FEMALE politicians under the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) banner say the recalls by the party’s self-styled secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu have stolen opportunities which were presented to them during the 23 August elections, further widening the gender disparity in politics.
TAKUDZWA GIFT WASHAYA
The affected women fought hard to navigate the male-dominated political terrain during the course of the election campaign which was marred by violence and intimidation. Women were also victims of malicious acts during the campaigns.
They say the recalling of MPs, Senators and councillors as instigated by Tshabangu is a sign that he does not respect the efforts which women exerted to be elected into office.
“We thought we had made significant strides in terms of having a gender-just economy where women are given opportunities to occupy leadership positions,” said 25-year-old Anna Sande, who was chairperson of the Epworth Local Board before she was recalled by Tshabangu.
“Unfortunately, an individual such as Tshabangu comes in to effect an illegal recall on these elected officials, it becomes a challenge.”
Sande, who became the first and youngest-ever female chairperson of the Epworth Local board, said the recalls have become a stumbling block to women who have over the years been trying to make their voices heard in politics and governance.
“We need people who want to give women a chance,” Sande said.
“We don’t need men in our society like Tshabangu who just take raids from the people for his benefit.”
Born and bred in Epworth, Sande said the recalls are going to derail the initiatives that she had been implementing for the development of her community.
“I have been working with the girl child and young people in fighting prostitution and substance abuse,” she said.
“It’s part of the social contract which l should respect and with these recalls it is going to be hard.”
Another female politician, Shantel Chiwara, who was the mayor of Masvingo, said the recall of women MPs and councillors constitute an attack on gender parity in politics.
Chiwara, who believes CCC president Nelson Chamisa is the only person mandated to do the recalls, said Tshabangu’s actions are meant to undermine people on the basis of their gender.
“As for me l don’t approve this recall,” she said.
“l was recalled by Tshabangu, whom we don’t know. l was not recalled by president Nelson Chamisa and Tshabangu did this for his personal gains.”
She said there is no solid reason that can justify how young women were chucked out of local authorities and Parliament except to petrify them. “I see this is just a weapon used to cause fear in women,” she said.
“This is going to worsen the low participation of women in politics as they will be saying if we are to participate, we will be blown out within the blink of an eye.”
She implored all female politicians who were recalled to fight hard and retain their positions.
“As much as this is an attack, there is no smooth road to power,” she said.
“We need to brace ourselves and fight for our positions.”
Prior to her recall, she was working with the Masvingo urban communities in fighting early child marriages which are on the rise.
“For the short period of time we have been working with the girl child in fighting early child marriages,” she said.
“Unfortunately, with these disturbances it’s now hard for us.”
She said there is a need for intervention from the authorities to protect brave women who are participating in politics, adding that failure to do so will continue to worsen gender imbalance and tilt the political playing field against women.
“Authorities should do things right,” Chiwara said. “Failure to do so, no women from the opposition will be keen to participate.”
According to the Election Resource Centre, 14.3% of women participated in the 23 August polls in local authorities and 10.9% participated for parliamentary seats. With the current recalls, the ratio of women’s participation decreased, raising concern.
Women Academy for Leadership and Political Excellency (WALPE) director Hellen Kadirire said the recalls deter women from taking up positions due to fear of being targeted.
Kadirire said one of the implications is the continuous erosion of women’s participation in Parliament as by-elections do not guarantee whether political parties will field the same number of women they fielded in the 23 August elections or not.
“The recalls affect the number of women in Parliament as the by-elections do not guarantee that political parties will field equal numbers of women and men candidates, thereby further decreasing the women’s numbers in legislative positions,” she said.
Institute for Young Women’s Development coordinator for knowledge, management, documentation and advocacy Kudakwashe Munemo said the recalls came as a double tragedy to women, some of whom faced victimisation during the campaign period.
Munemo said the victimisation went through to Parliament where the recalled MPs were forcefully removed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) after Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda ordered their removal from the august House.
“The recalls added salt to the fresh wounds and it does regress gender equality gains made over time, especially with the level of chaos that was then witnessed in Parliament, which we feel is a disservice to the people of Zimbabwe who are paying their taxes,” he said.
“The kind of violent conduct showed by the ZRP members who displaced those recalled MPs to us is of great concern. When we are trying to mitigate violence against women in politics, it is actually sad to realise that the conduct opened room for the perpetuation of the same in Parliament.”
Munemo said the nation should respect the constitution by promoting gender equality and that more laws promoting women’s participation in politics should be enacted.
He said this will help in mitigating the problems that are stumbling blocks for the participation of women in politics.
“There should be a Gender Equality Act which speaks to how the sections on gender equality in the constitution can be operationalised,” he said.
*This article was supported by the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Centre for Public Interest Journalism (The NewsHawks)