A brief history of HIV and the political and economic setting in Zimbabwe

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This thesis explores the concept of a ‗small house‘ in Zimbabwe and focuses on economically independent women‘s motives for engaging in sexual relationships with married men. A ‗small house‘ is a colloquial and derogatory term used in Zimbabwe to describe a married man‘s quasi polygamous, informal, long term, secret sexual relationship with another woman (Chingandu 2009; Shelton 2009; Chriastensen-Bull 2013). Even the country’s leader, President Mugabe, has characterised the small houses as becoming a national phenomenon, yet, a social and moral crisis cautioning people ―not to engage in these relationships as they harm and disturb the institution of the family‖. The term was popularised in the early 2000s during a phase of an impending economic and political crises and chaos in social relations, which saw an apparent rise in multiple concurrent partnerships, extramarital affairs, premarital and intergenerational sex. However, during this period, small house relationships mirrored more of a quasi-polygamous relationship with poor, low and working class women engaging in such relationships with men for economic security and as secretive ‗second wives‘. Though the term seems to refer to a physical structure, which could have been implied given that in such instances, the man would have a bigger legitimate family house and sets another smaller ‗love-nest‘ elsewhere where the lover would reside, a ‗small house‘ nonetheless, is not a physical structure but a localised term that refers to two things: men’s extra-marital relationships and the women involved in such relationships. For instance, it can be said: this man has a small house or this woman is a small-house. Small-housing (i.e., the  act of having or being a small house) generally involves women and men from varying socio-economic backgrounds. Whilst recent research has largely focused on small houses that involve poor women who are economically dependent on married men (Hungwe 2011; Chingandu 2009; Christiansen-Bull 2013), my research focused on what I term ‗middle class small houses‘ who are economically independent women of high socio-economic status. Such women are usually highly educated, with professional jobs or own businesses, who, knowingly and willingly engage in these seemingly ‗risky‘ and highly stigmatised sexual relationships with married men. In generalised public and private discourse, small houses are often referred to loosely as home wreckers and nonconformists.

Methodological reflections

My research was conducted in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. I conducted ethnographic field research between March 2013 and February 2014. Ethnography is a type of qualitative research that intends to provide a detailed, in-depth description of a group of people‘s everyday life and practice through what Geertz (1973) terms ‗thick description‘. Ethnography offers the best way to study people‘s private lives (Parker et al 1991; Brummelhuis and Herdt 1995). According to Denzin and Lincoln (2005:3) qualitative research is ―a situated activity that locates the observer in the world and consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. . .‖ I chose to conduct the study in Harare mainly because of reasons of familiarity, having lived and worked there since my undergraduate studies and also being an urban setting where the small-house phenomenon is widespread and well established. It was also easy to access participants given that I already knew that a number of my middle-class friends were in small house relationships.

The economic and political milieu

Raftopolous and Mlambo (2009) assert that major economic advances were made in the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence (gained in 1980). During this period, the government reintegrated the national economy into the world economy; redressed inequalities inherited  from the colonial order, adopted a black economic empowerment programme and developed a black middle class. The government also adopted a welfarist approach meant to enfranchise the poor and this saw government subsidising health and education and other social and utility services. In 1990, however, the government changed its welfarist approach and adopted the International Monetary Fund‘s (IMF) Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). The latter called for trade liberalisation, budgetary adjustments and the removal of subsidies. However, by the late nineties it was clear that economic liberalisation via ESAP was having a negative effect on the country and this saw mounting pressures for democratic reforms by the labour movement and an increase in public unrest in urban centres (ibid 2009). These public unrests were an outcome of the increase in the prices of most basic commodities, the decline of wages in real value, soaring unemployment and an ―excess commodification of life in Zimbabwe‖ (Magure 2014:3). The causes of the Zimbabwean economic crises were complex and multiple and no single explanation will suffice. However, many scholars concur that the late 90s to mid 2000s were characterised by events that worsened the crisis. These events included the government’s un-budgeted for gratuity payments to war veterans, Zimbabwe‘s involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recurrent droughts, the chaotic land acquisition exercise, the government‘s repression of the newly formed opposition party (Movement for Democratic Change) and labour movement organised ‗mass stay aways‘. The government‘s populist rhetoric also aggravated the situation with the President condoning the land acquisition by war veterans and calling for a ‗Fast- Track‘ land reform. The latter took place from 2000-2003 and was riddled by violence, corruption, ineptitude and cronyism which destroyed agricultural production (Mamdani 2009).

