BY SILAS NKALA
WOMEN’S Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe), in partnership with Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) has launched a research into the extension of the women’s parliamentary quota system in Zimbabwe that was initially scheduled to expire in 2023.
The research seeks to assess the effectivenss of the women’s quota system as a means to empower them to actively and effectively participate in governance processes.
Walpe said the research findings would inform discussions on the future of the system beyond 2023.
“On one side are the opponents of the proportional representation (PR) system, calling for its abolition when it expires in 2023. The proponents argue that the 60 seats must be extended beyond 2023 as they provide a crucial window of opportunity for women representation in Parliament without which Parliament would remain a men’s club,” the organisation said in a statement.
Walpe said there were interesting points on both sides which should be examined in detail.
“Three major arguments raised are that the PR system has been hijacked by political parties and is now used to sideline women from contested seats,” Walpe said.
“In this reasoning, it is argued that political parties, mainly those dominated by men, now relegate women to PR seats and away from contested constituencies, making PR useless as it is not producing new leaders as the older women parliamentarians, who have served for many years, take ‘retirement’ in the PR ‘safe seats’.”
The organisation said there were others arguing that the PR system was a waste of taxpayers’ money as it led to a bloated Parliament.
“Given the economic hardships facing Zimbabwe, it is argued that the extra 60 seats on top of the 210 are too many for the country and are a huge burden on fiscus. This is more so given that parliamentarians often receive huge perks and benefits,” the statement added.
“The PR members of Parliament have been ineffective and just ‘seat warmers’. This argument says the women parliamentarians under the PR system have contributed nothing by means of debate on serious motions affecting the development of the nation nor have they represented the voice of women who are impoverished and oppressed.”
Walpe said proponents of the status quo claimed that removing the seats would lead to fewer women in Parliament.
“This would mean that only men would be ‘seen’ to be in leadership and thus further entrench patriarchy,” Walpe said. “Affirmative action is also another major reason raised by the proponents of PR extension. In this line of argument, women, because of historical marginalisation, are not yet at a social, economic and political level to compete with men equally in a political contest as they are hamstrung by a number of bottlenecks in a system created and shaped by men. As such, the PR seats are a window of opportunity for women to influence decision-making in the legislature.”