Dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe announced this week that his government is “seriously” considering castration as a punishment for rapists, particularly those who rape minors.
Mugabe was reportedly speaking extemporaneously at a luncheon to celebrate the reopening of Parliament for its new session when he made the remarks. He lamented the moral state of the nation, asking, “What sort of men have we become, raping our babies in some cases your own? What has entered this house of freedom, the Zimbabwe house of freedom?”
He noted that authorities had full power to arrest a man for rape, “but it seems not to be working, so what shall we do to them?”
“The Muslims say [in] Sharia Law if you steal, your hand must go,” he continued, “Now if you rape, what must go?” This rhetorical question was reportedly met with laughter, which Mugabe rejected, adding that “we are thinking about it very seriously,” implying a policy of castration for men who rape. He warned listeners not to “say Mr. Mugabe has become brutal” if such a law passes.
A number of high-profile rape cases have made headlines in Zimbabwe in the past year, with multiple horrific rape stories appearing in the newspaper just this week. Wednesday, news broke of a 44-year-old man in Masvingo who was found guilty of raping his 17-year-old daughter repeatedly after becoming a widower, forcing her to share a bedroom with him. The rapes reportedly occurred on a near-nightly basis, and the man was caught after his daughter contracted a sexually transmitted disease from him.
Another man, identified as a “self-styled prophet,” was arrested this week for raping a 15-year-old girl. The man would force the girl to visit him for “prayer and sex” sessions.
A third man, a colonel in Zimbabwe’s army, was found guilty of raping a 20-year-old maid repeatedly.
Today, Zimbabwe’s Herald published a story detailing the arrest of a prosecutor, accused of raping his ten-year-old stepdaughter.
In August, four brothers were arrested for the repeated rape of their niece, whom they took turns raping. One of the men was HIV positive and likely infected her.
The call for such an extreme reform by Mugabe follows a week in which he became an international laughingstock after the 91-year-old head of state accidentally read the wrong speech at the opening of the latest session of Parliament. In what local media dubbed a “massive boob,” Mugabe’s office appeared to print a copy of a speech the leader had already delivered last month, rather than a new one, and none of his advisers caught the error before he finished delivering the speech a second time.
While the incident made the nonagenarian appear unfit for leadership, he remains an extremely active autocrat. As recently as this April, Mugabe launched a new campaign to seize property from white landowners, announcing that he was going to “invade those forests” in which white-operated safaris conducted business. “Zimbabwe has lots of safaris but very few are African. … Most are white-owned,” he said. “We are now going to invade those forests. Our people cannot keep suffering.”
A year earlier, he had announced a ban on whites owning farms. “We say no to whites owning our land and they should go,” he stated at a rally for his ruling Zanu-PF party.