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Kadzombe makes history as independent councillor



THE victory of Councillor Kudzai Kadzombe in the just-ended by-elections which were held on 3 February was historic as she became the first woman in Zimbabwe to win as an independent candidate in local authority polls.

Kadzombe, who initially won Harare ward 41 under the banner of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) in the August 2023 general elections, was among the second batch of politicians who were recalled by the self-proclaimed party secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.

For Kadzombe, contesting independently was not an easy task as most voters believe in representatives who are sponsored by political parties.

“Being an independent candidate is a very difficult thing in Zimbabwe because the voters have always been believers of partisan politics.”

“I’m truly humbled by the continued confidence and support from residents in ward 41. I have had 4 elections since July 2018,” Cllr Kadzombe told The NewsHawks.

Her victory clearly indicated how  deeprooted her brand of politics is in her ward despite the challenges she faced as a female politician.

She first won the ward 41 seat in 2018, but her tenure was cut short following recalls by the Movement for Democratic Change leader Douglas Mwonzora in 2020 after some party disputes which later saw Nelson Chamisa form the CCC.

The emergence of Tshabangu in November last year saw her being the target of recalls again, a few months after she was sworn in as deputy mayor of Harare. “I was illegally recalled again in November 2023 barely 3 months after being sworn in and without even attending a full council sitting”, said Cllr Kadzombe.

Other women who faced Tshabangu’s recalls include former Bulawayo South MP Nicolla Jane Watson, ex-Masvingo mayoress Shantel Chiwara and Bulawayo provincial proportional representation MP Jasmine Toffa.

However, the failure to contest in the by-elections following the court order that precluded the CCC politicians from running again on the party ticket, has led to a continuous decline in women’s participation in politics.

This is due to the fact that most of the seats of recalled female politicians have since gone to men. Long-serving Bulawayo legislator Watson expressed concern over male candidates taking over the seats previously held by women.

“It’s sad, given the unequal gender balance in representative roles that they have seen fit to recall women but not replace them with women,” said Watson.

She failed to contest the 7 December by-election after the High Court barred her and she was replaced by Zanu PF’s Raj Modi, a male politician.

This added to the decrease in the female legislators in the National Assembly as the general election results also witnessed a drawback in women’s political victories. Former Masvingo mayoress Chiwara, who also lost her job after Tshabangu’s recalls, said the scandalous recalls disadvantaged women.

“We have seen that most of these positions that we held as women are being replaced by men, showing that this is a direct fight against women in leadership,” she said.

 “We acknowledge the 30% proportional representation that has been put in place to make sure that a number of women get incorporated in these leadership positions, but I feel it is not enough. It can increase to maybe 100% so that decision making at the table is made easier and women can fight equally as men and women can contribute equally as men.”

However, her views seem not to be achievable anytime soon in a country like Zimbabwe where the patriarchal system is dominant in politics and in most cases women are perceived as mere cheerleaders.

 According to UN Women, at the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. Although, she retained her seat, Councillor Kadzombe raised the same concern as Chiwara and Watson.

 “It’s quite unfortunate and retrogressive that seats that were occupied by women have been taken by men. It means that all efforts that were being done to increase women’s participation in elections have been reversed,” said Kadzombe.

For Chiwara and Watson, organisations that represents women in politics need to do more in supporting women in politics.

“There’s a lot of talk about women being helped to succeed in representation roles, but it’s not helping. I haven’t seen one women’s organisation stand up and speak on the recalls on the gender issue”, said Watson.

Chiwara told The NewsHawks that women are lacking support from each other.

 “We need lawyers for women to stand up for us even in the courts. We need these women to help us even mobilise demonstrations to fight for women even in the communities”.

“We understand the judiciary of our country has been manipulated by the regime and there isn’t much we can do in the judiciary, but in the communities that we come from we need to spread the love as women because we are lacking support from each other,” she said.

Concerns of these politicians is all about having females even from other political parties fill the vacancies arising from posts previously held by women.

Meanwhile, there is another possibility of a minus in the House of Assembly following the resignation of Mt Pleasant constituency MP Fadzayi Mahere in solidarity with her former party president Chamisa who left the CCC last month.

The media and publications officer of the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Helen Kadirire, told The NewsHawks that there was nothing their organisation could do as the recalls were an internal party matter, but they are pushing for the improvement of the electoral system in the country for the next election.

“In the broader sense, we are pushing for the alignment of sections 17, 56 and 80 to the Electoral Act so as to safeguard women from being targets in vendettas they are not privy to. We have also recommended that the electoral system be changed from the Westminster first past the post to proportional representation, where the electorate votes for a political party and not an individual”

“WALPE believes that by starting the process now, come 2028, we will have an astute group of women leaders who have been capacitated with leadership skills and political knowledge and can take on the harsh political arena,” said Kadirire. — STAFF WRITER.

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