a driver of child marriages. Traditional leaders need to play a leading role in engaging these religious groups in their areas. They can take lead through advocacy, dialogue and training.

4.5 Utilising the referral pathways system

Most communities now understand referral pathways approach to reporting rape and sexual abuse cases which has been promoted by government and civil society. In the past rape and sexual abuse cases were not reported partly because people lacked knowledge in the appropriate channels of reporting such cases. Some areas however do not have the information and there is need ensure widespread knowledge especially among young girls on how to report abuse.

4.6 Safe spaces and caring for survivors

 Homesteads of traditional leaders can be transformed into safe houses and spaces where child protection services can be accessed. This requires capacitating traditional leaders with material support and also capacity building through training. There is a lot of work being done in terms of training by many organisations but there is need to understand what is being trained, how effective the trainings have been and who has been trained over the years. There is need to have training material such as pamphlets available to communities through traditional leaders. The importance of training materials is that, ‘we were trained and after that we were promised pamphlets and material but till now we do not have the material. It makes dissemination of the information difficult. When talking to communities especially lots of people with limited time, reading material is important for further study and illustrations’ (Ministry of Women’s Affairs Officer, cited in Chiweshe and Meck 2014:17).

4.7 Promoting the revival of traditional institutions: Supporting family unit

Interview with Chief Charumbira was instructive on certain specific activities that can assist in fighting child marriages. He argued that one of the major drivers of child marriages is the breakdown of the family unit. This however has not received enough research among civil society organisation. For traditional leaders in this study, the major problem with the arguments on child marriages is the lack of acceptance of cultural practices that can assist in combating child marriages. Chief Charumbira in particular argued that poverty has always been there in our communities but why is it there is now an increase in child marriages. He attributed this to the changing cultural systems where children are exposed to sexual imagery at early ages and premarital sex has become an acceptable act. It is thus in the erosion of cultural systems that now promote such practices as ‘sugar daddies’ (older men with money involved with young girls). Sex has been devalued and we now have what we call casual sex and many institutions such as vana tete nana sekuru (aunts and uncles) are no longer working. The erosion of culture that held families together requires that traditional leaders be engaged in all programmes. The traditional leaders also highlighted that to combat teenage sex in particular, there must be incentives for girls who delay in getting pregnant or get married after when they are adults. These measures outlined by traditional leaders may not necessarily agree with specific ideas civil societies have but there is need for dialogue.

4.8 Engaging men in gender issues

Most programmes tend to focus on the survivors of abuse and rarely on the perpetrators. The fight against gender based violence has largely been promoted by women organisations and activists without much male involvement. The focus for most campaigns against gender based violence has concentrated on the survivors and not the perpetrators. There is need to go beyond the survivors and target the perpetrators so as to stop violence at its source. This is where organisations that work with men Padare become critical as they challenge partriachial norms and hegemonic and toxic masculinities which are used to justify violence against women and children. In settings where educational attainment is low and poverty is high, and where patriarchal beliefs have been entrenched for generations, religious and traditional leaders— usually men—are viewed as keepers of knowledge, of culture, as authorities on how to live. Ending child marriage is difficult in some settings not only because of familial support for it, but because of traditional and community leaders’ support for the practice: religion and culture will sometimes be cited as unassailable reasons for its continuation. Ending child marriage therefore requires us to work with men to address the socio-cultural beliefs and norms that drive this practice. Engaging traditional leaders who are mostly male is that vital to ensure that they motivate men in their communities to participate. Traditional chiefs also remain influential in cultural issues that are at the heart of patriarchy, GBV and thus child marriages. In Nkayi for example, traditional leaders have been very supportive of the programme. Most traditional leaders said they use the traditional gatherings to talk about issues revolving around HIV and also have special meetings for youths and women so as to talk openly.

5.0  Recommendations

This section is based on the findings from the research. There are examples from other countries of how traditional leaders can assist in fighting child marriages. Greene et al (2015:14) note:

Traditional leaders in Zambia are increasingly using public forums to educate their communities about the harmful consequences of child marriage and calling for the arrest and prosecution of people perpetuating it. For example, Princess Kapuwamba of the Lotzi people in Western Zambia, who is a commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and at The Law Development Commission in Zambia, speaks with parents and community leaders about the negative effects of marrying their children at an early age. By engaging in discussions with parents and community leaders, she maintains, sustainable solutions can be developed collaboratively. Another local leader, Chief Mpezeni, created a school scholarship fund to assist vulnerable children, particularly girls, to stay in school

Box 6 below outlines the recommendations that were outlined by the Panos Institute of Southern Africa (2015:27). The major issue outlined in the below is that traditional leaders must ensure that they must ensure that their rulings and activities ensure social justice. They should protect survivors and ensure that the law takes its course concerning perpetrators. Above all traditional leaders need to be at the forefront of cultural transformation that promotes practices which protect children from harm.

Box 3: Role of Traditional Leaders

As the custodians of culture and customary law, traditional leaders can play the following roles: i) Ensuring fair justice delivery – In their administration of local justice, traditional leaders can ensure that their subjects do not violate children’s rights by presiding over cases and making sure that offenders are punished. ii) Facilitating community education on child marriage – This can be done through allowing civil society organisations to hold meetings and workshops in their areas. As opinion leaders, traditional authorities have a lot of room to influence awareness creation and community participation in addressing child marriage. iii) Incentives for guardians, community members – Traditional leaders can also facilitate the provision of incentives to dissuade guardians from seeing child marriage as an option for example facilitating food for work programmes. iv) Cultural transformation – Traditional leaders can spearhead the abolishment of some cultural practices which encourage child marriages in their communities.

5.1 Life skills training

Life skills are cognitive, emotional, interpersonal and social skills that enable individuals to deal effectively with the challenges of everyday life. Traditional leaders need to invest time and effort in this area to ensure they capacitate children in their areas. Organisations such as Padare, Women’s Action Group and Seke Home Based Care are involved in life skills training of children. This training involves building self esteem, leadership skills, self confidence and self belief in children. Organisations such as Youth Alive conduct leadership workshops for youths in schools so that they can make a difference in their communities. In these trainings children also share experiences and gain knowledge about rights and obligation. They also get information about reporting abuse and how to access services. Life skills training for organisations such as Family Support Trust and Girl Legacy tend to focus on sexual and reproductive rights.

5.2 Capacitating traditional leaders to train legal literacy and enhance referral pathways

There is need to increase legal aid services for the majority of women and children who have little knowledge about their rights and obligation. Whilst it may be difficult to provide such services to all the people across the country, chiefs can prove to be an important access point. Providing chiefs with paralegal training is not enough if that training is not supported with a systematic programme to ensure they use the training to help people in their communities. Laws and policies need to be cascaded to the grassroots so that they help child marriage survivors.

5.3 Realignment of laws with 2013 Constitution

At the time of this research, the court ruling which made illegal marriage of any child below 18 years old was still to be realigned with existing marriage laws. The lack of a clear legal framework hampers the fight against child marriages. The laws also need to be comprehensively explained to the people so that it is clear to everyone what they mean. This is because there is still need for clarification on what the judgement to ban child marriages mean in reality as Matyszack argues:

A blanket ban prohibiting the marriage of any person under the age of 18 (a child, as defined) is, however, arguably, broader than necessary for the prevention of this evil and catches in its net those that it ought not. For example, it may, in some circumstances, be a cruelty to prevent, say, a pregnant 17 year old girl and her 19 year old boyfriend, from marrying. That special circumstances might exist which render it in the best interests of a child, including a soon to be born or recently born child, that a couple be allowed to marry on the dispensation of a competent authority, is recognised by United Nations Convention on the Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage (Article 2) (http://researchandadvocacyunit.org/system/files/A%20Note%20on%20the%20Child%20Marriage%20Judgement.pdf).

Another important issue is that research has shown that most survivors of abuse have lost confidence with the justice system. The process of conviction is long and often perpetrators get bail which makes it problematic for survivors. The criminal justice system respects the rights of the accused more than the survivor because of the principal of presumed innocence until found guilty.

[1] http://www.herald.co.zw/war-to-end-child-marriages/

[2] http://www.safaids.net/content/safaids-k4health-traditional-leaders-eforum-discussion-summary

Child marriages in Zimbabwe

1.1 Contested definitions: from child marriage to rape

Hodzi (2014:7) defines a child marriage as: ‘Any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, before the girl [or boy] is physically, physiologically, and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing.’ There is however contestations over this definition in Zimbabwe mainly because of the inconsistencies within the law. Such inconsistencies have led to confusion of what child marriage mean within both a socio-cultural and legal system. Hodzi (2014:8-9) summarises this contestation by arguing:

Since age seems to be the determining factor when analysing the meaning of a ‘child marriage’, it makes sense to make the starting point for this investigation the definition of ‘a child’. The Zimbabwean Constitution defines ‘a child’ as anyone below the age of 18 years of Age. The Children’s Act, Chapter 5:06 define ‘a child’ as anyone below the age of 16 years of age. ‘A minor’ in the same Act is defined as anyone below the age of 18 years. When dealing with the crime of having sex with ‘a young person’, the Criminal Law Code5 defines ‘a young person’ as anyone who is below the age of 16. The inconsistencies between these various laws which existed even before the [2013] Constitution continue to exist…This section has together with Section 26 shown that the move by the Government is towards ending ‘child marriages’. I still however have a problem with that. If a marriage is supposed to take place with consent and between adults (i.e., persons of 18 years and over), then how is it that society has come to define a child living in the guise of a union as a married child?What is a marriage? Can society continue to claim that a marriage has occurred because a bride price has been paid? What then really legitimizes a marriage? Is it the fact that a girl’s virginity has been broken and she is now pregnant?

Hodzi (2014) raises pertinent questions around the framing of child marriages. These questions require further interrogation that according to her should see us moving towards defining instances where an adult is living with and having children with a person under 18 as sexual exploitation and paedophilia. This is further  supported by Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda who argues that “With child marriage we are sanctioning rape, we are sanctioning abduction, we are sanctioning a modern form of slavery, it’s trafficking, it’s forced labour…It’s a huge bundle of violations, and the moment we just call it ‘marriage’, it is like we are giving it a blessing and acceptability.”[i] The starting point of eradicating child marriages should then be on contesting whether these ‘unions’ should ever be called marriages in the first instance.

1.2 Prevalence

According to Sibanda (2011) child marriage is common in Zimbabwe, and 21% of children (mostly girls) are married before the age of 18. According to the Girl Child Network (GCN), a civic organisation whose mission is to shelter, educate, and empower female victims, an estimated 8 000 girls have been forced into early marriages or were held as sex slaves since 2008. The question that arises is what are the social determinants and drivers of child marriages in Zimbabwe. According to Hastings (1994) child marriages are prevalent among the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect. This is a church commonly known as ‘vapostori’ that is believed to constitute approximately 1.2 million members in the country. Johanne Marange, the church founder, passed away in 1963, leaving 13 widows who were taken over by his son Abel. According to UNICEF’s the State of the World’s Report (2015), the prevalence of child marriage in Zimbabwe are as follows:

Table 1: Prevalence by province

Mashonaland Central50 %
Mashonaland West42 %
Masvingo39 %
Mashonaland East36 %
Midlands31 %
Manicaland30 %
Matabeleland North27 %
Harare19 %
Matabeleland South18%

ZimVac (2016:42) provides Figure 1 below which outlines how in most parts of Zimbabwe there is an increase in the incidences of child marriages. This is a worrying trend given that we have multiple actors including government and civil society pouring concerted efforts in fighting the practice. The report also highlights how food shortages due to the impending drought in 2016 may increase child marriages as young girls are married off for food. There is need for response to the drought using traditional leaders as an important entry point in rural areas to combat hunger.

Figure 1: Child marriage prevalence

1.3 Social determinants and drivers

Child marriage in Zimbabwe is a pervasive and structural phenomenon that requires nuanced analysis to understand its drivers and impact. This section provides a grounded analysis of emerging patterns of child marriages arguing that children are found within multiple and intersecting forms of oppression. The social determinants outlined in this paper are not mutually exclusive but rather reinforce each other. This makes the problem of child marriages complex and multifarious. It is this complexity that requires in depth analysis to provide spaces where traditional leaders can be influential in promoting the protection of children. Unicef notes that ‘Many factors interact to place a girl at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide ‘protection’, family honour, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system.’[ii] The low value attached to females—other than for their sex, reproductive and domestic roles—partially accounts for the sense of male sexual entitlement to girls and young women and their commodification in some settings. Child marriage is a business transaction, an agreement between families that regulates girls’ and women’s sexuality and reproduction, while men’s sexuality remains unrestrained and in some cases, encouraged, both within and outside of marriage. Perceptions of masculinity and acceptable sexuality for men and women; girls’ and women’s lower worth compared to boys and men; and poverty and the power imbalance between the sexes create a situation in which families and communities feel obliged to marry their daughters very young (Greene et al 2013).

1.3.1 Class and poverty

Child marriage predominantly affects girls who live in poverty and in rural areas. Girls from the poorest 20% of the households were more than 4 times as likely to be married/in union before age 18 than girls from the richest 20% of the households. Experiences in most African countries shows that there are strong linkages between socio-economic status and vulnerability for example ‘the poorest 20% of girls ages 10–19 in many counties are those who are also most likely to be out of school, married, and/or forced into non-marital sexual relations…These girls fall into multiple disadvantaged categories, as age, gender, ethnicity, and family factors combine’ (Population Council 2009). Children in poor families are found at the intersection of multiple oppressive systems. Firstly because of poverty they are unable to access basic services such as health and education. This affects their life chances and impacts on protection from maltreatment. UNICEF (2010:13) argues, ‘In Zimbabwe, protection [of women and children] is largely influenced by poverty, the negative impact of HIV and AIDS, the deterioration of the welfare and justice systems, violence, exploitation and abuse of children in families and communities.’ There are many parents who due to poverty make the girl child engage in transactional sex with rich people so that their monetary needs will be met. Even sometimes without forcing their children to engage in sexual activities parents also turn a blind eye to their children’s sexual relationships with adults to simply receive financial support (Mangwa and 2014:157). As such it is girls who are married to husbands which are way older than them that leave young wives vulnerable to HIV as they have less power to negotiate for safe sex. In an evaluation of their work, Padare (2014) noted that poverty is believed to be forcing young women and girls into transactional sex as a livelihood option and a lot of intergenerational relationships. The reports notes examples of girls as young as 9 or 10 engaging in sex work in Zvishavane and Epworth.

