Since taking over from Mugabe with the assistance of the military in November last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has faced criticism for doing very little to achieve gender parity in the top echelons of his government.
His ruling Zanu PF party’s constitution specifically provides for a 50-50 percent representation of men and women at all levels. Regardless, it is the men who still run the show in both Zanu PF and government.
In the wake of concerns over the party’s failure to include a woman in the presidium following the appointment of Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi as Mnangagwa’s deputies on Thursday, Zanu PF national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri revealed that none of the women in the ruling party stood up to the plate to be considered in the presidium.
This was despite ringing calls at the ruling party’s previous annual conferences for it to observe the quota system.
“If you have checked our Constitution, that is our guiding document, it accommodates the quota system. It’s very gender sensitive, it talks about equality, a woman can be president and can push to be vice president, if people feel she is fit for that appointment. Our constitution recognises equality which is supported by the Constitution of the country, which also talks about equality.
“The equality clause is what is critical. So we haven’t had a woman who was interested to stand as a president or vice president but once we have such a person, the party can accommodate such a person,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.
The quota system was once used against Mnangagwa in 2004 when Mugabe used machiavellian tactics to elevate Joice Mujuru, who was way his junior, to the position of vice president even though the former secretary for legal affairs had the majority of the political provinces behind him.
The position had been left vacant following the death of Simon Muzenda in September 2003.
In terms of the party’s old constitution, it declared that four members of the party’s central committee were supposed to be a president and first secretary, two vice presidents and second secretaries — “one of whom shall be a woman” — and a national chairperson.
The women’s quota system was abolished in 2014, following the sacking of Mujuru, who has been the only woman to be accommodated in the presidium since the country got independence in 1980.
The provision was only re-introduced a year later at the party’s annual conference in Victoria Falls, as one of the party’s resolutions.
Former Zanu PF member Margaret Dongo told the Daily News on Sunday that there is need for a change in the Zimbabwean political system and adherence to the Constitution, which allows equal representation of both men and women.
“That is a women’s problem. They have failed to use their voices they have a right to remind the president of the constitutional requirement. This also shows that the issue of gender equality holds no water in the Zimbabwean political system, women have been suppressed and not given a chance to stand and challenge the constitution.
“As a result women also have failed to gather confidence and stand up to challenge this system as well. Not forgetting the other women rights-based NGOs and gender commissions which are failing to challenge the government which is not acting according to the Constitution Section 17 which speaks on gender equality,” Dongo said.
She said there was need for the country to do away with the traditional, religious and patriarchal systems that do not promote women’s elevation.
Dongo also said gender equality will only hold water when a woman is recognised by other women and the society, as an independent person, with principles and values.
“I feel as Zimbabweans we still have to learn, understand and appreciate that women can also lead and even make better decisions. I want to suggest that in future elections, presidents should run for office with their vice presidents, meaning that the vice presidents should go through the elections as well, and not to leave it to the elected presidents who are mostly men to appoint the vice presidents.
“Women are in majority but minority in decision making positions. The only way to address this discrepancy is to have a vice president elected by the citizens, according to her efforts just like the president is elected,” she said.
Since 2015, the party’s women league has been demanding that the Zanu PF Constitution be aligned to the national governance charter which says there must be 50-50 representation in all positions.
The move was reportedly aimed at pushing for Mugabe’s wife Grace to take over from Mnangagwa, who was then the party’s vice president.
This move was reportedly being pushed by a party faction known as Generation 40, which was fighting hard to extinguish Mnangagwa’s chances of taking over the reins of power from Mugabe.
However, after Mugabe’s resignation last November, following the army intervention, the calls for a woman in the presidium have seemingly died down.
Women in Zimbabwe continue to face a number of challenges in their quest to be at par with their male counterparts. Some of the issues impeding this development include the country’s cultural and religious values and the patriarchal tendencies within the society.
In May this year, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission bemoaned the marginalisation of women in key political and developmental issues, claiming during Zanu PF primary elections only 11 percent of the total aspirants were female.
“…while the Constitution provides a set of commitments to ensure women’s active and equal participation in electoral processes, women continue to be marginalised in politics. This is also despite the country having adopted an engendered Constitution and ratified several international and regional frameworks which promote the equal participation of women in political and decision–making processes such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development,” Zimbabwe Gender Commission chairperson Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, said then.
According to the country’s Constitution, 60 national assembly seats are reserved for women, 60 senatorial and 10 persons on each provincial council, who would be elected on the basis of proportional representation.
Of the 60 seats reserved for women and 60 senatorial seats, six will come from each of the country’s 10 provinces.
In a statement, the Women in Politics Support Unit, said Mnangagwa must demonstrate commitment to gender parity as enshrined in the Constitution, by even appointing a 50-50 percent Cabinet and prioritise the rights of women.
“We welcome the commitment to constitutionalism that the president made at his inauguration, and accordingly draw his attention to Section 56 (2) of the Constitution which provides that ‘women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres’. Therefore, we strongly urge the president to stand guided by the principle of equality and non-discrimination.
“Whilst we are encouraged by the president’s declarations to ensure the advancement of women through strengthening their capacity in the economy; we urge him to ensure a prioritisation and promotion of the rights of women in the president’s 2030 Agenda, in particular, ensuring a governance system which is responsive to women and women’s rights. This key element must be central in building the path of equality and inclusiveness, which is badly needed for the president’s successful administration of Zimbabwe,” the organisation said.