A prominent Zambian journalist and host of “Spit it Out” a program that deals with cultural issues was a few weeks ago battered by her husband. Mutolo Ngenda is 31 years old and her husband is about 20 years her senior. After the battering, her husband was reported to police and was later arrested. However, when the matter came up in court, Mutolo decided to discontinue the case. This is not at all new in Zambia. Many Gender Based Violence court cases are never fully prosecuted because by the time that they get to court, usually the women victims do ask the court to have the cases dismissed on the basis that they have reconciled with the husbands or spouses. One of the most prominent cases involve the current Minister of Defence Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba who battered and assaulted his wife, Chama. When the matter came up in court, Chama applied before the magistrate court to have the case dismissed because she had apparently “reconciled with her husband.” This woman and her husband were seen walking hand-in-hand in and out of court. And in fact Mr. Mwamba told the press that he still loved his wife so much, and his criminal behaviour could be attributed to others who were trying to interfere in his marriage.
Women rights organizations are quite concerned at the way these cases get dismissed when they go to trial. After the Mwamba incident many women organizations sought to have the laws changed so that some form of prosecution should still go ahead in the event that the woman changes the mind and doesn’t go on with the charges.
In the case of Mutolo, the fact that she discontinued her case should not be surprising. It is what most women are forced to do. Women are forced to do this either by their families or by the entire society that patently still remains repugnant to women rights.
One writer on ukzambians.co.uk has indeed written that Mutolo’s decision to withdraw assault charges against her husband is a betrayal of all Zambian women. Malama Katulwende’s article is a cause for concern. I find that Malama has overly blamed the woman Mutolo for withdrawing the case and has not dealt with the underlying issues that make women victims withdraw these court cases. It is my argument that women withdraw these cases due to the nature of society that seeks to blame them for everything. Malama therefore by blaming Mutolo, and in fact by alleging that Mutolo has betrayed all the women of Zambia is unfair. In my opinion, it is not Mutolo who should be blamed. She is the victim in this case. She is not the perpetrator. She is the one who was assaulted. She is the one who was violated. And she cannot be said to be the one who has betrayed the women folk in our country.
The persons and the people who have betrayed women in our society are the men. In the case of Mutolo, it is not she who beat up her husband, as such she cannot be said to have been the one who betrayed the women. It is this 50 year old man who has betrayed the women. He is to blame for assaulting her in the manner he did.
Mutolo has not betrayed the women! Her husband did.