WHEN Fadzai Mahere expressed her desire to stand as an independent candidate, many people accused her of being used by Zanu PF to split the opposition vote. Having listened to the people’s concerns, we are told that she sent letters to all the big parties in the opposition.
By Whitlaw Mugwiji
Perhaps, as an overture for future talks. With that, many including myself, thought Mahere was so full of herself. Did she seriously expect political parties to kowtow to her whims? No self-respecting party could do that and still keep its dignity intact. If an individual wants to represent a party at elections or influence its direction, then one must become a member. It is as simple as that.
At least I thought, but now the case of Joana Mamombe forces me to think otherwise. About two weeks ago, Mamombe raised a storm on social media by merely expressing intention to contest the MDC-T Harare West primary elections. She was insulted, her name soiled, all in a bid to disparage her candidacy.
What can a young female politician do in this great republic of ours? Running as an independent candidate, they condemn her. Contesting primary elections, they condemn her. Focusing on her private and social life, they accuse her of indifference. Damned if she does and damned if she does not. Surely, we cannot pretend not to know why few women are running for public office.
But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. I am happy that this unfortunate debate has brought to the fore, uncomfortable, but yet very necessary discussions.
In this article, I will restrict my discussions to only, but three issues. Due to limited space, I will not be able to do justice to these issues, but I hope I will be able to incite further discussions.
Women can think on their own
The contest between Jessie Majome and Mamombe was supposed to be very exciting. For it is a contest between two brilliant female comrades. A contest between the mature, tried and tested and the young, vibrant and promising.
But alas, the debate has turned into a shame. Comrades, I regard as progressive have turned misogynistic in their bid to defend their preferred candidate.
Yes, taking away Mamombe’s agency and accusing her of being used is misogyny. She is a very capable young woman who is more than able to make decisions on her own.
Additionally, several young male politicians within the MDC-T family are contesting in primaries, yet none of them has been subjected to this scrutiny and attack.
People are not asking them to go and contest in rural constituencies. Nor are people accusing them of sleeping with someone powerful. Why do we treat women differently?
Why do we assume women have no agency? In this day and age, we must know by now, that women can think and take initiatives on their own.
During the discussion some people even suggested that Mamombe must support Majome. I always wonder why people expect female politicians to be a homogeneous group. There is absolutely no difference between female and male politicians. No one expects Obert Gutu to support Nelson Chamisa simply on the basis that they are both males. Thus, it is equally folly to expect Mamombe to support Majome simply because they share the same sex. We must respect Mamombe’s decision to contest just as much as we respected Majome when she did not follow Thokozani Khupe. We should respect Mahere for her decision too.
Who has the right to decide
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director McDonald Lewanika, commenting in a Facebook post two weeks ago raised a very pertinent question. He asked: Who has the right to decide? Is it the party, the party structures, residents from the constituency or people who are neither in the structures nor resident in the constituency?
There are diverse opinions on the matter. But, we can exclude the last option, people who are neither members of the party nor residents in the constituency have no locus standi on the matter. Personally, I am a firm believer in grassroots politics. Local party representatives must be accountable to the party membership.
Alex Magaisa is of the contrary view. I hope that I understood him well, in one of his Facebook posts.
He said “a mature party does not risk the careers of its experienced MPs in the name of democracy”. In other words, the party must guide the democratic processes. Retain certain MPs, even against the wishes of the local membership. Not only is this top down and undemocratic, but goes even further to assume that the local membership does not know what is best for itself.
Alternatively, the party can abandon primary elections all together. Instead, they can just compile a list of members who will represent the party in elections.
This system too, assumes that the local membership is ignorant. I would support the party list system if the public were to vote for a political party and not an individual. This, I am sure would increase the representation of diverse voices in our Parliament. However, that said, I think it would be unwise to adopt this system under our current political system.
No matter how much we may prefer certain candidates to others, primary elections must take their full course. The party cannot change its rules and regulations midway through the primary elections process. Aluta continua.
lWhitlaw Mugwiji is a political analyst for Khuluma Afrika — a centre for analysis, investigation, and commentary