Face of violence is back at ZRA?
IN February this year, First Lady Christine Kaseba joined the rest of the country in condemning violent crimes against women.
These ranged from beatings, rape to brutal and sometimes just senseless killing of women and girls.
It was the first time the campaign against abuses on women was reaching that high level following a heightened media campaign led mostly by the Daily Mail joined by all the other newspapers.
In Dr Kaseba’s own words, “my plea to government is to ensure that offenders (gender based violence) are given stiffer punishment.”
The First Lady was speaking after openly weeping at the burial of Brilliant Muyuwa, a 12-year-old Chibombo girl who was raped and smothered by some 33-year-old man in yet another unprovoked senseless criminal act against women.
The man has since been jailed but Brilliant’s suffering shall never be erased from her parent’s memories and that of her relatives and friends.
Fast forward to today, five months later after that call for stiffer punishment on gender-based violence offenders was made, a high profile case of violence has been re-opened and rekindled debate on whether Zambia is serious with fighting GBV as hundreds of women continue to suffer the ‘scourge’ in and outside their homes according to studies.
It is not exactly the same case as Brilliant’s senseless killing, but it is a case of violence nevertheless.
This is the story of no other than Roselyn Raelly, the former director of human resource at the Zambia Revenue (ZRA). It is unclear why she is no longer the ZRA DHR.
One day almost three years ago, Ms. Raelly reported for work as she always did and got onto dispensing her duties as the HR chief for ZRA.
One of the HR issues she had to deal with on that fateful day involved a case file with one George Siame on it.
Siame was an assistant commissioner at ZRA whom some employs had complained about for one reason or another according to the case file.
But during the process of trying to resolve the matter, things got out of hand.
Police records show that Siame lost control and started hitting Ms Raelly with all the strength he could summon, almost like in a prize-fight.
Eye witnesses told the police that even when she was down and out, Siame continued to kick the 59-year-old grand mother described by many at ZRA as a sweet motherly woman with a big heart.
Ms Raelly was saved from physical punishment by co-workers that heard her scream for help as she thought she was going to die on Siame’s hands according to police reports.
She spent several days in hospital nursing her severe injuries and had to be stitched up in some cases while Siame was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm.
The matter was taken to court and after a series of back and forth, Siame was found with a prima facie which in English means a case to answer.
He was convicted for the offence but lucky for him, he was given an option of a fine.
After staying away from work facing what many thought would be a dismissal, luck has shone on Siame yet again even though this has not been confirmed by ZRA.
He could get his job back again at ZRA except this time at a higher level according to media reports.
From assistant commissioner, Siame could head the influential Investigations Department at ZRA if all goes well.
The move has irked women rights activists such and the Church who think the action has set the fight against violence several steps behind.
They are asking how not only Ms Raelly (in picture) will feel after all the trauma.
Will she be scared? will she feel fairly treated?
These and many other questions are going through the minds of critics and anti GBV campaigners such as Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA) that have contributed widely to GBV studies in the past. This must include the first lady who has publicly denounced GBV.
The National Action Plan against Gender Based Violence (NAP-GBV) study for instance has found some disturbing facts regarding GBV similar to the one the ZRA director human resources went through.
The study says, “in spite of the overwhelmingly negative impact of violence against women on individuals and societies, it is often sanctified by customs and reinforced by institutions that limit women‘s rights, their decision-making power, and their recourse to protection from violence.”
Could this have been at play in the conviction and subsequent promotion of Siame?
The study further states that, “as such, violence against women is both an outcome and an expression of women‘s subordinate status in relation to men in societies around the world.”
The UN declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women has defined violence against women as – any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty such as the one Ms Raelly suffered.
This can occur in a private or public life according to the United Nations.
Conversely, the Millennium Declaration (2000) -to which Zambia is party-recognises this link, particularly in relation to violence against women: it acknowledges that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it is necessary to-combat all forms of violence against women and to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In fact, GBV negatively impacts the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals according to the study.
The latest Zambia Democratic Health Survey reported that 53 percent of women interviewed reported experiencing some form of battering and a quarter of them having experienced physical abuse within the 12 months preceding the cited survey.
Lawyers have described “any news of violence against women as disheartening and not acceptable.”
They figure, “there is no justifiable reason or excuse whatsoever can be proffered for such barbaric acts as we read about in the press. Any cultural justifications for violence against women are nonsensical and unconscionable and against good order and justice. Such acts should not be tolerated or wished away.”
But now herein lies the dilemma in the Raelly-Siame case.
Siame will argue that he has gone through the court process and justice has been dispensed.
But what about Ms. Raelly and several other women brutalised at home and in a few cases at work?
Will they take the ZRA decision to take back Mr. Siame as a good deed if he goes back?
The Jury is still out but scores of women that have been in predicaments similar to Mrs. Raelly remain hurting.
The scars may have healed but the pain still grows.