By Mambokadzi Linda wekwaMasarira
It is a fact that attacks on leadership in any given scenario are not a rare occurrence. Be that as it may, I have noticed a systematic attack on women leadership and insincerity in dealing with issues of equal representation of women in governance and decision-making processes in our nation. Almost every political party in Zimbabwe parrots gender parity and inclusion of women yet they do they exact opposite. Before you dismiss this notion as unsubstantiated, I invite you dear reader, to read on for the next 2 minutes as I present solutions to an issue that some may deem as unimportant.
Firstly, it is an unwritten in Zimbabwe’s political landscape that women’s assemblies are used as tools for patriarchal gatekeeping and puppets in the arena of politics, without actually possessing the power nor the authority to lead. Upon acknowledging this fact, Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) made a resolution in September 2020 to abolish the women’s council and ensure that every woman has an equal chance to represent and lead in the National Executive Council. The same was adopted to apply to YoungLEAD Council on a 50/50 gender balance as enshrined in section 17 of the constitution going down to our branch structures.
It is unfortunate that women in politics continue to be used as pawns in a game of political chess. The extension of the 60 Proportional representation seats to 4 parliaments also reflects on our government’s unwillingness to comply with the constitutional provision enshrined in section 17 of ensuring gender balance in all organs of the state and all government organs.
Women are not children of a lesser God and should not be pretentiously handed power on a silver platter in the name of quotas or affirmative action. Whose quota to benefit who? Women who are forwarded on party lists by political parties for those proportional representation seats usually face a lot of abuse and are never chosen on merit but by being the best bootlickers of political leaders. These seats have been used to divide women and to give them unequal opportunities to contest in primaries as they are constantly reminded that they have their 60 bacossi seats.
To be sure, women constitute nearly 54% of the population of Zimbabwe yet we only have less than 33% women in council and less than 20% women in parliament who were directly elected. The women’s leagues/assemblies of political parties seem to be blind to this issue and their silence on this matter is mind-boggling.
In November 2019, women from political parties, civic society and business converged at the Gender Indaba in Mutare at Golden Peacock hotel, which was hosted by the Gender Commission of Zimbabwe. All representatives of the political parties present that is LEAD, MDCA, MDCT and ZanuPF agreed and made a resolution that they did not want the extension of the 60 PR seats and gave recommendations to the Gender Commission on our expectations as women in politics. Some questions, however still linger…
• Does the extension of the 60 PR seats mean that the women’s voice is useless in Zimbabwe?
• At what point will women issues be taken seriously in this country?
• Is there a systematic attack on women leadership by political parties in Zimbabwe?
• Whose interests does the extension of proportional representation serve?
• Why are women in Zimbabwe silent?
• What is the purpose of having a women affairs ministry when women continue to be systematically excluded from governance processes by useless quotas?
My suggestion is clear, let us do away with constituency MPs and introduce a proportional representation electoral system like the one used in South Africa or by the senate in Zimbabwe. The PR system of having a party zebra list of MPs submitted to ZEC will assist us to have a gender balanced parliament, diverse in terms of party representation as it will ensure that every party which contests elections will get Parliamentary seats which are proportionate to the number of votes that would have been casted and it will also help depolarize parliament by eliminating strong men in parliament.
What is needed is to amend the electoral act and ensure that we have a gender balanced parliament and local authorities.
We are left with no choice but to challenge this extension of PR seats in the courts of law. As a leader motivated by constructive criticism, I invite you to share your opinion on this matter on @lilomatic.