Post 2000 Zimbabwe suffered a dilapidating socio-economic crisis characterised by high inflation, poor service delivery, food shortages and general suffering among the majority poor. Child protection is often compromised in crisis situations for example UNICEF (2008) links worsening child abuse in Zimbabwe to family tensions caused by the country’s economic meltdown. Economic crisis in Zimbabwe has led to the erosion of children’s rights as child labour, child sex work, malnutrition, poor education and health services increasingly affecting women. Chikovore (2013) argues that during the economic crisis (2000-2008) children residing in households with higher socio-economic status had a 12% lower chance of dying than children residing in households with lower socio-economic status. Poverty is thus a key social determinant of child maltreatment and in turn child marriages. This is not to say that children in rich or wealthy families are not affected by child marriages but poverty provides peculiar vulnerabilities to children in poor households. Research (Padare 2014; Population Council 2009) indicates that poverty reinforces harmful cultural practices, such as inter-generational sex and early marriage for girls.

Chiweshe (2012) shows that girl orphans tend to be more vulnerable to adverse reproductive health issues such as HIV, STIs and teenage pregnancies due to earlier and more risky sexual experiences associated with poorer household circumstances and reduced educational opportunities. Loss of family has emotional consequences that relate to identity and psychological well-being. It is also related to increased malnutrition and reduced opportunity for education. Without adequate care and support, many are exposed to exploitative child labour and abuse and face increased vulnerability to HIV infection. Families affected by HIV when forced to choose between sending a boy or girl to school; they usually choose boys. This is steeped in partriachial systems which see girls only as waiting for marriage. This links with the discussion on how education levels can drive child marriages below.

1.3.2 Education levels

The less education a girl has, the more she is likely to marry during her childhood. Hodzi (2014) cites a research by the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZIMSTATS) which shows that there is a marked relationship among women’s level of education and the median age at marriage. The median age at first marriage among women aged 25 to 49 with no formal education is 17.7 years, and it rises steadily to 23.4 years among those with more than a secondary education. This can also be connected to the fact that most girls do not stay in school beyond primary or ordinary levels thus marriage becomes a survival strategy (Muzvidziwa 2006). Any role chiefs have to take in combating child marriages has to include strategies of keeping girls in school.

1.3.3 Religion

Religion is also a driver of child marriage in Zimbabwe. For example, in the apostolic faith, religion combines with traditional culture, and girls are often encouraged to marry much older men at a very young age.[iii] Religion is a powerful organizing force in Zimbabwe. The vast majority of Zimbabweans identify themselves as Christian. Kambarami (2006) notes how Christianity in particular is highly partriachial. Studies have shown how religious ideologies have been used to justify abuse of women and children. According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS 2010-11) 31% of the girls in Zimbabwe marry before they reach the age of 18 years and about 15% of these girls are married before they reach 15 years. This is mostly linked to religious beliefs especially among the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect.

This is a church commonly known as ‘vapostori’ that is believed to constitute approximately 1.2 million members in the country (Sibanda 2011). Chireshe, Chireshe and Mudhovozi (2009) argue that many abuses in Zimbabwe are perpetrated and justified in the name of religion and culture. Participants in a study conducted by Padare (2014) in Zvishavane and Gweru claimed that their religious leaders in the apostolic sects who claim to have had a dream from God that they should marry young girls. A member of the church was quoted as saying, ‘Men in our church receive their brides from the Holy Spirit through dreams. They then inform the church elders who will formalise the marriage. The practice does not normally take age into account and even a 14-year-old can be married off to a man far older than her.’[iv] In Mudzi there were reported cases of four primary children attending apostolic churches that dropped out of school due to pregnancy (Zimbabwe Youth Council 2014). Apart from Christianity, there are other religious beliefs which promote child maltreatment. One example is how some healers’ claim that sleeping with a virgin will cure HIV (Safaids 2009). Padare (2014) notes how Zvishavane communities complain about the emergence of fake prophets and healers who are telling people that sleeping with a virgin will cure HIV and AIDS. This is a harmful practice which has led to many rapes and sexual abuses.

1.3.4 Practice of controlling of girls’ sexuality

Some child marriages are as a result of societal practices based on partriachial ideas of controlling the sexuality of girls. Through this system of surveillance, girls are punished for placing themselves in ‘compromising positions’ such as staying out late with a boyfriend. The need to control girls’ sexuality can be linked to the practice of lobola where virgin girls are deemed ‘good’ and ‘desirable’ thus they command higher charges. This leads to circumstances where girls are forced into marriages by fathers who fear that their conduct may make the girls fail to get married. So girls who are late coming back home or stay out at night are not allowed back home by their fathers. Her Zimbabwe blog article notes one such case of Linda noted in the Box 1 below. Linda’s plight is an example of most cases of children who end up in marriage are occurring. Most children are forced into marriage by elders in communities, in situations where most of these elders happen to be their guardians.

Box 1: Linda’s story

Sixteen year-old Linda Nokoro (not her real name) from Kuwadzana Extension is a mother. She explains how she ended up with a baby: “It all happened when I was fifteen while doing my form three studies at Kuwadzana High school. I went to a party with my boyfriend, who is now the father of my child, and ended up getting drunk and spending the night with him at his place, where I lost my virginity. The following morning I went home and my parents sent me back to my boyfriend`s house who then tried to reason with them since I was not pregnant. But my family refused to understand. They threatened to sue him on statutory rape charges (since he was over 18 years), had he refused to accept me as his wife,” she said. Linda added: “With not much of a choice Teddy (her boyfriend) chose the latter and here we are with our first child, Tadiwanashe.”
Source: http://herzimbabwe.co.zw/2015/07/child-marriages-still-a-cause-for-concern/

1.3.5 Age

Age provides an important prism to analyse the power differentials between perpetrators and survivors of child maltreatment especially in child marriages. Birdthislte (2011:1079) notes that: ‘Girls and boys less than 12 years most often described vaginal and anal penetration, respectively, by a neighbour or relative at least 10 years older, occurring in their own or the abuser’s home. Adolescent girls up to 16 most often described vaginal penetration by their ‘boyfriend,’ typically up to 10 years older and taking place in his or the girls’ own home.’ This shows that in most cases there is a huge age difference between perpetrators and survivors of sexual abuse. Older people have physical, emotional and often economic power over children. They use this power to maltreat and abuse children in vulnerable circumstances. The increased reports of child/early marriages attest to this lack of power amongst children who have very little choice to choose or determine their circumstances. Respondents in a Padare (2014) report argued that it is parents who decided on marriage for young girls. They are cases where parents have declined reporting rape of a child and instead receiving monetary or cattle compensation from the perpetrator. Older men usually have money and resources which they use to get young brides.

1.3.6 Inadequate legal protection

There are studies that elaborate the problems within the criminal justice system which compromise its ability to provide effective remedies to victims of child sexual abuse. Many people claim that the prison terms are not deterrent enough with reports of perpetrators getting as low as three months depending on the nature of the case and available evidence[v]. WAG and Padare’s (2014) documentation report highlights how people in Nkayi, Chivhu and Hurungwe have little faith in the legal system which makes it difficult for many survivors of abuse to report. The report highlights how the police in these districts are finding it difficult to cover all the areas due to transport shortages. Zimbabwe introduced Victim Friendly Units because of a realisation that the criminal justice system was insensitive to survivors of abuse. The problems have continued however with most people having little faith in the system given that it ‘…emphasises the rights of the accused at the expense of protecting the child victims of sexual abuse’ (Mutandwa 2012:21). Mutandwa (2012) provides substantial cases on how victims are side lined from sentencing and how this alienates people from the criminal justice system. Without deterrents and protection from legal institutions perpetrators of child marriages will continue with no fear for repercussions of their actions.

1.3.7 Culture, patriarchy and tradition

Most research work discovered in this study relate to what are termed harmful cultural practices relating to child marriages. These practices refer to ‘all behaviour, attitudes and or practices which negatively affect the fundamental rights of women and girls, such as their right to life, health, dignity, education, and physical integrity’ (http://www.achpr.org/instruments/women-protocol/).  A Padare report (2014:14) cites a participant who notes that:

In Bindura we identified what are called harmful cultural practices such as parents who marry off daughters under the age of consents; Kuzvarira – which is a practice where parents marry off a child at birth or as a baby in exchange for food or cattle; Chiramu – which is a practice where as a girl, your sister’s husband can have certain liberties such as fondling your breast; Nhaka – which is when at the death of a husband a woman is provided with one of the relatives to take over husband duties. All these practices are done without the consent of girls. Their rights are ignored which is why we came up with community commitment charters that promote the community effort to work towards achieving equal rights for girls.

Another practice which is not very common now but still evident is the use of girls to appease vengeful spirits (kuripa ngozi) which happens when a person commits murder and to avoid a ‘curse on the offending family, with this family suffering a series of serious set-backs, perhaps even the deaths of some of its own members. In order to appease the avenging spirits, a virgin girl is handed over to the offended family by the family responsible for the harm-doing’ (Safaids 2009:15). In Zimbabwe, Muronda (1989:149) also outlines practices such as kuputsa or kutengesa whereby a young child is sold to benefit her family; this could also be referred to as trafficking. All these practices are based on specific traditional and cultural beliefs. The determinants of child marriages and abuse in this case are cultural. It is clear that there is need for a fundamental mental shift from such traditions. Patriarchy is at the root of most harmful practices for both young boys and girls. Patriarchy ultimately is a gendered power system: a network of social, political and economic relationships through which men dominate and control female labour, reproduction and sexuality as well as define women’s status, privileges and rights in a society (Chakona 2012).

Interviews with traditional leaders within the context of this research questioned the role of culture in the increased number of child marriages. Chief Charumbira in particular, argued the need for updated statistics on the occurrence of the number of children affected by the traditional practices outlined above. The arguament is that culture becomes an easy target without actually engaging the underlying societal issues that are fuelling child marriages such as the breakdown of the family unit due to death, migration and high rates of divorce. Jephiter Tsamwi writing in a blog argues that, ‘Child marriage has never been a cultural practice. Not at any given time. It was and is still a product of poverty, where young girls are taken as surety for a better life by desperate parents.’ [vi]

1.4 The law and child marriages in Zimbabwe

Section 78 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe amendment (No.20) Act of 2013 prescribes the minimum age of marriage as 18 years. The section further stipulates that no person may be compelled to enter into marriage against their will and that “children are not pledged in marriages”. The Constitution further argues:

…Section 81 speaks to various children’s rights, among them protection from economic and sexual exploitation. The new constitution’s major strength regarding issues to do with child marriage is that it clearly defines who a child is which is in line with the various international and regional laws outlined above. Also, it does not discriminate against boys and girls. As long as one is under 18 years, they are still a child whether male or female. Although it does not clearly spell out child marriage, the Constitution outlaws it by implication where it grants the right to marry to those who have attained 18 years (Panos Institute Southern Africa 2015:19).

However the Marriage Act allows girls aged 16 to marry while the minimum age for boy is 18. The Customary Marriages Act does not specify a minimum age of marriage. In January 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Marriage Act, which allowed girls as young as 16 to be married with their parents’ consent, was unconstitutional and recognised 18 years as the legal minimum age of marriage. This judgement has however at the time of writing not translated into law. The government of Zimbabwe has failed to realign its laws with the 2013 Constitution leading to many instances where existent laws are not compatible with the constitution. Box 2 shows the different laws relating to child marriages at they are written on the books at this juncture. What is clear is the need to ensure consistency on the definition of a child across all laws.

Box 2: Laws pertaining to child marriages in Zimbabwe

The Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07) …This Act says that any marriage sealed in terms of customary marriages shall not be valid unless solemnized by a customary marriage officer of the district in which the woman or her guardian resides in the presence of the woman’s guardian or a deputy appointed by such guardian and a witness, who shall be the chief, headman or village-head of the guardian of the woman or such other person as the customary marriage officer may approve. The Act goes on to spell out penalties for those who compel women to marry without their consent. In as far as child marriages are concerned, this law’s strength lies in its demand for registration as offenders could be caught as they try to register their unions and also outlaws forced marriages. The law has not set a minimum marriageable age, which makes it difficult to address child marriages instituted under this act. The fact that most of the unions which could fall under this Act go unregistered brings forth the problems outlined in 3.3.2 above.  
The Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) First enacted in 1964, this Act has been amended a number of times. It states under Section 22 (1) that “No boy under the age of 18 years and no girl under the age of 16 years, shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage.” The Marriage Act also legalises marriage of minors provided there is consent from guardians. Section 20 (2) (i) states that marriage of minors shall not be solemnised without consent in writing of the legal guardian/guardians. The section further says that if consent cannot be obtained due to absence, inaccessibility or disability, such can be sought from a High Court Judge. The High Court can also provide reprieve should the guardian/guardians refuse to grant consent. This can be interpreted to mean that minors can get married as they wish as not even their guardians, who could be their parents, have the power to stop them.
The Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06] …The Act sets up the Children’s Court (formerly known as the Juvenile Court) to deal with matters pertaining to children. It prescribes deterrent forms of punishment for sexual offenders. The definition of a sexual offender adopted by the Act is a wider one, including persons who, although not directly involved, allow the abuse of children, either on their premises or elsewhere. It also explicitly punishes ill-treatment and neglect of children and young persons. However, this Act clashes with the Constitution in its definition of who a child is by stating that a child is “a person under the age of sixteen years”.  
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) Popularly known as the Code, this Act came into effect in 2006 and under Section 92, it defines a child as one below 18 years while Section 94 prohibits extra marital intercourse with a young person (16 years). The Code also prohibits acts of indecent assault against a young person, pledging of female persons as compensation for a debt and promising a girl under the age of 18 in marriage. Under this Act, forcing a female to enter into marriage is a criminal offence.
Source: Panos Institute Southern Africa (2015:22-23)

1.5 Impact of child marriages

The effects of child marriages are physical, emotional, psychological and lifelong on young girls. Human Rights Watch summarises the impacts as:

…child marriage typically ends a girl’s ability to continue her education, exposes her to domestic and sexual violence (including marital rape), and also increases the risk of HIV infection. Bearing a child at an early age heightens the risk of death or serious injury in childbirth.[vii] 

Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.[viii] Box 3 below summarises some of the impacts of child marriages on girls.

