By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Women who attended the Young Women’s Political Power, Representation and Participation workshop organised by Institute of Young Women in Development (IYWD) are considering petitioning Parliament for changes to the Proportional Representation Clause.
Proportional Representation which avails 60 extra seats to women in the National Assembly from 2013 to 2023 came into effect courtesy of Section 124(b) of the Zimbabwe Constitution.
The Section (124.b) talks about the composition of the National Assembly and says “for the life of the first two Parliaments after the effective date, additional sixty women members, six from each of the province into which Zimbabwe is divided, elected under a party-list system of proportional representation….
However, speaking at the meeting People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Lucia Matibenga who once served as a Proportional Representation legislator from 2013 to 2016 said while she agrees with the need to extend the life of the clause, the selection criteria must also be changed.
“I would want the PR system to stay but my reflection on it for these two terms that it has been in use has shown that the quota is being used by political parties to cherry pick their loyalists and not on merit so going forward hence the need to change the selection criteria,” she said.
The women at the meeting also raised concern at the manner in which Proportional Representation legislators are usually looked down upon in the National Assembly where they are given denigrating names but Proportional Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the denigrating does not prevent anyone from participation.
“Honestly while heckling is done to female MPs who are on PR, let’s not over-exaggerate because they will not be major comments which can stop one from participating effectively in parliament,” she said.
Turning to the proposed petition, Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the idea was noble but needs a well-informed and holistic approach.
“While I am applauding the initiative I also advise you to really focus on the specific things you want the petition to address so that means you need to have a sound understanding of the issues and be able to also mobilise effectively in the case that public hearings get conducted over the amendment,” she said.
Calls to extend the life of the Proportional Representation has also been raised on several occasions in the National Assembly with controversial Chegutu legislator Dexter Nduna urging Zanu PF to use its 2/3 majority to keep the clause.
Recently Mangwe legislator Obedingwa Mguni also gave the notice to move a motion for the extension of the clause and his motion will be debated soon.
However, some legislators are against the clause arguing that the beneficiaries of the clause have not justified its existence as most of them have largely been inactive in the National Assembly.