By Daniel Chigundu
Proportional Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga says the country’s leading political parties Zanu PF and MDC-T have refused to commit to gender equality and 50-50 representation.
Women in Zimbabwe are demanding 50-50 representation in the coming election and also that government fully implement the SADC Gender Protocol.
The number of women in Parliament has been on a downward spiral and it had to take the proportional representation clause to at least take the tally to a respectable 35 percent in the National Assembly.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda last year told legislators during the post-budget seminar that the number of women in Parliament risks going further down if political parties do not put deliberate clauses on 50-50 representation in their constitutions.
Speaking during an Electoral Amendment Bill Conference organised by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) recently, Misihairabwi-Mushonga said since political parties are unwilling it was better to force them through the law.
“The law must empower ZEC to reject any party’s list of candidates that do not indicate that half of the 210 Parliamentary posts are women.
“ZEC must reject the lists as a way of forcing parties to put 50 percent representation of candidates. We had a women’s conference a month ago and there were 21 parties and only 14 of them signed to the Aspirational Charter on Gender Equality, but sadly both Zanu PF and MDC did not sign to say we will at least work to ensure we achieve gender equality.
“So we need to put it in our laws because the level of anti-women is growing in political parties,” she said.
Women constitute the majority of the country’s population, political party supporters and activists, but they are still occupying lower-ranking positions in various parties.
To make the situation worse President Emmerson Mnangagwa also over-looked women when he appointed his cabinet with only a few women getting positions.
Speaking at the same occasion, Chief Serima said while 50-50 representation was good, but there was a danger of disenfranchising males in trying to reserve seats for women.
Musikavanhu legislator Prosper Mutseyami said males are against 50-50 representation because women say they want to represent women and neglecting males in the process.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga also spoke strongly against a situation that is happening for example in MDC-T were a woman (Joana Mamombe) is being used to fight another woman (Jessie Majome) who is perceived to be a threat to certain males in the party.
In other circumstances, women are also being used in factional fights as a means to get rid of some unwanted males in certain constituencies which are being reserved for women.
Gender experts are of the view that getting to the 50-50 representation will not be an event and therefore women should at least start by demanding that the proportional representation clause that is set to expire in 2023 be made permanent to at least ensure the 60 women remain in Parliament.
Although the proportional representation clause is usually attributed to women’s advocates, however, Women in Politics Support Unity (WIPSU) director Sakhile Ngoma refutes the claims adding that women wanted a share of what was there already (210) and not the extra 60 seats.
“When the constitution-making process was going on, the women of Zimbabwe did not want to make Parliament have 350 people; I think I need to say it so that we are all very clear, no one wanted a Parliament with 350 MPs. What women wanted was half of what was already there,” she said.
By Daniel Chigundu