Box 3: Impact of child marriages

Consequences of child marriage have lasting effects beyond adolescence as they struggle with the health effects of getting pregnant too young and too often, their lack of education and economic independence, domestic violence, and marital rape.  
Health-related consequences Child marriage directly threatens the health and well-being of girls: complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19 in developing countries. Girls aged 15 to 20 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their 20s, and girls under the age of 15 are five times as likely to die. These consequences are due largely to girls’ physical immaturity where the pelvis and birth canal are not fully developed. Complications in labor are exacerbated where emergency obstetric services are scarce, as is the case in many societies where child marriage is prevalent. Pregnancy for adolescent girls poses a serious risk of developing obstetric fistula, since their smaller pelvises make them prone to obstructed labor. Fistula leaves its victims with urine or fecal incontinence that causes infection, pain, and a bad smell. A child born to a girl under 18 has a 60 percent greater chance of dying in the first year of life than one born to a woman 19 and older.  
Education-related consequences Child marriage frequently ends a girl’s education forever. Girls who marry young are often expected to take on responsibilities at home that are prioritized over attending school.A lack of education limits girls’ choices and opportunities throughout their lives, not just when they are children. The price of this exclusion is often poverty. In Yemen, one girl who married at the age of 12 told Human Rights Watch:All that I’m good for is to be a mother, and a home maker…. I’m illiterate. They didn’t teach us anything. If they did, at least I would have benefitted from something.Without education, girls and adult women have fewer opportunities to financially provide for themselves and their families. Research shows how limited education may make girls and women more vulnerable to persistent poverty when their spouses die, abandon, or divorce them.  
Violence against married girls Married girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 with low levels of education are at a much greater risk of domestic and sexual violence from their spouses than older and more educated women. Research cites spousal age difference, typical of child marriage, as a significant risk factor associated with violence and sexual abuse against girls.[ix]

[i] https://www.newsday.co.zw/2015/06/19/to-end-child-marriage-is-to-break-cycle-of-poverty/

[ii] http://data.unicef.org/child-protection/child-marriage.html#sthash.QLYlWyuf.dpuf

[iii] http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/zimbabwe/ 



[vi] http://herzimbabwe.co.zw/2015/09/child-marriage-is-more-about-poverty-than-culture/

[vii] https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/23/dispatches-nothing-wholesome-about-zimbabwes-child-brides

[viii] http://data.unicef.org/child-protection/child-marriage.html#sthash.QLYlWyuf.dpuf

[ix] https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/14/q-child-marriage-and-violations-girls-rights

Livelihoods and survival in post 2017 Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe is currently undergoing socio-economic crises. The impact of the crises is worsened by the introduction of austerity measures that have seen the government increasingly withdrawing from social welfare. This paper provides an overview of the various strategies employed by ordinary citizens. It focuses on various everyday survival strategies which include illicit activities in both rural and urban spaces. Post-colonial Zimbabwe has undergone multiple cycles of socio-economic and political crises. This paper however focuses on the post 2017 context to highlight how ordinary people are responding to the economic challenges characterising this period. These challenges are a direct continuation of the multiple economic crises faced by the country since gaining independence in 1980.

Explaining the Zimbabwean Crises

On 21 November 2017, Robert Mugabe resigned the presidency after a coup by the army and on 24 November Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as president and later elected in 2018. The political economy of the post-election period has been characterized by an implosion of the economy. Continued cash shortages were exacerbated by a two policy pronouncement by the new finance minister. Firstly, the minister introduced a new 2% on every dollar tariff on electronic transactions. The led to the increase in the prices of goods and services as business simply passed on the cost of the new tax to consumers. Secondly was the reintroduction of the Zimbabwean dollar and banning of the multi-currency system. This meant that all savings and prices were converted directly to Zimbabwean currency. People lost value on their savings and investments. Concurrently, prices of goods also went up following the new exchange rate but salaries did not immediately increase in line with the new devalued currency. This led to increased suffering for the majority of people as incomes from work and other livelihood activities decreased in value. The government went on to unveil multiple neo liberal reforms aimed at removing state subsidies in many sectors. Inflation, continued cash shortages, erosion of salary values, increase in prices and continued company closures define this post 2017 period.

Livelihood responses and trajectories to the crises

Informal, illicit and ephemeral urban responses 

In analysing the various survival strategies being instituted in urban spaces, the paper utilises three key concepts namely: kukiya kiya (making do) (see work by Jeremy Jones entitled Nothing is Straight in Zimbabwe’: The Rise of the Kukiya-kiya Economy 2000–2008), kujingirisa (multiple ways of getting by) (see work by Gukurume entitled Navigating the crisis: University of Zimbabwe students’ campus experiences during Zimbabwe’s multi-layered crisis) and kuita zviripo (working with what you have). In defining kujingirisa, Gukurume notes that it ‘…relates to multiple forms of ‘making do’ and ‘getting by’ devised by people.’ Kukiya kiya andkujingirisa thus speak to survival and necessity in a context of lack. These three concepts speak to various survival strategies utilised by urban dwellers in Zimbabwe which include amongst other things: street foreign currency dealers, street vending (selling fruits, vegetables, airtime, groceries and various other goods`), backyard/home industries, micro enterprises (such as flea markets, hair salons, making hair, producing and selling various goods), begging, crime (including fraud (kuvhara vanhu or madhiri), accepting bribes (kupihwa yedrink or kuburitsa mbijana), robbery, mugging, touting, providing public transport (mushikashika), piece jobs and sex work (kuhura).

People are employing multiple and often illicit activities. Those that work in spaces where there is an opportunity to receive bribes or to siphon goods are using the opportunity to make money. An example is how officials providing public services ask for a bribe to help you gain that service such as a passport. Young people especially in central Harare are involved in systems that Jones (2010) described as street arbitrage through kutenderedza masini (buying and selling goods for a mark-up where no production happens except profit). Shortages of products such as fuel is also providing opportunities for survival through growth of black market networks where the goods are sold at a huge mark up.

In urban areas there are also many forms of gambling including soccer betting which have emerged as important spaces for survival in Zimbabwe. For many unemployed youths’ soccer betting and other illicit forms of gambling (such as betting on pool games or card games). Gambling, however, tends to be an unreliable and can have negative long-term impacts such as addiction and getting into a debt trap. It is thus a maladaptive coping strategy. The third concept that I develop in this paper is kuita zviripo (working with what you have) which encompasses the various techniques and strategies employed by people to make do. This includes what many Zimbabweans call budget, a concept built on ensuring changes in lifestyle and consumption to respond to the eroded income such as not buying perceived luxuries such as milk, eggs and meat. There has also been changes in diet for example not buying meat and finding alternative relish or reducing the number of meals per day.

To supplement food supplies urbanites in Zimbabwe have historically been involved in urban agriculture. Urban by laws for a long time prohibited UA and there is a history of hostility between local authorities and communities but Nyanga Declaration signed by municipal authorities in 2002 provided a framework to allow for urban agriculture. Urban agriculture is practiced by at varying levels in low, medium and high income suburbs. For example, in low income households urban agriculture is mainly rain fed, practiced on public land, done for household consumption and focuses of food crops such as maize and sweet potatoes. In high income households there is an increasing of people investing in green houses and irrigation systems to produce fresh produce for the market such as flowers, seedlings and fresh vegetables and because of large land holdings some are running large scale poultry projects, ostriches and fish farming. The use of public land for urban agriculture for low income households is increasingly facing pressure from alternative land uses especially the huge demand for housing stands in most urban centres.

Rural off-farm and on-farm responses

In rural spaces there are also varied strategies of kukiya kiya and kujingirisa being employed by people to survive. Some of the activities are not novel but have a long history within rural Zimbabwe. Climate change and recurrent droughts have severely affected agriculture which is the mainstay of rural livelihoods. People in rural areas have thus turned to some of the following livelihood options: selling of natural resources such as firewood and fish; finding piece jobs (maricho); participating in food for work programmes; utilising wild fruits and vegetables; internal savings and loan groups (mukando); micro enterprises; community gardens; and remittances from urban and also cross border migrants. Rural areas near mines or large scale agricultural enterprises also get access to long and short term paid labour contracts. Patience Mutopo in her research work in Mwenezi has also shown how women in rural areas are engaged in marketing their produce through cross border trading in South Africa. Rural areas (as well as urban) are also witnessing a growing number of undocumented and unaccompanied child migrants who are seeking better lives in South Africa where they are employed especially as domestic workers.

Food aid and cash transfers are also an important source of income and survival. Estimates from Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) Rural Livelihoods Assessment of 2019, shows that in rural areas 5.5 million are food insecure. The government of Zimbabwe and various international organisations have contributed to providing food assistance to affected families for example USAID has provided US$113.7 million in 2019. Food aid is thus providing survival for millions of people in the rural areas.  International organisations are also involved in cash transfer programmes geared towards providing social protection to food-poor and labour constrained households (Arruda 2018).

Corruption, space and political patronage systems of survival

In Zimbabwe corruption is involved in all manner of everyday activities including paying bribes to pass examinations, sex in exchange of passing examinations, paying bribes to get driver’s licences and passports, youths being used to perpetrate political violence in exchange of money, bribing police officers, immigration officials, and even getting money using unorthodox means. There are thus multiple opportunities in everyday interactions for people to make money from selling access to public services. Political patronage as has been used by ZANU PF affiliated groups to make money from housing stands, market stalls and access to various urban spaces. Petty corruption and bribery at this level thus speaks directly to how many Zimbabwe access multiple income streams.

Diamonds, gold and the rise of artisanal mining

There are over 400 000 unregistered artisanal gold miners in Zimbabwe and an estimated 153 000 miners are women and children. Chikorokoza as artisanal mining is often referred to as in Zimbabwe has proven a fertile ground for many people in both rural and urban spaces to earn a living. Artisanal mining areas also provide livelihood multipliers through the need to provide services to the miners including people selling food, goods and also sex work. The biggest challenge with this activity however remains the violence perpetrated by organised gangs in the gold fields which has led to multiple deaths. Human Rights Watch reports that the discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe in 2006/07 opened new avenues for illicit mining. By 2006, an estimated 35,000 people (miners or buyers) were in and around the diamond fields. This number has however declined especially after the military campaign known as Operation Hakudzokwi (area of no return) at the end of 2008. The Chiadzwa diamond fields remain an important space for illegal miners who continuously trespass and gain access to mines. Between January and November 2019, a total pf 3 259 illegal diamond panners were arrested.

Remittances, cross border trading and migration based livelihood options

In Zimbabwe migration based livelihood options have also been a mainstay of everyday survival. Migration based survival strategies includes cross border trading, remittances and various forms of circular short term migration. Circular short term includes visitors, informal cross-border traders and shoppers who continuously move between Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries for economic purposes. Some of these people find ‘piece-jobs’, especially in the service, construction, and tourism industries in the host countries. After working and earning for a period they come back to their families in Zimbabwe especially for holidays and return back to work in neighbouring countries. The 2017 Inter-Censal Demographic Survey (ICDS) showed that 19% of all households enumerated were classified as migrant households with at least one emigrant. The survey also showed that the majority of emigrants send between US$100 to US$500 in the past 12 months. Migration and Remittances, Recent Developments and Outlook report prepared by the World Bank showed that in 2018 remittances to Zimbabwe were estimated to US$1.85 billion. In 2018 personal remittances were 5.99% of the GDP. FinScope MSME Survey Zimbabwe in 2012 shows that cross border trading is a huge part of the 3.5 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Zimbabwe. This shows that a significant number of people are involved in micro enterprises mostly based on cross border trading for survival.


Ordinary Zimbabweans are devising multiple forms of survival to respond to the deepening economic crises. The paper has provided a broad overview of some of the various survival strategies being employed in both urban and rural spaces in most parts of the country. What is clear is that citizens are actively involved in various legal and illicit livelihood strategies. These strategies are mainly survivalist meaning that they are ephemeral, offering limited pathways out of poverty.  In some of the activities however there is evidence of accumulation from below for example some cross border traders and operators of small enterprises have been able to amass property including land. Most households in both rural and urban areas however are barely surviving leading to tough choices that may include some families turning to negative coping mechanisms such as child marriages. Young children are increasingly forced into the workforce through assisting parents in activities such as street vending. Young girls as young as nine years of age are also now involved in sex work. There are multiple gendered dimensions to these survival strategies with women excluded from specific male dominated sectors such as artisanal gold mining. Some livelihood activities that have historically been female dominated such as street vending and cross border trading are now attracting large male participation. There are also serious health and safety implications related with many of these strategies especially activities that are illicit or are down in a context of violence such as artisanal mining. With sex work especially for children there is the continued risk of sexually transmitted diseases. The majority of coping strategies are therefore risky and focused on subsistence without any sustainability for both rural and urban households.

Transnational soccer fan identities and cultures in Zimbabwe

Introduction and Background

In most contemporary African societies today, we have communities of highly committed European football fans. These communities seem to manifest most of the conventional characteristics of football fandom. Barring the fact that these fandoms are geographically set apart from the teams and players they support, the deep structure that informs their identifying with and support of European football teams seems to bear a significant sense of empathy with the teams they support, deep interest in the athletic performance of these teams and desire to acquire as much knowledge as possible about these teams. In this way, the practice of European football acquires an immediate and sustained following in the African society. For instance, the English Premier League in particular has become an important element in the mainstream of the socio-cultural reality of African societies. The increased popularity of European sport especially football across the global south has led to the emergence of specific fan cultures and identities. The growth of satellite television and social media is decreasing the distance between fans and teams they support globally yet this process is not without complexties. This paper focuses on weaving empirical and theoretical debates to better understand the emergence, nature and practices of these transnational fan identities and cultures in the context of Zimbabwe. There is a lacuna in work providing a grounded analysis of transnational fan cultures as a social phenomenon in Zimbabwe.

