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Mozambique Governor Becomes Target of Backlash—Simply Because She's a Woman

Women in Praia do Bilene, Gaza, Mozambique. Photo by Flickr user Julien Lagarde. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Women in Praia do Bilene, Gaza, Mozambique. Photo by Flickr user Julien Lagarde. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mozambique's president has the power to form a cabinet and nominate governors for the country's 11 provinces. To that end, President Filipe Nyusi, who was elected on October 15, 2014, nominated Stela Pinto to be the first woman governor of Gaza province.

Pinto is a young university professor who, before her nomination, held the post of academic dean of the Universidade Pedagógica-Quelimane. Gaza, a province in the south of Mozambique with nearly 1.2 million residents, is typically “machista” and conservative in its customs, the competence of the recently nominated governor aside.

Some residents are discontent with their governor being a woman, even within Frelimo, Pinto's political party, according to numerous news reports. In one case, the discontent has gone beyond mere grumbling — photos of a woman, supposedly the governor, in obscene poses have circulated online in what appears to be an effort to stain Pinto's reputation.

Governadora de Gaza tomando posse

New Gaza`s Governor swearing-in. Photo: Moz Massoko. Used with permission

For member of parliament Muhamad Yassine, there was no doubt that this boiled down to a question of machismo. Most of all because a woman was nominated to such a high position, he explained on Facebook: 

Numa provincia conhecida por machismo ultra ortodoxo e pelo uso da forca contra corpos políticos diferentes caiu por lá uma Dama. Em pouco dias já circulam ( verdadeiras ou nao) imagens de alegrar os homens e desagradar a moral religiosa. Nao sera uma vitoria para os machistas de lá? , ou ate olhar para uma teoria de conspiracao Gazense, Ou uma derrota para a possibilidade de se nomear mulher para um posto naquela provincia onde os homens acham que somente eles tem direito?. Porque chafurdar a vida de pessoas para delas fazer gozo?. Onde esta maldade nas fotos? Onde o sorriso no final do dia?

In a province known for ultra-orthodox machismo and for the use of force against opposing political parties, a Woman landed there. In a few days, photos (real or not) circulate to please men and displease religious morality. Could this not be a victory for the macho men there? Or going further, looking for a conspiracy theory in Gaza, a defeat for the possibility of nominating a women for that post in a province where men think only they have the right? Why ruin the lives of others just to get off on it? What is so evil about the photos? Who is smiling at the end of the day? 

Machismo na província de Gaza

“Governor's competency questioned in Gaza: Cultural questions at the center of the hurricane”. Machismo in the province of Gaza – Jornal Zambeze. Photo by the author

Antonio Frangoulis, a criminologist and political commentator, spoke of the question of machismo related to the complaints coming from Gaza and from within the party Frelimo in a Facebook post: 

Lí no hebdomadário “ZAMBEZE” coisas como ” A população da província de Gaza, incluindo proeminentes figuras de partido Frelimo nesta parcela do país, manifesta-se profundamente agastada em virtude do Presidente da República, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, ter nomeado a jovem Stella da Graça Pinto Zeca….(para governadora da província de Gaza )”, mais se lê “…Como forma de manifestar o seu repúdio pela nomeação, a população de Gaza, incluindo membros dos órgãos sociais do partido Frelimo, com destaque para a Organização da Mulher Moçambicana (OMM), Associação dos Combatentes da Luta de Libertação Nacional e Organização da Juventude Moçambicana (OJM), ‘gazetou’ na cerimónia pública de apresentação da nova timoneira Provincial…!!!”
Eu estou a imaginar quando aos dois órgãos sociais mais conservadores se mostrar as imagens nojentas, atribuídas* à jovem governadora, que por aí curculam, acredito que a compaixão com a (n)(p)obre alma vai ser insuficiente. É caso de dizer que “O azar nunca vem só…”, só não sei qual é o primeiro, o segundo e como não há um sem três, não sei qual será o TERCEIRO…!
Ps* Não quero participar na polémica  da verossimilhança das mesmas, porque pelo que tenho estado a acompanhar pelas redes sociais não há lógica nos discursos, mas apenas razões de coração – paixão  política, e como se sabe, não tem  limite.

