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Zim political parties undermine women representation: Walpe

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THE Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) has expressed concern that the country’s biggest political parties Zanu PF and CCC fielded a few women in the 23 August 2023 general elections.

The final candidate list released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) following the sitting of the nomination court last Wednesday revealed that the two parties fielded less than 12% of women to contest the 210 National Assembly constituencies.

Zanu PF fielded 23 women (11%) while CCC had 20 women candidates (10%).

In addition to this, no woman will contest the presidential election after Linda Masarira and Elizabeth Valerio were disqualified by Zec. They failed to raise the required US$20 000 candidate fee by the Wednesday deadline.

WALPE says the failure to ensure increased participation of women violates the constitution.

“This in itself is a clear violation of sections 17, 56 and 80 of the constitution which call for gender equality in all sectors, including politics. It is also an indictment on the political unwillingness of both parties to afford women their right to equal and fair political participation and representation in leadership positions,” the organisation said.

“The final list also violates Zimbabwe’s commitments under the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development which the Zimbabwean government ratified in 2009, and which came into effect in 2013, which called for at least 50% representation of women in public and private decision-making by 2015.”

WALPE said provisions in the constitution for proportional representation (PR), were supposed to complement the number of constituency seats, but were now being used to shut women out “from the very same elected seats by men ostensibly because they already have the 60 PR seats”.

“WALPE unequivocally reminds political parties and all stakeholders that the PR seats are not meant to replace women’s fair and equal rights for constituency seats, but are meant to deal with the historical marginalisation of women in politics and decision-making,” the organisation said.

“The political parties signed the Women’s Charter presented to them by women’s rights organisations on 23 February 2023 and pledged to abide by the tenets of the constitution which provides for 50-50 representation. Political parties’ lack of seriousness as evidenced by the Zec list therefore exposes that the signing of the charter was tokenism and a piecemeal attempt by them to silence the many aspiring and women leaders who had worked hard to stand for publicly elected leadership positions.

In their internal selection of candidates, political parties stand accused of vote-buying and bulldozing men ahead of women into ward and constituency posts, a testament to the negative patriarchal tendencies of our society. This has left women to all scurry for the few seats available on PR.

WALPE said political parties should desist from making empty promises about women’s inclusion and gender parity which are not fulfilled.

The organisation said many women feel compelled to mobilise themselves and not vote for political parties that do not reflect equal representation in their party lists.

“That may be the only way to present a clear message that women are serious about equal representation in leadership,” WALPE said.

ALPE made the following recommendations:

  • The existence of the proportional representation (PR) seats should not be used by political parties to exclude women from the elected National Assembly constituency seats.
  •  Political parties live up to the provisions of the constitution which demands for the upholding of gender equality.
  • The Zimbabwean government must adhere to the constitution and the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development’s stipulations for 50-50 representation by putting in place measures that ensure political parties honour commitments to gender inclusion and parity.
  •  Independent commissions that support democracy must redouble efforts to make sure political parties adhere to gender parity in elections.
  • To defend their right to participation in decision-making, women must rally behind all the successful female candidates who are vying for public office in the forthcoming elections.
  • Women must mobilise themselves to challenge and protest the outcomes of the final Zec candidate list.
  •  Women’s organisations and broader civil society must continue exposing political parties for their blatant lack of principled conduct on women’s representation.
    — STAFF WRITER.

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