The paper uses a qualitative research design to examine the processes and significance of transnational fan identities of European soccer teams in an African context. It explores the scope and impact of these fandoms against two basic assumptions. Firstly, that the definition and practice of soccer fandom in the contemporary times has been influenced by the global patterns of popular culture. Secondly, that transnational fandoms of European soccer are not just ‘overseas support of European football’ but also distinct communities that are constructed in and that also reflect their immediate socio-cultural contexts. The paper also explore how theoretical concepts of globalisation, glocalisation, appropriation and hybridization relate to this phenomenon, which has often been described as a form of electronic colonisation, or neo liberal capture of gullible African consumers by capitalist entertainment industry. On the hand there has also been a tendency to romanticise the agency of African fan communities in terms of their love, belonging and constructions of global fan communities. This book explores all these themes to provide varied stories and experiences of fan cultures based on supporting a European team. The contemporary practice of African fandom communities forming around and passionately supporting European football can be perceived as socio-cultural genres characterized by an appropriation of the global cultural trends within the local contexts in ways that serve the immediate socio-cultural needs of the communities in question.

Over the years Zimbabwe has experienced a growth in popularity and consumption of European football. The English Premier League is the most followed with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool being the most popular teams. There are however significant followers of teams such as AC Milan (Italy), Real Madrid and Barcelona (Spain) especially in the European Champions League. The overwhelming majority of fans in Zimbabwe have a local and international (usually English) team they follow. In an unstructured discussion at a famous sports club in Harare, I met of football fans from upper middle-class backgrounds that followed European football exclusively. They had no knowledge of local teams or players but with intimate appreciation of English teams. For them local soccer is of such low standards that it was not worthy of investing any time in following it. Satellite television and globalisation has meant a huge diet of European leagues being beamed in living rooms across Africa at the expense of local leagues. This form of football imperialism is closely tied to the mass migration of football talent from the continent. In Zimbabwe this phenomenon is a bit different with the lure of the South African Rand providing a destination near home for the bulk of players. South African is the seventh richest league in the world going by sponsorship and prize money. The clubs afford high salaries and many talented players in Southern Africa end up in this league.

European fan identities offer an interesting area for further in-depth studies in Africa. Studies on fandom in Europe and England in particular have shown that geography as an important factor in becoming a fan. For Africans thousands of kilometres away from Europe it is interesting how the media has been able to cultivate strong attachments to such teams. Consumption of European football in Zimbabwe is in many ways gendered. There are certain spaces in which football is watched like bars and clubs where ‘upright’ women are not expected to be seen. Bars and clubs charge a fare for people to watch games or require patrons to buy drinks if they want to watch the games. This is the cheaper and preferred option for most men given that watching at home requires satellite television subscription that can cost up to US$72 a month.

Becoming a European football fan

There are numerous experiences concerning how people become fans of specific teams. The process is not linear of clear but involves many factors including the influence of friends, family, current success of teams and history of teams, team colors or the media. All these factors provide a complex interplay into how one becomes a fan. What is clear from the fieldwork is how the English Premier League is the most supported league in Zimbabwe. One of the key processes in becoming a fan was the influence of significant individuals especially male role models like fathers or uncles. Both male and female fans I interacted with noted how they either supported the team that their fathers or uncles supported or a rival to that team. Chiweshe (2012) highlights how in the local Zimbabwean football their fathers or male relatives socialize context young people into fandom. This process of socialisation is also evident within fans of European football. This is more apparent through fathers and mothers taking active roles in teaching their children to love their clubs through watching games with them, buying them replica shirts and baking cakes with team logos. The reasons for becoming a fan are outlined in the quotations below:

            I became a fan of Liverpool because my father was also a Liverpool fan.

My support for Manchester United was largely influenced by the fact that I started watching football at a time the team was very successful and glamorous. I was attracted by success.

It was easy to choose Arsenal because it has over the years promoted many African players. I like that above Wenger. He gives Africans a platform to shine.

I was a fan of English football but now I support Real Madrid in Spain because of Cristiano Ronaldo joined them. He made me love Madrid.

For me it is the style of play and history associated with Barcelona that made me a cule [nickname for Barcelona fans].

The few quotes outlined above provide the wide array of reasons to become a fan of European football teams. This shows that fans are attracted and influenced by different things.

Consumption of European football: Spaces and places

This part of the research sought to understand where and how people consume European football in Zimbabwe. Akindes (2011:2176) provides an interesting analytical discussion on what he termed trans-local ‘stadiums’ which includes ‘football bars, specialised football video theatres and households with cable or satellite subscriptions mediate these processes of trans-localisation…football transnational television broadcasting is generating a new form of fandom in sub-Saharan Africa.’ Observation of fans in this study focused on these spaces in Zimbabwe where even in some of the most remote rural spaces they are bars showing the English and Spanish leagues. There is also a class dimension when discussing spaces were European football is consumed. The rich and middle classes tend to afford the expensive monthly subscription fees that they can ensure access in the privacy of their homes. They also access top of the range sports clubs and bars where football is shown whilst the poor tend to depend on beer halls where in somes cases they are forced to pay a small fee to watch the games. The rich are also able to afford the exorbitant data fees and stream the games whilst the poor cannot. Another important emerging space for football consumption is the betting houses. Betting and gambling have a long history in Zimbabwe. In the past lottery, horse racing and at times dog racing were an integral part of betting culture especially among the employed and unemployed poor working classes. Soccer betting is now becoming a popular activity for many seeking to earn an income. The betting houses are emerging as an important sociological space to understand how people are turning to betting in a context of widespread unemployment and informalisation of work. Soccer betting is providing a space for (false)hope and a form of escapism as many continue to bet even if they do not win. The betting houses show live football from across the world and punters are becoming familiar with many leagues and thus become attached to these football leagues.

Fan identities, practices and behaviors: Glocalisation, appropriation and venecularisation

There are many ways in which transnational identities are organised and celebrated. Across Zimbabwe we see the emergence of fan clubs for specific teams. From the increasing number of replica shirts (most a however fake replicas imported mainly from China) to the increased public spaces for watching football, Zimbabwe is seeing an increasing transnational fan base. The symbols and colors of the teams have emerged as an important rallying point for the fans.  Public transportation has also emerged as a space to celebrate these fandoms as many mini buses have pictures and logos of teams. Whatsapp groups of teams are bringing fans ever closer to each other. The evolution of digital satellite television across Africa aided by liberalization policies that allow private actors within the broadcasting space, has led to the increased access to foreign leagues. European football teams and stars have become household names in Zimbabwe. Games are the talk of everyday spaces in the workplace, schools and public transport. Debates over games are intense and rivalries have emerged based on the team one supports. There are however interesting nuances to these fandoms. One such nuance is that a fan cannot a team in England, Spain and Germany all at once though the degree of engagement is different. Many fans I came across had an English and Spanish team they support though the level of support was different. In most instances English teams are first and then a Spanish, Germany or Italian team. This is because the English league is the most watched and the colonial connections with Britain make the league the biggest followed in Zimbabwe.

Thousand miles away, are your real fans?

One of the consistent issues that transnational fans have to deal with in Zimbabwe is the questioning of the authenticity of these fandoms. According to some respondents most people who do not support football view them as imitators and fake fans. The question that is repeatedly asked is how one can support a team that plays in country that he/she has never visited. One fan who was interviewed noted: ‘My wife is always asking me about my support for Manchester United. She does not understand how a grown mam who has never been out of Zimbabwe can become so attached to a team that plays in England.’ Another fan highlighted how her family is always amused by her anger every time Arsenal loses. Her mother always says, ‘why are you worried about people who do not know your name or you will never meet.’ All this points to a context of puzzlement by those outside transnational fan networks. The authenticity of these fandoms can also be analysed within the prism of Thomas McPhail’s Electronic Colonialism Theory, which traces the impact of global media systems on African spaces. In this instance football fans are portrayed as dupes who are easily influenced by global media to follow foreign football teams. This love for foreign teams is seen as a fickle creation and as an extension of the capitalist extractive model.

Kerr and Emery (2011) takes a rather different perspective to McPhail. They argue that football fans choose to support foreign teams for a myriad of reasons including media coverage, style of play, presence of a particular player, team success, history of success, participation in the highest division and stadium. Football fans are actively involved in choosing, interacting and forming networks with other fans. They form what Kerr and Emery (2011) calls cyber mediated romance. This was supported by a fan who noted:

We are not stupid people who are easily influenced by television to follow certain things. I follow football because I love it and I follow Chelsea because it is in my heart. If I was just a dupe who follows everything on television why am I not a cricket or rugby fan? These sports are shown every time on satellite television.

There is thus need for more nuance when discussing how and why people become fans of foreign teams. For a significant number of Chelsea fans, it was Didier Drogba and the infusion of African players in the team that made them love the team. Other fans were captivated by the scenes in the stadiums as indicated by one fan: ‘I fell in love with Liverpool the day I heard the Kop sing You will never walk alone.’

Exploratory foray into match fixing in Africa

This blog is an initial attempt to analyse the ever present threat of match fixing within African football. It draws from various sources to highlight an increasing threat to the development of the game on the continent.Match fixing has taken a global face and with the increased interconnections due to technological advances money is exchanging hands easily. Africa has emerged as an important field in corrupt activities related to football. The marginalisation of teams and players based in Africa has opened ways to exploitation from betting syndicates from across the world.

Match fixing is a global problem yet as Onwechuli highlights, ‘it remains unexplained why the Western media focuses on African teams in the way that it does. Why are there no stories of stings targeting European teams when they have experienced a great deal of match fixing in the past?’.[1] My aim here is not shade bad light on Africa or provides a biased account that creates match fixing as a uniquely African problem. The concern of my paper is to highlight the global nature of match fixing by highlighting how the role Africa plays in this system that is often detrimental to the development of the game. The analysis of match fixing focusing on Africa does not deny the existence of bigger and more complex problems across other parts of the world. The concern rather is on the continued stalling of the growth of football across the continent and how match fixing is contributing to this state of affairs.

The biggest scandals of match fixing have happened outside Africa and the major ‘fixers’ are also from other parts of the world. For example, Federbet, which is based in Brussels, has also accused football’s authorities of failing to do enough to tackle match fixing. A total of 110 matches, including Champions League and Europa League ties, were identified as allegedly being fixed, with suspicions over a further 350. The total of 460 was up 20% from the previous year.[2] There are also many reports of internal match fixing cases in African leagues but they are not the concern of this current exercise. For example Rwandan top flight side SC Kiyovu expelled goalkeeper Andre Mpazimpaka over alleged match fixing in the team’s Turbo King Premier League clash against Mukura on Sunday 20 April, which ended 3 – 0 in favour of Mukura. According to the SC Kiyovu chairman Pierre Kayumba, as quoted by The New Times, the keeper was reported by his teammates to have taken a bribe to throw away the match and the club was left with little option but to act fast pending investigations.[3]

Match fixing in football though has a long non-African history. An ESPN report highlights the activities of Hungarian match fixer Dezso Solti who engineered the 1964 and 1965 European Cups for Inter Milan and also a number of other continental games involving Italian teams through bribing referees.[4] The report actually traces cases of match fixing to the English in 1915 where Manchester United and Liverpool players consipired to throw a game. Italy has also had this problem since 1927 when Torino were stripped of their championship because of math fixing. Calciopoli Scandal in 2006 led to Juventus being stripped of two championships and also together with Lazio and Fiorentina being relegated to Seria B.[5] What this shows is that match fixing is intricately part of the game and has historically affected some of the biggest footballing nations.

Terry Steans a former FIFA investigator admits that ‘Match-fixing is widespread. It is happening at every level and in many countries. Match-fixing syndicates with criminal intent have infiltrated all levels of football and sport from national, regional and onto international. Fifa needs to do more.’[6] Hill[7] argues that the contemporary growth of match fixing can be directly linked to three key factors namely: 1. the liquidity of the sports gambling market has grown and become unified; 2. it is now possible to bet money on more games in more leagues; and 3. international broadcasts are bringing sports to new audiences. Table 1 outlines some of the major match fixing scandals in Africa. The scandals are narrated verbitim from the reports which can be accessed from the provided urls.

