Proportional Representation legislator Dorcas Sibanda (DS) (MDC Alliance) recently took part in a regional workshop to promote women parliamentarians in Africa in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Banjul, The Gambia. Our reporter Farai Matiashe (ND) caught up with her to get insight into women’s contribution to peace and security in the region. Below are excerpts:
ND: What is your role in the Parliamentarians for Global Action?
DS: My role is to seek to ban or make sure that there is adequate regulation and control put in place to reduce misuse of weapons of mass destruction which includes nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The role of women in this initiative is of paramount importance and to urge fellow women MPs to participate in this initiative fully.
ND: You recently attended a meeting of legislators on nuclear weapons disarmament, what was its focal point?
DS: I recently attended a meeting in Banjul, The Gambia, to promote the role of women parliamentarians in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the key issues discussed were: a) that as Africa, we should engage all stakeholders, national governments, producers of such lethal weapons and leaders and groups in conflicts to curb the use of such weapons:
b) Women legislators should continue to explore ways and means to coordinate, link and build mutual support for dissuading their governments from building and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction:
c) Urge our respective governments to fully implement United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004)
ND: What is the significance of nuclear disarmament to Zimbabwe?
DS: Zimbabwe does not possess nuclear weapons and it is recognised as a non-nuclear weapon State. Zimbabwe has signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Zimbabwe has also passed the chemical weapons (prohibition) Act to domesticate and to give effect within Zimbabwe to the convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction.
ND: What is your view on the use of chemicals such as toxi-teargas to disperse protesters?
DS: The use of teargas and other harmful substances will see us suffering in the long run. For example, during the liberation war in Zimbabwe, the security forces used chemicals such parathyroid and thallium, vibrio cholera (causative agent of cholera) and bacillus anthrasis (causative agent of typhoid fever).
The use of teargas can also be a health hazard. In the long run, people can develop complications.
ND: What would you suggest is the best way to deal with protesters to avoid use of toxic chemicals?
DS: According to the law of the land, section (59) clearly states that every person has the right to demonstrate and present petitions. So where does the use of teargas come in? It leaves us wondering. It is government’s duty to protect the demonstrators, instead of harming them with toxic substances. The best way to deal with demonstrations is dialogue and tolerance between the government and demonstrators.
ND: Has Zimbabwe domesticated any treaties on nuclear disarmament? If not what must be done?
DS: Zimbabwe is a State party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) since 1991 and is recognised as a non-nuclear weapon State. There is need for a country to domesticate such treaties.
I have posed a question to the Minister of Justice on the Biological and Toxins Weapons Crime Bill which was once tabled in Parliament in 2014 and he promised to bring it in the house during the next session.
ND: Why is it important that women parliamentarians participate in nuclear disarmament?
DS: Women legislators should ensure that both women and men have equal access to political decision-making in the negotiations between and among States involved with matters to do with control and destruction of weapons of mass destruction.
ND: Also, what is the impact of chemical weapons on women?
DS: Women, just like everybody else, will be affected by these chemicals. For example, these weapons are known to emit radiation.
Studies show that radiation causes deadly diseases such as radiation sicknesses and cancers and for women, the risk of breast cancers, uterine cancers and womb disorders can cause reproductive health disorders hence the unfortunate event of them bearing children with disabilities.
ND: Government has been talking of exploration to determine the extent of uranium deposits in the country for possible commercial exploitation. Is there no threat of the mineral being extracted, enriched and used in building such weapons?
DS: The previous (Mines) minister clearly stated that it would be used in producing electricity.
Zimbabwe, as a member of CTBT Act, in its preamble reaffirms principles, objectives and obligations assumed under the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Convention of the Prohibition of the Development Production and Stock Piling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons and their Destruction, 1972 section (4) of the Act which provides that any person who (a) develops, produces, acquires, stockpiles or retains chemical weapons, or (b) transfers, directly or indirectly a chemical weapon, or (d) engages in any military preparations to use a chemical weapon, (e) in any way assists, encourages or induces any person to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under the Convention, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars ($100 000) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years.