On 31 May 2019, women at an outreach consultative meeting conducted by the Women Academy for Leadership and Excellency in Chitsa village, Ward 11 in Murewa, Mashonaland East demanded that among other things, there must be an urgent implementation of sections 17 and 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which speak to equal access to all opportunities between men and women within the political leadership sphere. To achieve this the women called on Parliament to pass legislation compelling political parties to uphold the 50/50 gender representation provision at all levels from the local authorities places up to the presidium.
The women noted that political parties were notorious for their exclusion of women from decision making platforms and leadership opportunities. “The problem is that our political parties are dominated by men who cover for each other and shutout women from leadership. This has to be stopped,” said one of the participants who was barred by her party from contesting for office in the 2018 elections because the ward was for a man.
Further, the participants noted that there was under-representation of women in cabinet. “Look at the cabinet, it is dominated by men. The presidium is all men, this sets the tone for how political parties then treat women at all levels. If we are not seen in high offices, why would political parties behave differently?” opined one of the participants. As a solution, the women called on the President to appoint a cabinet with 50/50 gender balance all the way up to the presidium as was recently witnessed in South Africa.
The participants also noted that lack of resources, poverty and political violence are the main hindrances for women who are seeking political office. They thus called for the need to put in place a robust financial fairness mechanism which can address the challenge of vote buying which often leads to women losing out to the more resourced men. They also called out use of violence and intimidation as it is primitive and unacceptable in a constitutional democracy such as one envisaged by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The outreach consultative meeting adds to the ongoing research by WALPE which seeks to review the efficacy of the 60 seats quota system for women in parliament and to also enhance the content of our academy modules.
It also comes at a time when the WALPE director Miss Sitabile Dewa is incarcerated in Chikurubi Maximum prison facing spurious charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government. As WALPE we are committed to continue doing our work despite the persecution from the State. In this vein, the women called on the government to drop charges against Miss Dewa and all other human rights defenders and to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.