Table 1: Match fixing examples in Africa

Scandal Source
The use of ‘doctored’ teams has long been a ploy of fixers at less noticeable matches, and Bahrain’s clash with Togo in 2010 was a classic example. The Gulf nation stunned the Togolese side 3-0, with the team’s coach, Austrian Josef Hickersberger, expressing his surprise at their opponent’s lack of fitness.But when word of the result filtered back to the African nation, the Togo FA was aghast at the outcome and said they knew nothing of the team or any of the players. It emerged that a disgruntled former coach, Tchanile Bana, had assembled the group of ‘fake’ players who received a payment of almost US$60,000 (£40,000) from an international syndicate, but the investigation eventually led to other officials within the FA. Perhaps it was little surprise that the squad didn’t submit a teamsheet while in Bahrain, or that as many as five seemingly legitimate goals were disallowed for the home side. https://www.fourfourtwo.com/features/10-ugliest-match-fixing-scandals-football-history#Ih30MzJW32UpltDW.99
With a spot on the line to earn promotion to Nigeria’s professional ranks, the equation was simple for the two clubs who entered the final matchday of 2013 in contention: better the other’s result. With the Plateau United Feeders holding a 7-0 half-time lead in their match with Akurba FC, and fellow promotion hopefuls Police Machine six goals to the good against Babayaro FC, all hell broke loose as they both went on an unprecedented second-half scoring spree. The Feeders feasted on an astonishing 72 second-half goals to emerge 79-0 winners, while the Machine couldn’t quiet match that pace, only managing a 67-0 victory. One player scored 11 goals, another chalked up three own goals, and at one point there were four net-ripplers scored within a minute. The Feeders won promotion, but it didn’t take long for the authorities to act, with the Nigerian FA banning all four clubs involved for a decade in what they termed the “shameful”’ incident.` https://www.fourfourtwo.com/features/10-ugliest-match-fixing-scandals-football-history?page=0%2C2#cHo2OyIRFViQAD7u.99



AFCON Qualifiers haven’t been immune to the perils of match fixing. In March 2016, a Swaziland-Zimbabwe Group L qualification match ended in a 1-1 draw that seemed innocent enough. But details emerged soon after that Zimbabwean Football Association executive and former player Edzai Kasinauyo had been in contact with an Asian match fixing syndicate. Kasinauyo, along with several accomplices, tried to convince three Zimbabwean players to lose both their matches against Swaziland by two goal deficits, in exchange for $15,000 each. An inside whistleblower later revealed the scheme, resulting in Kasinauyo’s suspension, firing and a 10-year ban from the sport despite his pleas of innocence. https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/01/206057/brief-history-match-fixing-africa-cup-nations/
In 2014 a South African referee, Clifford Malgas, was jailed for two years for corruption and two years for perjury for his role in trying to manipulate the outcome of lower league promotion play-off games in 2011. A former South Africa assistant coach, Phil Setshedi, got a threeyear term for his part in the scam. He was caught in a sting operation as he tried to bribe an undercover policeman posing as another referee. https://www.transparency.org/files/content/feature/1.6_CorruptionAfricanSport_Tsuma_GCRSport.pdf
FIFA banned three more former South African Football Association officials on Monday over match-fixing in friendly games ahead of the country’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup. Former SAFA chief executive Leslie Sedibe was banned for five years and fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,200 US). The governing body also banned Steve Goddard and Adeel Carelse, both former officials at SAFA’s referees department, for two years each. Last year, Lindile Kika, SAFA’s head of national teams in 2010, was banned from all soccer activities for six years. FIFA believes that at least one of the South African national team’s friendly games in the weeks ahead of the continent’s first World Cup was fixed by the referee. SAFA officials were under investigation for allowing a company controlled by Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal to appoint the referees for the games. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/soccer/fifa-match-fixing-1.3490448
Lesotho players allegedly received cash in Malaysia [trip planned and paid for by Perumal], which, Mohapi said, was paid to them as an allowance. After the 2007 encounter, a number of Lesotho players who had travelled to Malaysia went on a spending binge on their return, raising suspicions that they had been bribed. In November 2012, the Lesotho Football Supporters Association raised the alarm about possible match-fixing, but the LFA has not investigated the allegations. The supporters’ association also asked Lesotho’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to investigate. The directorate took no action, saying that there was no case. Two former Lesotho national team players, who asked to remain anonymous, have alleged that Lesotho’s ­fixture against Ghana in a World Cup qualifier on June 8 2008 in Bloemfontein could also have been fixed. Lesotho lost the match 3-2 after going down 3-0 midway through the second half. https://mg.co.za/article/2013-05-31-00-new-evidence-of-match-fixers-lesotho-offer
Ex-Sierra Leone captain Ibrahim Kargbo is among 15 players and officials who have been suspended indefinitely over allegations of match-fixing. The three other players implicated are Ibrahim Koroma, Samuel Barlay and Christian Caulker. Three referees and another eight officials, including Rodney Michael, are the others to have been suspended. The allegations relate to a World Cup qualifier against South Africa in 2008 which ended goalless. http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/28325794

The political economy of global financial systems has largely engaged Africa in an exploitative manner. The large financial centres of the world are elsewhere and Africa has remained at the periphery, offering raw materials and resources whilst it remains trapped in poverty, high debt and low human development. When analysing the global match fixing value chain, it is important to highlight this continued exploitative relationship between Africa, global north and emerging economic powers (especially Asian). The weak systems of governance and control also provide a lucrative opportunity to match fixers. African football administrators have proven over the past years to willing and able co-conspirators in match fixing scheme. In one example:

Christopher Forsythe, a registered Fifa agent, along with Obed Nketiah, a senior figure in the Ghanaian FA, boasted that they could employ corrupt officials who would rig matches played by Ghana. The president of the country’s football association then met the undercover reporter and investigator, along with Mr Forsythe and Mr Nketiah, and agreed a contract which would see the team play in the rigged matches, in return for payment. The contract stated that it would cost $170,000 (£100,000) for each match organised by the fixers involving the Ghanaian team, and would allow a bogus investment firm ​to appoint match officials, in breach of Fifa rules.

There is need to reiterate that evidence so far around global match fixing shows that Africans play a facilitation role yet the biggest players accruing the biggest profits are not on the continent.


Africa has over the recent past provided an easy target for fixers with willing football administrators and poorly paid players and referees available to play along. The state of the game across the continent is such that in most countries football teams are struggling to keep afloat and players remain poorly remunerated. Wilson Raj Perumal when speaking to CNN highlighted how had contacts within national football associations across the world. It is with these associations especially in Africa that he would organise for participation of national sides in fixed matches in which at times he sat on the bench as part of the coaching staff.[8] The relative lack of financial rewards from football provides a way for match fixing syndicates to gain a foothold in Africa. Zimbabwe in 2004, because of desperation for a kit sponsor accepted to host a game against El Salvador planned by kit maker L-Sporto as part of a sponsorship deal.[9] The only problem is that it was later found that the team was a fake El Salvadorian team. The financial plight of African football thus places the continent as the bottom feeder for the global match fixing value chain.

[1] http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/26/sport/football/match-fixing-wilson-raj-perumal-corruption/index.html

[2] https://www.theindependent.co.zw/2006/08/04/another-kit-to-wipe-tears-from-our-eyes/

[3] http://kwese.espn.com/football/blog/espn-fc-united-blog/68/post/1840239/the-history-of-match-fixing

[4] http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/22/sport/football/football-juventus-agnelli/index.html

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/10918321/Football-match-fixing-deal-casts-cloud-over-World-Cup.html

[6] Hill Declan. The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing in Football, Toronto: Anne McDermid (2013)

[7] http://theconversation.com/media-focus-on-africa-for-match-fixing-is-cause-for-concern-28795

[8] http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27706762

[9] Ngulu, Dan. “Keeper expelled over match fixing claims“, 24 April 2014, http://www.futaa.com/football/article/keeper-expelled-over-match-fixing-claims

Featured image source: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2014/08/wilson-raj-perumal-man-fixed-football/


Challenges facing commercialisation of African football

Club ownership structure

Ownership of African football clubs fall into three broad categories: community, government and private owned clubs. Whilst it is not clear which type of football will work best in Africa there are serious problems, which have been documented “with community owned teams. Community owned clubs tend to have huge followings with thousands of registered members e.g. Yanga and Simba in Tanzania – millions of supporters across the country and around 12-13,000 registered members. In Egypt, between 10,000-20,000 members vote in club elections. Zamalek’s current membership stands at around 54,000 and since membership is one per family.”[i] A report on club structures notes the two following failures with community clubs in Africa:

  • Administration – despite their large fan bases and on-pitch success, the larger member-owned clubs face complicated and deep-rooted administrative difficulties. Such is the influence of the clubs amongst their supporters and the wider population that, if unprotected by robust regulation, the institutions are to over-politicization. In such cases, the principles of democracy, transparency and accountability may be compromised.
  • Financial issues – in a number of cases, community-owned clubs have become over-dependent on state support and do not otherwise run as financially sustainable businesses. The lack of a stable financial base contributes further to over-politicization of the clubs. In Zimbabwe the two biggest clubs, Highlanders and Dynamos have varying forms of community ownership, which has led to continued fights over the control of the clubs. State owned clubs are no better given the intense control by governments in the day-to-day running of clubs. Corporate sponsors are in the main are not attracted to state owned teams because of government interference in the clubs. Private owned clubs fall into two types: individually owned clubs such as Sundowns of South Africa and TP Mazembe of DR Congo and clubs owned by companies such as Tusker in Kenya. Such clubs usually are better run with much financial support from the owners.

Corruption and lack of integrity

Rampant corruption, maladministration and lack of accountability have negatively impacted on the development of football in Africa.[ii] Corruption is synonymous with African football. The tale of the game on the continent is full of controversy and complex problems involving missing funds, election rigging, presidents who serve for decades, under paid players and poor infrastructure. This paper provide examples from across Africa that highlight how the under development of the game is intrinsically linked to the lack of transparency in how the game is being managed. The nature and level of corruption might be different from country to country but what is clear from literature is that most, if not, all African countries have serious administrative problems. Whilst there are many definitions of corruption, this paper views it as the abuse of public office for private gain. Within football this is when any official or person or persons use their position of trust in order to gain an undue advantage. Across the world football corruption is evident in many activities including vote buying, match fixing, bribing officials, player transfers, sponsorship deals and even team selections. Across Africa issues of nepotism, tribalism, regionalism and religion also play an important part in corrupt activities. Corruption determines access to space, resources and fair chance. Corruption is institutionalised within African systems and football structures are not different. Pannenborg[iii] shows that corruption in Africa has many names: ‘a little something’, a ‘gift’, a ‘motivation’, ‘an envelop’ or a ‘dash’. Most of them refer to eating – indeed; ‘to eat’ means people using public money for private purposes. Nigerians call it ‘sharing the national cake’ which tells you that the practice is to some extent ‘legitimized.’ African football, as with its politics, has developed a system of patronage in which rich and powerful individuals use their positions within football to amass wealth, power and continued political influence. This is what Price terms the ‘Big Man Small Boy Syndrome’ in which The Big Man controls and gives orders; the Small Boy obeys and does not dare to speak his mind.[iv]

Most of the people employed in football in Africa are clients who are placed there in most cases without any proper qualifications or skills to perform the task. A report by the Forum of African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) labels football administrators as corrupt, greedy and inefficient administrators.[v] Khumalo[vi] concludes that while players (such as George Weah, Salif Keita, Didier Drogba and Kalusha Balwa) have sacrificed their personal fortunes to develop not just soccer but also their own communities, and have in some cases bailed out their national teams, the administration tasked with developing the game focus on personal gain. Football can be a lucrative livelihood for senior administrators with access to funds from FIFA, taxes from affiliates including premier soccer leagues and from national team games. Very little is ploughed back into structures that promote junior football or coaching structures. The FAIR report[vii] outlines instances of vote buying and corruption in elections for footballing positions. One example is in Zimbabwe where two football councilors admitted receiving US$2000 each for their votes in electing football president. Sugden and Tomlinson[viii] argue that the problem, which is most worrying in Africa, is the scale of corruption. Admos Adamu who was the head of Nigeria’s football association allegedly misappropriated US$800 000 grant from FIFA meant for infrastructural programmes.

Former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell once claimed that 90 out of 100 dollars in football disappears in private pockets.[ix] Corruption is bad because it, among other things, demoralizes the players (Pannenborg 2010). FAIR report cites the following cases of corruption from across Africa to highlight the wanton and brazen acts of corruption affecting African football:

  • In Cameroon mobile phone company MTN pumped in US$600,000 of an US$800,000 project to renovate a number of stadiums. The other US$200,000 was to come from Fecafoot, the Cameroonian FA, but instead, US$146,000 ended up in the pockets of the then sports minister, Thierry Augustin Edzoa, so that he could “breathe easier”, he said after the payment. The work never happened. The $600,000 is unaccounted for.
  • Under Adamu, Nigerian football has reached a position whereby only 10% of the US$7m received from the sponsor Globalcom reaches the clubs. Television rights for the Nigerian league are worth around US$5m, but since this deal was signed no Premier League club has received a share of the money.
  • In Ivory Coast, FIF received $1.6m a year from the Ivorian Petrol Refinery Company, SIR, but local clubs never got any of the money. The fund’s existence only became public when SIR stopped the donations in 2007 on discovering the money was not being distributed.[x] There is a lot of money flowing into the African game from “companies whose core businesses are mining, agriculture, oil and gas, beverages and otherwise, but also by international sports companies such as Adidas and Puma and by television networks on the continent. There is also money coming in from other types of sponsorships and FIFA development projects. Much of the funds are earmarked for grassroots development but one only has to see the poor football facilities in Africa to notice that the money may be spend elsewhere.”[xi]

Lack of football infrastructural development

Across much of the continent, the game’s infrastructure is crumbling due to corruption, lack of investment and neglect.[xii] Stadiums of most clubs resemble junkyards with poor drainage systems, bumpy pitches, poor changing rooms, concrete sitting and no cover or shade for fans. Most stadiums have poor entrance and exit points, which makes it extremely difficult and dangerous to enter or leave some of the stadiums. Unlike in Western Europe where clubs own stadiums or lease stadiums from local councils, in Africa governments own, maintain and control stadiums. Clubs do not have the economic capacity to run and manage stadiums of their own. This has led to decaying stadiums, which are in many ways dangerous for both players and spectators.[xiii] In Ghana stadiums were built in the 1950s and have only seen periodic renovation. The National Sports Council (NSC) has playing fields scattered all over the country in the name of stadiums but most of them are in deplorable condition. Nkawkaw Park in the Eastern Region has been declared a security risk, forcing premier league campaigners, Okwahu United, to move away from the stadium and play their matches at the Accra Sports Stadium.[xiv]

African governments have more pressing socio-economic issues to deal with than to invest in stadiums except when they are hosting continental tournaments and in the case of South Africa, the FIFA World Cup. The stadiums and football infrastructure keeps fans away meaning less revenue for the clubs. The bumpy pitches also affects the type of football being played and in some cases some of the stadiums make it difficult for broadcasting networks to carry the matches on television. Only a few countries such as South Africa and Morocco boast of world-class stadia and facilities. Other countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Mali have benefitted from hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, which has led to building and renovation of some stadia. On the whole however football infrastructure in Africa is in a poor state. This makes attending games across the continent a dangerous endeavor and yearly people lose their lives at stadiums. Stadium deaths are also due to “contempt for spectator safety on the part of the administrators and non-professional security personnel are the prime causes. Mismanagement worsens the situation (people are allowed in when the venue is already full). Sound management practices and well-trained personnel could do much to alleviate these problems.”[xv] There is no money going into improving security or increasing the comfort of fans within stadiums. This affects attendance, which in turn hurts local clubs most of whom depend on gate takings for survival.

