The cyberbullying trend has continually been witnessed in the run up to elections and other special
events since independence. The most prominent examples include Cecilia Chimbiri, Harare West
legislator, Joanna Mamombe and Netsai Marova of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) after
their abductions in 2020. The trio has been constantly trolled on social media platforms especially
on Twitter by varakashi2 being accused of being ‘purveyors of falsehoods and branded as being
unpatriotic and regime change agents.’ As their case is still before the courts, they continue to face
the wrath of varakashi whenever they post and continue to be reminded of the devastating ordeal,
they went through at the hands of alleged state agents which negatively affects their mental health.
Other women human rights activists and politicians who have been cyberbullied include Labour,
Economists and African Democrats party president Linda Masarira and CCC member Thokozani
Khupe who have been harassed by general citizens and CCC supporters respectively. This has
discouraged other women in taking up leadership roles, for example in Gweru Urban, out of the
18 councilors, only one is a woman, which makes it challenging to advocate for respect of women’s

Statistics from the 2022 by-election reports portray a glaring picture where few women
participated in the elections, as exposed in the by-elections and the primary elections where there
were more men than women as candidates. According to ZEC, only 15% of the candidates were
women, which has not increased from the 15% recorded in July 2018 National Assembly elections.
Furthermore, the few women who participate in political processes are harassed, intimidated and
threatened according to our reports. In January 2023, 326 women and 7 Persons with Disabilities
(PWDs) were victims of human rights violations. On 7 January Zanu PF supporters accosted
elderly villagers among them women and flogged them ruthlessly with logs for convening a CCC
gathering in Murehwa, a supposed Zanu PF ‘stronghold’ in Mashonaland East. Women and men
were viciously assaulted and interrogated for attending the CCC gathering in Bhunu village. We
are concerned that such abuse of women sends the wrong messages to young women who might
fear taking part in politics, public office and other public and community responsibilities. The

2 Varakashi is a Shona word for “destroyers”. They troll social media platforms especially Twitter,
attacking people who challenge Zanu PF, President Mnangagwa’s policies or leadership. Their
overarching aim is to push Zanu PF propaganda.

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