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Maplanka proves mettle in poll battle



IN a landmark legal victory that will leave a mark on the Zimbabwean political landscape, Bekezela Maplanka (pictured) of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change has proven to have an indomitable spirit after approaching the High Court seeking the nullification of the election outcome for Bulilima constituency.


In her petition, Maplanka argued that “voter intimidation, rigging and vote buying . . . produced an undue return.”

“Being a female candidate representing the citizens of Bulilima Constituency, I wanted the voice and the will of the people of Bulilima to be heard and respected. It was so heart-breaking and disappointing that the people were not free to choose the leader of their choice because they were intimidated by Zanu PF members who were also campaigning on election day. So many strange things were happening that were contrary to the electoral law,” said Maplanka as she narrated events which led to the court case.

“The environment was totally not conducive for the voters to the extent that only half of the registered voters turned out for voting, some stayed in their homes because they were afraid that they would be killed or exempted from receiving food aid. That’s the reason why I approached the courts of law although l was doubtful at first.”

In the disputed results, the Zanu PF candidate Dingumuzi Phuti garnered 7 185 votes, against Maplanka’s 6 660 votes. Zapu candidate Artwell Ndlovu was third with 933 votes followed by MRP’s Aleck Moyo with 509 votes.

Overcoming countless obstacles, Maplanka successfully petitioned the High Court to nullify Phuti’s victory, the first court case of its kind after the 2023 elections.

Justice David Mangota granted her a default judgement nullifying the poll outcome, after which Phuti unsuccessfully tried to oppose.

“I feel that this is actually an encouragement to other women, that they should be brave and stand for their rights, and not allow themselves to be taken for granted especially when they are leaders,” Maplanka said, adding that the process was not easy.

“I faced a lot of intimidation, use of vulgar language, discrimination and there was no freedom of speech,” she said.

This extraordinary triumph not only reshapes the political landscape for women, but also serves as an inspiration as Maplanka rewrote history.

Maplanka’s story does not begin with this court case. For over a decade now, she has braved Zimbabwe’s hostile political landscape.

“I joined politics in 2009 when it was MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai (MHSRP). What pushed me is that I grew up in a rural area, a very poor environmental set up where I would walk for 20km to and from school. Most children were dropping out of school before they even got to Grade 7 because of the distance. There were also very few health facilities. Pregnant women used scotch carts to go to the clinics. I joined politics to make sure that there is change and development. I wanted better for the people of Bulilima,” said Maplanka.

“I faced so many challenges which include political violence, gender discrimination and lack of resources but perseverance, patience, confidence, focus and faithfulness took me this far. I can only encourage fellow women to be confident and have trust in themselves, stand up and take positions in the public office. Nothing impossible, sky is the limit,” said Maplanka.
Asked on her roadmap for the coming election, Maplanka says she is ready to put up rigging proof measures and defend the people’s vote.

“I will educate them about their rights and freedoms, map all the polling stations and train all the polling agents. I will also make sure that I get the voters’ roll on time and I will definitely report unlawful activities conducted by any political party members on the election day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) says although this is a victory for the women’s political rights movement, legal battles cost women a lot of time and resources.

“Constantly going to the courts takes away a lot of valuable time to implement developmental projects in constituencies and wards. Irregularities such as vote buying have been affecting women for a long time however there seems to be no political will from the principals to address the matter,” said WALPE media and publications officer Helen Kadirire.

“As WALPE we highlighted these issues during the internal political party selection process but to no avail. Vote-buying affects women as they do not have resources to embark on vote-buying and campaigning at the same time. Although women may understand the difference between vote-buying and campaigning, there is very little they can do because they do not have the resources to challenge these men.”

Kadirire added that women tend to face sexual harassment during election periods, and remaining in election mode puts them at more risk.

“While we may not have definitive statistics of sexual harassment, this is a very topical matter which is sensitive to women in politics. WALPE in partnership with other women’s rights organisations have petitioned Parliament on the need for a comprehensive Sexual Harassment Bill that incorporates the private and public sectors including the political sphere,” Kadirire said.

“If this is implemented, political parties will be compelled to ensure that they create conducive environments free from sexual harassment, intimidation and all forms of violence for women to freely and actively participate in political processes. The road is rough and bumpy. However, as women we need to stand together in solidarity with our fellow women leaders and give encouragement to continue on the course to leadership.” 

*This article was supported by the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Centre for Public Interest Journalism (The NewsHawks)

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