By Daniel Chigundu
Labour, Economists and African Democrats (LEAD) president Linda Masarira-Kaingidza says she is against the idea of extending the term of Proportional Representation (PR) legislators adding that the seats are only being used to manipulate women instead of empowering them.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe created PR legislators (60 seats drawn from the country’s 10 provinces) for 10 years (two Parliament terms) as a way of capacitating women to be able to stand on their own in future elections.
The first term for PR legislators was from 2013 to 2018 while the second term is supposed to end when Parliament is dissolved for the 2023 elections.
In an interview, Masarira-Kaingidza said while she advocates for equal rights for women, she feels the PR seats have not been used for the benefit of women as the legislators are not selected on merit.
“As much as I am an advocate of 50:50 gender representation, and equal rights for women, I feel that the extension of the Proportional Representation seats in Parliament is ultra vires to the constitution of Zimbabwe considering the fact that Section 17 of the Constitution is clear on gender balance, all organs of the state are supposed to ensure there is gender balance.
“And when we try to push for affirmative action we are actually going against the constitutional provision that we have that support 50:50 gender representation in Parliament which is alluded to in Section 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and as such I would propose that the PR seats should not be extended and that ZEC be mandated to ensure gender delimitation as we go into delimitation processes of the constituencies,” she said.
PR legislators have general been underperforming to the extent that some who were in the Eight Parliament finished their whole term without speaking or contributing to debates and motions.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa last year in May had no kind words for the underperforming PR legislators branding them as mere benchwarmers and went on to suggest that the 60 seats should instead be distributed between war veterans and people living with disabilities.
Former Goromonzi West legislator Beater Nyamupinga also complained about PR legislators adding that some of them, when they came to Parliament, forgot that they were there to champion women issues but were now speaking from the point of view of males at the expense of women.
However, in previous interviews, some of the PR legislators blamed the intimidating environment in Parliament where “they are jeered” as one of the reasons they have failed to perform.
PR legislators also highlighted that since they have no constituencies it was difficult to measure their impact as they are excluded from Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which is given to the 210 constituency legislators.
According to Masarira-Kaingidza, Proportional Representation will not in any way aid in achieving the intended 50:50 representation as is set out in the constitution.
“There is no way that the Proportional Representation is aiding the Parliament of Zimbabwe to have equal representation in Parliament, if we look at it strictly Parliament has failed to have 50:50 gender representation regardless of the fact that they had 60 seats reserved for women.
“If we look at the last two Parliaments of Zimbabwe we never got to the 50:50 state in Parliament and the 60 seats are actually being used to manipulate women in political parties and they are not accorded those seats on merit and most of those women do not have equal power to constituency holder MPs in Parliament so I am against the extension of the Proportional Representation as they have not represented the interests of women anyhow,” she said.
Masarira-Kaingidza is of the view that Parliament should instead move a motion to dump the current 210 constituency legislators system and go for Proportional Representation all the way using the Zebra listing as is done for Senators.
“Proportional Representation I still suggest that we need gender delimitation and if we cannot have gender delimitation of seats then I suggest that Parliament move a motion to have PR representative MPs rather than constituency MPs we do not need those.
“We use the Zebra listing like what senate is doing and we do that for MPs that is the only way we will be able to achieve 50:50 gender representation.
“As such I view this move, as a move to try and keep women under patriarchal dominance and as a woman who has participated in politics for a very long time I feel that there is no need whatsoever to have women’s assembly, why do we have women assemblies in political parties when women constitute 52% of the population we should be having men’s assembly not women’s assembly.
“And it is high time that women stop being abused by men and stand up for what they believe in, start demanding their space and occupying their spaces and ensure that they are not treated as second class citizens.
“I don’t believe in any way that women need to be given 60 seats for PR in Parliament but they have to be able to stand their ground and ensure that 50:50 becomes a reality because it is a constitutional provision and should be adhered to as the constitution is supreme law of this land,” she said.-