I read in the weekly “ZAMBEZE” stuff like “The population of Gaza, including prominent figures from Frelimo in this area of the country, displayed their profound irritation with President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi's nomination of the young Stella da Graça Pinto Zeca (for governor of the province of Gaza)”, and it reads further, “As a way of showing their repudiation for the nomination, the population of Gaza, including members of the social institutions of Frelimo, especially the Organization of the Mozambican Woman (OMM), Association of Combatants from the Struggle for National Liberation and the Organization of Mozambican Youth (OJM), played hooky at the public ceremony of the presentation of the new leader of the Province…!!” 

I am imagining when the two most conservative institutions are shown the nasty images circulating out there, attributed* to the young governor, I believe they will lack compassion with her poor soul. It's a case of bad luck coming in threes, only I'm not sure what was first, or second, and there has yet to be a third stroke of bad luck, I have no idea what the THIRD will be…!

Ps* I don't want to participate in the debate about the veracity of the images, because I have been following along on social networks, and there is no logic in the arguments, but just logic of the heart — political passion, and as we know, this has no limit.

There were those who condemned the spread of the photos on social media. Gito Gitinho Gitão wrote:

As redes sociais estão a infernizar a vida das pessoas! E a vítima desta feita é a Senhora Governadora de Gaza. Não confirmo a veracidade das fotos! Contudo, eu sempre digo, há que sermos prudente nas nossas acções, o que a gente faz hoje tem implicações no futuro! E meninas, evitem essas historietas de enviarem e tirarem fotos íntimas. Mais nada digo!

Social networks are tormenting our lives! The victim of this act is the Governor of Gaza. I deny the veracity of these photos! However, I always say, we need to be prudent in our actions, what we do today has consequences in the future! And girls, please avoid these little episodes of sending and taking intimate photos. Enough said!

In a blog post dedicated to entertainment called Moçambicanos Terra Queimada, credence is given to the theory that the photos were altered and that the governor was defamed. The post calls for intervention by the Public Prosecutor's office: 

A clonagem de fotos vale o que vale quando tem um fundamento; quando serve para fazer passar uma informação consubstanciada num facto verídico. É muito fácil fazer montagem de fotos e as novas ferramentas tecnológicas permitem que a imagem de um sujeito seja adulterada. Em algum momento até tem graça, piada e revela imaginação, criatividade e arte de quem a faz. Porém, a clonagem deixa de ter essência quando o seu conteúdo é maléfico, pejorativo, sarcástico e com única intenção de prejudicar a imagem pública de um cidadão. Quando é para ferir alguém, os especialistas na matéria, que nada de útil sabem fazer, não perdem tempo e dão-se ao luxo de (re) inventar artifícios que atentam a dignidade do indivíduo (…). O que estaria por detrás de tão hediondo acto. Tudo quanto especulássemos ficaria mesmo pela teoria da conspiração (…). Está na hora, meus senhores, de os crimes cibernéticos na sociedade moçambicana serem encarados com seriedade para a responsabilização dos respectivos autores. A Procuradoria-Geral da República (PGR) deve começar a agir com rigor e eficácia, em coordenação com o Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Ensino Superior e Técnico Profissional, para a correcção de atitudes menos dignas.

The altering of photos is what it is when it has some motive, when it serves to turn some substantiated information into a fact. It is very easy to do a photo montage and new tools permit that an image of a person is altered. Sometimes it is funny and reveals the imagination and creativity of those who do it. However, the altering of photos no longer has this essence when its content is malicious, pejorative, sarcastic and with the sole purpose of publicly hurting the image of a citizen. When it is to hurt somebody, specialists in [altering photos], who have nothing better to do, waste time and afford themselves the (re)invention of tricks that assault the dignity of an individual. What would be behind such a heinous act. All we can speculate is that it is part of some kind of conspiracy (…) It is high time that cyber crimes in Mozambican society start to be taken seriously to hold their perpetrators accountable. The Prosecutor General's office should act with rigor and efficacy, in coordination with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Higher and Technical Education, for the correction of these undignified acts. 

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