Globalisation of European football

In most contemporary African societies today, we have communities of highly committed European football fans. These communities seem to manifest most of the conventional characteristics of football fandom. Barring the fact that these fandoms are geographically set apart from the teams and players they support, the deep structure that informs their identifying with and support of European football teams seems to bear a significant sense of empathy with the teams they support, deep interest in the athletic performance of these teams and desire to acquire as much knowledge as possible about these teams. In this way, the practice of European football acquires an immediate and sustained following in the African society. Indeed, as it has been observed by Vokes[xvi] and Komakoma[xvii] the English Premier League in particular has become an important element in the mainstream of the socio-cultural reality of African societies. Vokes explores the social effect of this European football on a rural region of Uganda called Bugamba. He observes, “when moving around the various shops and bars that constitute the main hub of social activity in these parts, one today hears not only the more usual talk of crop yields, school fees and the like, but also conversations about the past week’s EPL results, movements in its transfer market, and its various teams chances over the months ahead.”[xviii] The growth of popularity of European football games and the rise of these fandoms means that local clubs have to compete with such teams for attendance on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The growth of satellite television broadcasts, sports bars and multiple football watching spaces across Africa has meant fans are more in tune with the happenings in the English or Spanish league than in their own local leagues. Fans are opting for television mediated fandoms and football they view as superior and of a better quality than local football. This electronic colonialism of sporting spaces has seriously affected local teams even in commercial terms where fans would rather be seen in a Barcelona or Manchester United shirt.

Poor marketing and selling of football

Most African teams are guilt of not engaging adequately with their fan base.[xix] There is a lot of secrecy involved and fans tend to have little or no idea about the clubs. The fans are disengaged except for hardcore ultras who seek out information on the team. There are no events or publicity ceremonies in most countries that bring fans nearer to their teams. The clubs do not produce match day publications or any form of publication to inform fans and attract new support bases. The majority of clubs do not have on line strategies to sell their brands, which has meant that European based clubs with such infrastructure dominate on line sports presence in Africa. Most clubs do not have websites, in fact there are leagues without websites. There is a lack of skill and capacity within the African football structures to exploit the emerging vehicles for marketing and advertising their brands such as social media. On platforms such as Facebook, football related topics and news are shared and debated through fans’ initiated pages. Websites and social media can be an advertising vehicle as well as a way to recruit more fans. It also provides channels to make and sell club branded products. Most African teams do not have shops or places to sell branded products such as replica shirts, cups, books, scarfs and many other products. Most clubs do not have any of these branded products yet across Africa millions of English and Spanish clubs are bought.


Lack of government support

Government support for football has to be understood within a context of competing needs especially in Africa. Investment in football is often left to the government, which cannot sustain support for the sport. Governments across Africa are finding it difficult to increasingly pour investment into football. My analysis shows two key reasons for this. Firstly, the governments simply do not have funds to invest in football. Most African economies are regressing and government expenditure in sport is slowly reducing. To better understand this: consider the following examples of 2008 sports-related revenues: Adidas and Nike reported revenues of $16.2 billion and $18.6 billion and the European football market had revenues of $23 billion. These astounding revenue numbers can be contrasted to the fact that in 2008, only 15 African states had a GDP higher that $15.6 billion.[xx] Secondly is the FIFA rule on non-interference which makes government skeptical about investing in a sport were they do not have much control. FIFA have a standing policy of non-interference by government or other external parties into football matters. The FIFA statutes state that each member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.[xxi] This rule was put in place to combat political and government interference in football matters especially in authoritarian regimes. Stories of imprisonment and torture of players and officials highlight the necessity of this rule necessary.[xxii] In Africa, where football is followed passionately; political interference is part of the game but covertly as the FIFA statutes forces government not to take over control of football matters. This rule has often been cited as a bullying tactic by FIFA to circumvent global democratic processes. Any talk of good governance in football is often viewed as an intrusion by FIFA into its established prerogatives of power, privilege, purse and space.[xxiii] To ensure that there is no interference there is a strict policy, which leads to suspension of countries whose governments, interferes in football matters. Football authorities are thus untouchable as Bob Munro, vice-chairman of the Kenyan Professional League argues that:

In many cases, ‘government interference’ is because of gross mismanagement and/or corruption in the national football association. But who suffers most when FIFA impose a ban? Sadly, it is the innocent clubs, coaches, players and referees. What judicial or other regulatory process in the world punishes the innocent victims?[xxiv]

Kenya was in 2004 banned by FIFA because the government had interfered with footballing matters after the high court tried to remove football leaders for various cases of corruption and maladministration including failure to produce annual audited accounts for four years and allegations of misappropriation of funds. Football clubs in the country had tried without success to lobby FIFA to intervene as the corruption worsened yet when the judiciary intervened they were quick to act. Government of Kenya was forced by FIFA to ignore its high court and reinstate the officials, which is curious given the wide-ranging debates on national sovereignty.


Dearth in talent in African leagues: Migration of African footballers

Cornelissen and Solberg[xxv] argue that ‘West European leagues, where processes of commercialisation have been most robust in recent years, constitute the epicenter of international football migration, with these leagues attracting most of the world’s athletic talent. Africa is a primary source for football flows to Western Europe, an aspect which is mostly viewed as exploitative and an extension of neo imperialist relations between the continent and its former colonial powers.’ Talented players tend to move towards football spaces that offer premium payment. Most poorly funded African leagues cannot compete with the type of financial rewards in rich leagues. Zimbabwe and Southern Africa in general have also suffered talent drain to the increasingly commercialized South African league.

They are over 30 Zimbabweans plying their trade in the various league structures in South Africa.[xxvi] All the best emerging talent from the country will at one time find themselves in South Africa. This negatively affects the nature of the competition in many Africa leagues. Devoid of their best talents, leagues such as in Zimbabwe are increasingly dependent on old players with very little talent emerging. There are few exceptions in countries such as Egypt and South Africa which can afford to pay high salaries thus retain local talent. Football labor thus flows from poor countries to the economically powerful leagues that provide attractive and huge salaries.[xxvii] The rather scary issue to emerge from commercialization and migration of football players is how very young boys are being taken from their countries to academies in parts of Europe where they are lure by dreams of millions and glamour yet most never make it in football. Studies[xxviii] have noted how this migration has accentuated an element of neo colonial exploitation. Jonathan Wilson writing for the Guardian in 2012 argued that: “Talk of a new slave trade is unhelpfully emotive, but there is an unpleasant traffic in vulnerable and often naive young players, and it seems hard to deny that the demands of the European market have shaped the tactical development of African football.”[xxix]

Lack of sponsorship and commercial endorsements

Football across the world has proved to be a highly sponsored arena with many corporations seeking to be associated with the game. European clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United have become global brands with massive support bases across the world. This growth in popularity and exposure has triggered high interest amongst sponsors as they seek international brand awareness for example in 2014 when Manchester United signed its seven-year, US$559 million contract with Chevrolet.[xxx] Sponsorship in football now runs into billions of dollars yet African clubs remain excluded from this exponential rise in sponsorship. In 2013, the Nigerian league had no title sponsor, which leaves the team in a precarious situation. Except for a few notable exceptions such as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in South Africa, the vast majority of clubs on the continent do not have huge sponsorship deals. Some of these clubs have huge followings, which usually are the main attraction for corporate sponsors but lack of transparency; maladministration and general corrupt tendencies in most African football spaces have meant little sponsorship. Sponsors have also tended to have vulteristic tendencies where they have provided little money to desperate teams and leagues that have little choice but to accept what is being offered. Most leagues do not have proper professional structures thus do not have any idea on the worth of their brands. In Europe sponsorship has grown from kits, shirts and now to naming rights of stadiums and training complexes. African clubs do not have stadiums to sell name rights; very few have kit sponsors and the shirt sponsorship deals remain very low in terms of value.

[i] “Soccerex Report” accessed 4 October 2016 Chttp://www.supporters-direct.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Sandlanders-Soccerex-Report.pdf

[ii] Charles Rukuni and Evelyn Groenink, Killing Soccer in Africa. FAIR Transnational Investigation (2010), accessed 26 August 2016, https://fairreporters.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/fair_2010_soccer_proof7.pdf

[iii] Arnold Pannenborg. Football in Africa: Observations about Political, Financial, Cultural and Religious Influences (NCDO Publication Series Sport and Development, no 7, 2010)

[iv] Robert Price. “Politics and Culture in Contemporary Ghana: The Big-Man Small-Boy Syndrome.” Journal of African Studies, 1 no 2 (1974): 173

[v] Arnold Pannenborg. Football in Africa: Observations about Political, Financial, Cultural and Religious Influences (NCDO Publication Series Sport and Development, no 7, 2010)

[vi] Thabani Khumalo, “Football’s Rotten Core must be Excised.” City Press (South Africa) April 7 2013, Sports Section

[vii] Charles Rukuni and Evelyn Groenink, Killing Soccer in Africa. FAIR Transnational Investigation (2010), accessed 26 August 2016, https://fairreporters.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/fair_2010_soccer_proof7.pdf

[viii] John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson. Badfellas: FIFA Family at War. Edinburgh. (London: Mainstream Publishing, 2003)

[ix] Brian Oliver. “Making a Killing out of African Football.” The Guardian October 24 2010, Online version, accessed 8 November 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/oct/24/corruption-african-football-fifa

[x] Ibid

[xi] Arnold Pannenborg. Football in Africa: Observations about Political, Financial, Cultural and Religious Influences (NCDO Publication Series Sport and Development, no 7, 2010): 14

[xii]“The Challenges facing African Football,” accessed 23 October 2016 http://www.theafricareport.com/News-Analysis/the-challenges-facing-african-football.html

[xiii]“Stadiums call for Attention” accessed 4 November 2016 http://www.thepatriot.co.zw/old_posts/stadiums-call-for-attention/

[xiv] “Ghana’s Struggle for Soccer Honours” accessed 4 November 2016 http://www.panapress.com/Poor-stadiums-handicap-Ghana-s-struggle-for-soccer-honours–13-458547-18-lang4-index.html

[xv] Arnold Pannenborg. Football in Africa: Observations about Political, Financial, Cultural and Religious Influences (NCDO Publication Series Sport and Development, no 7, 2010): 19

[xvi] Richard Vokes. “Arsenal in Bugamba: The rise of English Premier League football in Uganda.” Anthropology Today 26 no. 3 (2010): 12

[xvii] Leah Komakoma. An Investigation into Fan Identity among Supporters of the English Soccer Premier League in Lusaka, Zambia, Masters Thesis Presented at School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, 2005.

[xviii] Richard Vokes. “Arsenal in Bugamba: The rise of English Premier League football in Uganda.” Anthropology Today 26 no. 3 (2010): 10

[xix]“Reasons for Poor Stadium Attendance” accessed 13 August 2016 http://www.soccerladuma.co.za/news/articles/categories/get-published/reasons-for-poor-stadiumattendance/194423

[xx] Eugene Augustus Cooper, Jr. “The African Football Development Model.” Impumelelo: The Interdisciplinary Electronic Journal of African Sports 7 (2011), accessed 3 November 2016 https://www.ohio.edu/sportsafrica/journal/volume7/cooper.html

[xxi] Callum Farell. 2013. “FIFA’s Non-interference Rule is Holding Back Serious Investigations.” HITC Sport January 22 2012, Online version, accessed 13 October 2016 http://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2013/05/24/fifas-non-interference-rule-is-holding-back-serious-investigatio/

[xxii] For instance in countries such as Iraq (under Sadam Hussein) where the president’s son was once the football association president athletes were tortured and beaten for poor performance like the Olympic team in 2000

[xxiii] Thabani Khumalo, “Football’s Rotten Core must be Excised.” City Press (South Africa) April 7 2013, Sports Section

[xxiv] Brian Oliver. “Making a Killing out of African Football.” The Guardian October 24 2010, Online version, accessed 8 November 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/oct/24/corruption-african-football-fifa

[xxv] Scarlett Cornelissen and Eirik Solberg. “Sport Mobility and Circuits of Power: The Dynamics of Football Migration in Africa and the 2010 World Cup.” Politikon 34, no. 3 (2007): 295

[xxvi] “Talent Drain Stunts Soccer Development” accessed 28 August 2016 http://www.thepatriot.co.zw/old_posts/talent-drain-stunts-soccer-development/

[xxvii] Joseph Maguire and Robert Pearton. “Global Sport and the Migration Patterns of France ‘98 World Cup Finals Players: Some Preliminary Observations.” Soccer and Society 1, no. 1 (2000): 179

[xxviii] See: Bale John. “Three Geographies of African Footballer Migration: Patterns, Problems and Postcoloniality.” In Football in Africa: Conflict, Conciliation and Community, ed. Garry Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti, (New York: Palgrave, 2004); Paul Darby, Gerard Akindes and Matthew Kirwin. “African Football Labour Migration to Europe and the Role of Football Academies.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 31, no 2 (2007): 143–161.

[xxix] Jonathan Wilson. 2012. The Question: Is African Football Progressing, Sports Section, Online version, accessed 4 November 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2012/jan/17/the-question-is-african-football-progressing

[xxx]“Most valuable deals in soccer,” accessed 23 November 2016 http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrissmith/2016/05/11/the-most-valuable-sponsorship-deals-insoccer/#12b04a60705f

How corruption fuels human trafficking in Zimbabwe

Introduction: Nature and prevalence of human trafficking in Zimbabwe

When it comes to human trafficking Zimbabwe is a triple factor: according to a study by UNODC and SADC in 2005, Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe are: i) sources; ii) transit countries for persons trafficked to Asia, Europe and North America; iii) a destination country for persons trafficked from West, Central and Southern Africa, the Horn of Africa and Asia. According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking generates profits of up to $32 billion worldwide.[i] The paper provides a nuanced analysis of how corruption influences, impacts and drive human trafficking as well as hamper anti trafficking efforts. It highlights how political and economic factors are inimical to the fight against trafficking. The United Nations Protocol on Trafficking defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of a threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power, a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. This definition places corruption at the heart of trafficking. Trafficking is not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe where even in pre-colonial societies chiefdoms and kingdoms constantly raided each other for slaves. Human trafficking has to be understood is a process fueled by corruption and greed. Corruption in its various guises has become a part of everyday life in Zimbabwe (Transparency International). Pervasive nature of corruption poses serious challenges in the protection of vulnerable populations. The current experiences with trafficking from Zimbabwe have to be understood within a context of socio-economic upheaval post 2000 which has witnessed unprecedented suffering of the masses characterized by high unemployment, cash and food shortages, corruption and multiple economic problems. This context has provided an intersection of push factors which makes Zimbabwe a perfect breeding ground for traffickers who use promises and lies to lure unsuspecting boys, girls, men and women. 