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Successes and Challenges

Despite the political and economic challenges that adversely affected service provision in Zimbabwe, particularly in the health sector, the government has scored some successes. One of these is increased access to HIV testing services. Avert (2008) notes that between 2004 and 2005 Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) sites increased from 292 to 430 and that  every health district had at least one VCT site. The Ministry of Health also successfully set up Opportunistic infections (OI) clinics in 2007 as well as provider-initiated HIV testing at all public hospitals.

Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Background and outline of research problem
2.0 „Small houses‟ in perspective”: Locating women‟s sexual relationships in broader African literature.
3.0 Methodological reflections
4.0 Theoretical and conceptual considerations
5.0 Outline of thesis
Chapter 2: A brief history of HIV and the political and economic setting in Zimbabwe
2.1. The economic and political milieu
2.2. HIV in Zimbabwe
2.2.1. Zimbabwean government‘s policy and programmatic responses to HIV and AIDS
2.2.2 Successes and Challenges
2.2.3 Shaping the prevention response contours: a case of Population Services International/Zimbabwe(PSI)
2.2.4 The current state of affairs on HIV
3.0 A class in transition: the precarious Zimbabwean black middle class
4.0 Social issues within the health, economic and political crises: Contextualising the small house in Zimbabwe
5.0 Conclusion
Chapter 3: Women and the local sexual marketplace: (Mis) understanding the small house concept
2.0 Categorizing small houses
2.1 The ―temporary small house
2.2 ‗No money no honey‘ small houses
2.2“Que sera sera” small houses
3.0 Bridging the boundaries: a quest to understanding the small house
3.1 Breaking through yet staying within: the paradox of small-housing as liberating and constraining
4.0 Conclusion
Chapter 4: Low risk women? Pleasure, HIV and sexual networks amongst middle-class small houses
2.0 Exploring other non-monetary motivations and implications for HIV risk
2.1 Talking about HIV risk: ignorance is bliss
2.2 ―Forget HIV, it‘s been there, is there and shall always be there!‖ It‘s all about pleasure! Eroticizing sex in a context of HIV
2.3 Love and other affective dimensions of small-housing
3.0 More than just untamed desires and motives: Rationalising „risky‟ sex
4.0 Conclusion
Chapter 5: „Old‟ and „new‟ femininities at crossroads? Deconstructing the role of the„sexual entrepreneurs‟
1.1 The new „tete’: Understanding the role of the sexual entrepreneur
1.2 The making of a social drama: Daisy the sexual entrepreneur at work
1.3 The sexual entrepreneur‟ s dilemma: confronting the malleability of social reality
2.0 No chance for redress: Big houses‟ perceptions of small houses
3.0 New femininities or repackaged old femininities? Interrogating women‟s subjectivities, identities and agency
4.0 Conclusion
Chapter 6: „Real men and Ben 10s‟: A restoration or transformation of masculinity politics in Zimbabwe?
Push and pull factors. Men‟s motivations for small housing
„Is polygamy making a comeback?‟ Pro small housing masculinities and making of a fractured masculinity.
Weighing social safety vs physical safety
“Small housing is not polygamy. It is cheating!” Perspectives of anti small-housing men.
Ben 10s: Making virtue out of necessity or masculinity in crisis?
Chapter 7: Concluding remarks: towards a „Human Economy‟ of small housing?
Power, politics and resistance: agency within constrained spaces
Rethinking small houses: Moving beyond HIV discourses to harnessing erotic capital
Beyond small houses: indicators for further research

The „Small House‟: An Ethnographic Investigation into Economically Independent Women and Sexual Networks in Zimbabwe

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