Understanding corruption in Zimbabwe

Corruption in Zimbabwe is a function of power. Foucault (1980) provides an analysis of power as a decentred phenomenon thus in such a situation corruption is not the preserve of political elites but rather it is endemic in all relationships in society. In Zimbabwe corruption is evident in all aspects of life for example reports of bribes to traffic police, paying to get a job or basic services such as drivers license or passport. It is the ‘use’ and not only abuse of power that needs further analysis in the Zimbabwean context. Islam (2001) argues that the ‘use of power’ as the ‘deployment of strategy’ can also be point of analysis for corruption. ‘Use of power’ can also be interpreted as ‘use of strategy’ and in the case of Zimbabwe, corruption has been used as a survival strategy by many in different positions at the expense of the poor who often have to pay more for many basic services. This is true when discussing human trafficking as the actors involved include a multiple people in positions of influence who use this power to gain in illicit dealings. There are many types of corruption and the table explains these various forms of corruption and how they relate to human trafficking in Zimbabwe.

Type of corruption Definition Human trafficking scenarios in Zimbabwe
Administrative Illicit payments required from users by civil servants for the implementation of existing regulations, policies and laws. Civil servants working at border posts in Zimbabwe and its neighboring countries have been caught recently in corruption scandals involving people including children crossing borders without proper papers.[ii]
Petty corruption Small acts, or rent-taking actions, by civil servants. Bribery, influencing, and gift giving are sometimes seen as different forms of petty corruption. Police and law enforcement agencies have also been implicated at borders for turning a blind eye to trafficking and illegal border crossings.[iii]
Graft Small acts, or rent-taking actions, by civil servants. Bribery, influencing, and gift giving are sometimes seen as different forms of petty corruption. Use of resources, time or facilities by a staff member (without a transaction with an external person). Often used interchangeably with corruption.
Influencing Forcing a decision in one’s favour Political lobbying is a form of influencing and is legitimate, but secretive contacts or suspicion of favouritism or influence that are suspected to be disproportionate to public interest may be considered as corrupt.
Bureaucratic corruption   Wide constituency who pay money to get in or get on. Also a moneyless form where officials give relatives and other persons jobs that they would not otherwise obtain, also called patronage.
Political corruption Often conflated with grand or high-level corruption: the misuse of entrusted power by political leaders. More specific meaning is corruption within the political or electoral process This relates to the use of resources, machinery, personnel, and authority to facilitate trafficking and evade arrest. It can also be indirect in that corruption and bad governance can act as push factor that leaves people vulnerable to traffickers.[iv]
Political patronage

(clientelism) and nepotism

Government resources are directed to patrons, clients, family or ethnic clan of office holders. This is an indirect factor that makes the majority of people vulnerable to traffickers. In post 2000 Zimbabwe examples include land reform, destruction of illegal homes (Operation Murambatsvina), missing diamond revenues and many other forms of government corruption, which have decimated the economy leaving people desperate for any opportunity to earn money.
State capture Private payments to public officials, and the ‘capture’ of their area of jurisdiction, in order to affect laws, rules, decrees, regulations or capture resources for example contracts. The lack of political will to fight trafficking and enforce the Trafficking in Persons Act (Chapter 10:20) of 2014 is problematic and points to a state either incapable or worse complicit in human trafficking


High level corruption The misuse of high public office, public resources or public responsibility for private, personal or group, gain This term is often used interchangeably with grand corruption, or endemic corruption. Across the world politically connected individuals and some in high offices are involved in various forms of human trafficking.

Source: Bracking (2010)

Power, actors and survivors

When it comes to discussing survivors, the 2014 UNODC Global Report highlights that sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%), followed by forced labour (18%). Zimbabwe does not have comprehensive statistics on trafficking thus it is difficult to provide an exact gendered categorization of the victims of trafficking. What is clear from emerging reports and regional patterns of trafficking is that women and girls are at most risk because there is a lot of money in sex trafficking. Brusca (2010) argues that the demands of sex industry is increasing and so is the trafficking of women and children to fulfill this demand. What underlies this sex industry is the partriachial norms that narrowly define women as sexual objects meant to fulfil the needs and fantasies of men. The most visible case of trafficking in Zimbabwe outlined in Box 1 below shows that women and sexual exploitation is rife though other forms of slavery and trafficking are not documented. This case of women trafficked to Kuwait shows how powerful political figures such as ambassadors are often involved in trafficking. They also usually work with locals who are part of the trafficking rings. Trafficking continues to rise because of how power leads to corrupt individuals circumventing rules as this case highlights.


A Zimbabwean court has charged a Kuwait embassy official in Harare with human trafficking after 200 local women were allegedly lured to the Gulf country before they were turned into slaves. Brenda Avril May, a secretary for former Kuwait ambassador to Zimbabwe Ahmed Al-Jeeran, was accused of luring the women to that country with promises of jobs. May allegedly facilitated the processing of visas for the victims. Prosecutors say the women were then sold before being forced into prostitution and other menial jobs on arrival in Kuwait. According to State media reports, several Zimbabwean women are stranded in Kuwait after they were misled by the alleged syndicate to travel to that country. The victims were reportedly lured through advertisements in local media and were promised hefty salaries, good working conditions, air tickets and education. On arrival in Kuwait, the victims were allegedly placed under “house arrest” and were not paid salaries but the money was wired to the traffickers in Zimbabwe as payment. The syndicates also demanded ransom from the victim’s families before they could release them. Meanwhile, prosecutors claimed Al -Jeeran was the ring- leader of the syndicate. Al-Jeeran, using his powers as the ambassador, allegedly connived with May and splashed adverts for nurse aide vacancies in Kuwait.

Source: http://www.theafricareport.com/Southern-Africa/200-zimbabwean-women-trafficked-to-kuwait.html


Porous borders and corrupt officials

Zimbabwean borders remain porous posing serious challenges for any measures to police and combat human trafficking. Dodo and Dodo (2012:148) argue that:

…young men and women are being smuggled out of the country through Mukumbura border area, Mt Darwin via Binya13 road to Mozambique at an average rate of 6 to 10 people per month, Sun-yet-Sen border area, Kezi into Botswana at an average rate of 10 to 12 people per month while those border-jumping through Beit-bridge into South Africa go as high as 15 to 20 people per month.

This is all possible because of corrupt officials at these ports of entry. Police and security agents working at these ports of entry have also been compromised. Porous borders pose a national security threat for the Zimbabwean state. South Africa has also seen increased debates on the porous nature of its borders which has serious implications not only for the trafficking of humans but also drugs and weapons.[v] Any measures anti trafficking measures in Zimbabwe has to make the security and integrity of borders and points of entry a central issue. 

Impact of corruption on anti trafficking measures

The response of the Zimbabwean government to human trafficking has largely inadequate given the scope of the challenge facing the country and region. The United States of America embassy in Zimbabwe summarises the lack of government in Zimbabwe in anti-trafficking as:

The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. While the government passed the “Trafficking in Persons Act” in June 2014, it failed to ensure prohibitions under the law were consistent with the international definition of trafficking in persons under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; rather, contrary to international law, the 2014 act serves in effect to prohibit transportation-based crimes…Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a concern. The government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims, instead relying on NGOs to identify and assist victims. In January 2015, it established an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee; however, it did not report on any actions conducted by the committee during the year.[vi]

The main thrust of this paper is to show how corruption is not only a facilitating factor in human trafficking but also highlight how it negatively affects anti trafficking measure. Human trafficking has captured political space from 2015 with reports of women trafficked to Kuwait yet Dodo and Dodo (2012) highlighted how it was reported to be rising post 2000 in Zimbabwe. Lack of government action needs to be understood in a context where corruption has affected the ability of national institutions to protect citizens. The economic malaise post 2000 has seen the increase in illicit dealings at all levels which affects social protection and leaves those without money vulnerable to abuse. Traffickers use monetary incentives to gain local recruiters, circumvent laws and evade detection and arrest. The lack of government will in fighting human tracking can be explained by 1) involvement of political actors or cronies in human trafficking; 2) lack of expertise, capacity and finances to implement anti trafficking measures; 3) trafficking is not an important political or election issue which can bring votes. The first reason directly relates to corruption. Corruption is a major factor in institutional and financial failure of the Zimbabwean states thus it is indirectly related to the other two explanations.


Bracking, S. 2010. Governance and Corruption. A4ID Annual Law & International Development Training Programme 27th November 2010 College of Law, London.

Brusca, C.2011. Palermo Protocol: The First Ten Years after Adoption, Global Security Studies 22 (3): 8-20

Dodo, O and Dodo, G. 2012. Human Trafficking in Zimbabwe: An Impediment to National Development, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 2(7): 146-150

Foucault, M. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977. London: Harvester Press.

Islam, S. 2001. The making of a corrupt Society: An understanding of the Sociology of Corruption in the context of state-people relationship in Bangladesh. TASA 2001 Conference, The University of Sydney, 13-15 December 2001.


[ii]http://www.myzimbabwe.co.zw/news/6845-immigration-officials-arrested-for-corruption-at-beitbridge-border-post.html; http://www.fairplanet.org/story/corruption-smuggling-and-border-jumping-the-beitbridge-border-post/



[v] http://bulawayo24.com/index-id-Opinion-sc-Columnist-byo-58303.html

[vi] http://harare.usembassy.gov/reports/2015-trafficking-in-persons-report.html

Farai Mutondoro, Manase Chiweshe and Mary Jane Ncube Overview The need for economic sovereignty and development has forced many countries in the Global South to embark on the path to promote national economic policies encouraging biofuel production as well as sign on to deals involving large-scale land deals for biofuel production with both local domestic […]

via The Impact of Biofuel induced large scale Land Deals and Land Corruption on Women. The Case of Chisumbanje Ethanol Project — Changing the Governance and Policy Narrative

ICT and Africa’s Development

Working at a university whose thrust is technology it is sometimes surprising to come across ignorance of the nexus between technology and socio-economic development. For some our concern with poverty alleviation and human development is somewhere not relevant to the university’s mandate thus my interest in how ICT can and is fostering development. The spread of information and communication technology (ICT) across the continent has continued at a rapid pace. In this blog I analyse the gaps, opportunities and challenges of ICT development in sub Saharan Africa. Information and communication technologies, broadly defined, facilitate the creation, storage, management and dissemination of information.[i] Africa has been hard hit with poverty and disease and this has had an immense effect on the quality of social, cultural and political lives of its people.[ii] In this day and age, the role of technology [1]in improving the lives of the people cannot be underestimated. Most people, including the minorities, more than ever before are now buying goods and services online, sending messages across the globe to loved ones, sending emails to donor agencies for support and receiving instant replies. Technology has thus opened new spaces for the vulnerable and underprivileged to have their voices heard. The problem however is that for most African governments’ investment in ICT infrastructure is not a top priority since there are other more serious problems such as education, health and hunger. Balancing social service provision and ICT development are not incompatible as long as national governments choose carefully the types of technology that will directly and indirectly positively influence the lives of the poor.

Defining ICT and development

ICT is both the vehicle for communication flow and a way of processing information. Vehicles used for communication include old and new technologies. Old technologies such as newspapers as well as radio and television have the advantages of low cost, requiring little skill to operate and the potential to be highly relevant to the needs of the users in terms of local information delivered in local languages.[iii] The major problem with these types of technologies is that in Africa they are easily censured by the government and used as a propaganda tool to prop up corrupt regimes. The new, more advanced forms of ICT include network computers; satellite sourced communication, wireless technology and the Internet. A feature of these technologies is their capacity to be networked and interlinked to form a ‘massive infrastructure of interconnected telephone services, standardized computing hardware, the Internet, radio and television, which reach into every corner of the globe’.[iv] Development is a rather contested and value laden concept. There are various dimensions of development that include economic, sustainable and human development. Of interest to this paper is human development. Human development entails much more than the rise and fall of national incomes.[v] It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive lives in accordance with their interests; it is about expanding people’s freedom of choice by building human capabilities.[vi] It is about providing access to resources needed to sustain a decent standard of living, to lead long healthy lives, to be knowledgeable and to participate in the life of the community.[vii]

 ICT in Africa

The development and use of ICT in Africa has been hampered by many challenges that include lack of resalable/affordable ICT infrastructure, lack of electricity, low computer literacy, on line language barriers and deficiencies in ICT skills. The key factors responsible for the different ICT take-up rates in Africa are: per capita income, language, levels of education (illiteracy), internal digital divide within the African continent, restrictive regulatory framework, poverty, the lack of infrastructure and the rural concentration and dispersed nature of country’s population.[viii] Thus the lower a country’s per capita income, the less likely its population is to have access to both old and new information and communication technologies.[ix] ICT infrastructure in Africa has increased over the past years, in spite of the challenges of low population density, low incomes and large rural populations.[x] Particularly noteworthy is the virtual explosion of mobile phones in many African countries, which surpassed 200 million subscribers in early 2007 and continues to grow at higher rates than any other region. This has been particularly beneficial for rural areas.[xi] It is estimated that there are around 400,000 localities in Sub-Saharan Africa, of which 99 percent are villages. Most of Africa’s fixed telephone lines are concentrated in only six economies – Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia – which account for almost 80% of all fixed lines on the continent. Even mobile penetration rates vary widely.[xii] In 2006 South Africa had the highest penetration rate with 69.9 percent (31 million subscribers), whereas the DRC in tenth place had a penetration rate of just 4.3 percent (2.6 million subscribers). Similarly, four countries account for almost 60 percent of Internet users in Africa.[xiii] Low domestic PC usage has lead to relatively slow rates of Internet and broadband uptake across Africa – by the end of 2006 there were only 44 million Internet users and 1 million broadband users (3.8 and 0.4 percent respectively of the world total).[xiv] With the recent introduction of wireless broadband and 3G , along with increased use of the Internet on mobile phones in many countries In urban areas this situation is changing quite rapidly.[xv]

Relationship between ICT and development

Research has shown an indelible relationship between ICT and development.[xvi] ICT alone however, is not sufficient to reach a country’s development goals; the social aspects of information systems such as training are equally, if not more, important for development.[xvii] It is often not the lack of access to ICT that is problematic, but rather the wrong mindset of the role regarding ICT on the part of the policy makers.[xviii] ICT brings about new possibilities of information processing, storage and transmission. Technology affects every industry and every service and has penetrated society as a whole. Castells refers to the idea of a new socio-economic organisation.[xix] This organisation is characterised by ICTs as “roots of new productivity sources, of new organisational forms, and of the formation of a global economy.”[xx] The role of ICTs is not to solve social problems but rather the prerequisite for social and economic development.[xxi] Effective deployment of ICTs can affect human development in two ways. First, since ICT as a sector of economic activity impacts the overall economic growth of a nation.[xxii] Secondly, ICT as an enabler for enhancing human productivity influences human development through access to information knowledge and enlarging choices.[xxiii] ICT helps in alleviation of poverty, enhancing education and improving healthcare.[xxiv]

ICT contributes to economic growth through: (1) increasing productivity across all sectors; (2) facilitating market expansion beyond borders to harvest economies of scale; (3) lowering costs of and facilitating access to services (notably in administration, education, health and banking); (4) providing access to research; (5) development of ICT products and services; (6) contributing to better governance, as a prerequisite to growth, through increased participation, accountability and transparency.[xxv] Economic growth does not however translate into poverty reduction or human development. In many cases, exclusion on grounds of rural isolation, ethnicity, language, religion or gender add to the hurdles of overcoming the income, infrastructural and market barriers faced by the poor.[xxvi] Economic research suggests that the contribution of ICT to pro-poor growth is dependent not on ICT infrastructure per se but on the role of ICT in supporting pro-poor initiatives.[xxvii] Effective poverty reduction requires targeted pro-poor policies to provide infrastructure (including ICT), to strengthen physical access to markets and to invest in education and health.[xxviii] As soon as ICT become affordable to low-income users, new employment, micro-entrepreneurial and social development opportunities emerge.

Community media plays a key role in the production and dissemination of information. People at local radio stations or telecentres can download relevant information from the Internet, adapt it to the local context, encourage people’s participation in debates and contribute to the agenda-setting of a local community.[xxix] Sharing of information as well as encouraging increased participation, particularly by the poor, enhances empowerment and transparency – both of which play a key role in improving governance,- which is fundamental to sustainable development. ICT provides the poor with opportunities to receive up-to-date information or the ability to communicate more easily or achieve an enhanced ability to communicate with others.[xxx] The ICT-driven approach is often underpinned by the economic assumption that better information improves how economic resources are allocated.[xxxi] It is a fundamental axiom of orthodox economics that the capacity of an economy to operate efficiently depends on how well markets work.[xxxii] In most developing countries there are virtually no sources of information regarding market prices and other production related information In isolated rural villages,.[xxxiii] ICT and village knowledge centres offer the possibility of improving the life and well-being of rural communities; not only by enhancing markets and generating knowledge-based livelihoods, but also by furthering healthcare, education, government entitlements, social cohesion and societal reform.[xxxiv]

Concluding remarks

The use of ICTs as a tool for economic growth and poverty reduction is a multidimensional challenge. With regards to human development It is therefore not sufficient to address it only within an economic or technical context. It also requires political, educational, cultural, scientific, legal, regulatory and financial attention. ICT is not a magic bullet that will miraculously get Africa out of its poverty trap. It however offers a viable vehicle towards achieving human development on the continent. The spread of affordable, relevant and sustainable technologies into rural communities remains an integral factor in realising that the voices of the marginalised are heard.

[i] Baryamureeba, V. 2007: ICT as an Engine for Uganda’s Economic Growth: The Role of and Opportunities for Makerere University in Strengthening the Role of ICT in Development, Migga, K.M et al (eds) Kampala:Fountain Publishers

[ii] Langmia, K. 2005. The role of ICT in the economic development of Africa: The case of South Africa, International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT), ,Vol. 2, Issue 4, pp. 144156.

[iii] Baryamureeba, V. 2007: ICT as an Engine for Uganda’s Economic Growth: The Role of and Opportunities for Makerere University in Strengthening the Role of ICT in Development, Migga, K.M et al (eds) Kampala:Fountain Publishers

[iv] Ibid.

[v] UNDP Human development report 2006- Beyond scarcity: power, poverty and global water crisis United Nation Development Programme, New York, 2006

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Curtain, R. 2004. Information and Communications Technologies and Development: Help or Hindrance? Report Commissioned by the Australian Agency for International Development.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] ICT in Africa: Boosting Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction, 10th Meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum in Tokyo on 7-8 April 2008 by Gerster Consulting under a mandate from the Africa Partnership Forum Support Unit.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Chacko, J. G. 2005. Paradise Lost? Reinstating the Human Development Agenda in ICT Policies and Strategies: View from Practice. Information Technology for Development, Vol 11 (1), pp 97-99

[xvii] Roode, D., Speight, H., Pollock, M. & Webber, R. 2004. It’s Not The Digital Divide– It’s The Socio-Techno

Divide!, Presentation to the 12th European Conference on Information Systems, 14th June 2004, Turku.

[xviii] Ibid.                                                                                                                          

[xix] Castells, M. 1999. Information Technology, Globalization and Social Development. United Nations Research Institute For Social Development, Discussion Paper No. 114, September 1999.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] UNDP, 2005. Regional Human Development Report Realizing the Millennium Development Goals: Promoting ICT for Human Development in Asia, United Nation Development Programme, India

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Chacko, J. G. 2005. Paradise Lost? Reinstating the Human Development Agenda in ICT Policies and Strategies: View from Practice. Information Technology for Development, Vol 11 (1), pp 97-99

[xxv]ICT in Africa: Boosting Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction, 10th Meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum in Tokyo on 7-8 April 2008 by Gerster Consulting under a mandate from the Africa Partnership Forum Support Unit.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Baryamureeba, V. 2007: ICT as an Engine for Uganda’s Economic Growth: The Role of and Opportunities for Makerere University in Strengthening the Role of ICT in Development, Migga, K.M et al (eds) Kampala:Fountain Publishers

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Baryamureeba, V. 2007: ICT as an Engine for Uganda’s Economic Growth: The Role of and Opportunities for Makerere University in Strengthening the Role of ICT in Development, Migga, K.M et al (eds) Kampala:Fountain Publishers

[xxxiii] Ibid.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

A critique of rights based approaches to universal treatment in the era of powerful global pharmaceutical companies    



Debates about human rights and HIV/ AIDS often assume that universal access to primary health care will improve the multiple health burdens of those infected and affected by the pandemic. Yet, universal access itself is informed by drug markets and market economies based on motives of profit which may hold poor outcomes for marginalised populations. Academic and social commentary debates on human rights often view multinational conglomerates as more powerful than nation states. These global players are positioned as unaccountable to any international polity even while conducting their business within very flexible boundaries of market laws. This paper will argue that universal access does not always benefit those in marginalised positions in society. The paper questions the humanity and morality of having drug companies making huge profits whilst poor women in the Third World continue to suffer. Universal access will remain rhetoric until and unless we can bring to account the work of large pharmaceutical companies.

Global and African Experiences of Universal Access to HIV Treatment

The UN General Assembly Special Session in 2006 which endorsed universal access did not put a figure on what counted as universal access, either in terms of numbers treated or the proportion of eligible people reached. In developed world health systems, universal access is generally considered to mean treatment coverage of around 80% of the population. About 3 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2007. Despite progress, antiretroviral therapy coverage remains low: only 31% of people in need were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2007 (World Health Organisation 2008).

International drug companies and the control of HIV medication

Warren (2000) notes that, ‘AIDS policy is now a key world commodity—right up there with shiploads of computers, crude oil and wheat.’ Global pharmaceutical companies are more worried about profits and less about human live. Treatment that has transformed HIV from a death sentence to chronic illness is out of reach for the majority of vulnerable groups especially rural women in Africa who remain the major victims of the pandemic. Walker (2005) notes that in South Africa the cost of ARVs can exceed US$10,000 per patient, per year. This cost plays a role in the limited access HIV-infected South Africans have to the medications especially when only 19% of the people have medical insurance (Kaiser Family Foundation 1999). The coverage of AVR treatment in Africa stood at 28% in 2005 (Walker 2005). In 1997 thirty nine United States corporations took the South African government over passing a law that would allow them to make generic ARV drugs. The corporations dropped the case in April 2001 but at the cost of 400 000 lives that were lost during that period (Kasper 2001).

The control of ARV drugs have meant that the corporations have a monopoly of the market thus can ask for exorbitant prices. Drug companies justify the need for high drug prices by arguing that the money goes into further research and development. However a report by the consumer health organization Families USA in 2000 refutes the pharmaceutical industry’s claim that high and increasing drug prices are needed to sustain research and development. The report documents that drug companies are spending more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development; that drug company profits, which are higher than all other industries, exceed research and development expenditures; and that drug companies provide lavish compensation packages for their top executives.

Among the nine pharmaceutical companies examined in the report – Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia, Abbott Laboratories, American Home Products, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan – all but one (Eli Lilly) spent more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they did on research and development, and Lilly spent more than one and one-half times as much. Six out of the nine companies made more money in net profits than they spent on research and development. The report also documents profligate spending on compensation packages for top pharmaceutical executives. The executive with the highest compensation package in the year 2000, exclusive of unexercised stock options, was William C. Steere, Jr., Pfizer’s Chairman, who made $40.2 million (Families USA 2000).

Wagenberg (2009) notes that about a third of the world’s population, or roughly two billion people, lack even the most basic access to essential medicines. Each year an estimated 25 million individuals, 10 million of them children, die of treatable and preventable diseases. A large share of those deaths could be averted by low-cost access to pharmaceuticals developed and patented by U.S. universities. University patents are found in a quarter of HIV/AIDS drugs and a fifth of high-impact drugs approved between 1988 and 2005. In 2001, a group of Yale students learned that d4T (stavudine), an HIV antiretroviral drug patented by Yale and licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb, was being sold at outrageous prices overseas, blocking off access for HIV patients living in South Africa and other developing countries.

Rights based approaches to universal HIV treatment

The right to life is a vital right and foundation for all human freedoms. Whilst the fight focus on the internal weaknesses in the health systems of Third World countries is important and vital, the cost of ARVs remains the biggest obstacle to universal access. Human rights frameworks that demand on national governments to respect the individual liberties have to be equally vocal on the cost of ARVs. International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO, 2004) highlights that human rights are fundamental to any response to HIV and AIDS. Human rights and public health share the common goal of promoting and protecting the well-being of all individuals.

None of the human rights treaties expressly identifies HIV/AIDS, but all human rights elaborated in these treaties can promote accountability in HIV/AIDS related issues. Human rights relevant to HIV/AIDS identified in these treaties, and elaborated by other documents include (but are not limited to) the right to non-discrimination and equality, to health, to liberty and security of the person, to privacy, to seek, receive and impart information, to marry and found a family, to work, and the right to freedom of movement, association, and expression (ICASO 2004:3 – 4).

There is a serious need to deconstruct and reconstruct the whole concept of human rights. The whole debate on human rights has centred on national governments in Third World and internal African affairs. The Eurocentric, post colonial depiction of an uncivilised Africa still trampling on its people has dominated and guided the human rights discourse (Craddock 2000). This discourse blames all of Africa’s problems sorely on internal affairs without trying to understand that the biggest threat to human rights in Africa is neo liberal policies that leave the poor at the mercy of the markets. This is the debate the United Nations has failed to engage in. Why, if access to health is a universal fundamental right, are drug companies allowed to operate without much control? How long can we allow a system that puts more emphasis on ‘value-you’ and not values? The problem is that much writing that seeks to bring these discussions is sidelined as anti liberal romantics. It is easier to look at how African governments have failed to ensure access to treatment for their people.


We have a situation under global neoliberal system in which profits are more important than human life. Where drug companies decide who lives or dies; where the colour of skin or being born on the ‘wrong’ continent is a death sentence. In such an era what human rights are we then talking about? Large pharmaceutical companies operate behind the guise of a free market which protects their monopoly of a product that could save millions of lives. Trade rules on patents negotiated under the World Trade Organisation. These rules make it impossible for developing countries to make generic drugs which leave major pharmaceutical companies with huge market shares. They protect these market shares and profits regardless of how many lives are lost. Human rights debates have to be broadened so that questions can be asked about how companies controlling a billion dollar industry can be allowed to reward their executives and spend lavishly in advertising whilst Africa is on fire.



Craddock, S. 2000: Disease, social identity, and risk: rethinking the geography of AIDS, Transactions, 25(2): 153-168.


Families USA, 2000: Off the Charts: Pay, Profits and Spending by Drug Companies, http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/offthecharts6475.pdf [Accessed on 24 February 2010]


International Council of AIDS Service Organizations, 2004: HIV and AIDS and Human Rights in a Nutshell, Toronto, ICASO


Jones, P.S. 2004: When ‘Development’ Devastates: Donor Discourses, Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment in Africa and Rethinking the Landscape of Development in Third World Quarterly, 25: 385-404


Kasper, T. 2001: Developing Countries Must Stand Firm on People Over Patents, South Centre Bulletin 11, 30 April


Wagenberg, M. 2009: Harvard’s patent policy limits access to drugs by world’s poor, Harvard Law Record


Walker, M. 2005: Assessing the Barriers to Universal Antiretroviral Treatment Access for HIV/AIDS in South Africa in Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, 15: 193-214

Warren, P.N. 2000: AIDS and the World Bank: Global Blackmail? A&U Magazine, June 27