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Zimbabwe’s political parties – not for women

Zimbabwe’s harmonised election comes at a time when women in the country are seeking to increase their participation and inclusion in decision-making positions in political parties and government structures.

At the beginning of this year, the women’s movement launched the 50-50-advocacy campaign for gender parity in leadership, the Women’s Manifesto and the Women’s Charter. Despite all the effort, it would seem that very little effort is being made by the political parties to promote the participation of women in this year’s election.

Booting women out

So far Zimbabwe’s two main political opposition parties ZANU-PF and the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have failed to meet the minimum requirements set out in these documents.

The Welshman Ncube led MDC has dropped long-standing parliamentarian and women’s rights activist, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, in its just ended primary elections. On the other hand, only 23 out of the 120 candidates elected in the ruling ZANU PF party primary elections are women.

Last week the Nelson Chamisa led – MDC-T legislator, Jessie Majome became the latest victim of a purging of female candidature in political parties for the election slated for July this year. She joins other women who earlier in the year announced their intention to run as independent candidates that include, Fadzayi Mahere (Mount Pleasant) , Linda Sibanyoni (Harare East,) and Vimbai Musvaburi (Bulawayo South)

Majome, who has served two terms as Harare West’s member of parliament, withdrew from the party’s primary election, which would have seen her up against former student leader Joanna Mamombe.

However, the MDC-T has not only parted ways with Majome but also lost, former Deputy President of the party, Thokozani Khupe. Analysts have said that the MDC –T dealt with the ‘threat’ of having a woman leader by pushing Khupe out.

Majome’s side of the story

In an interview with Speak ZW contributor, Donald Mukota, Majome said she had been ‘managed out’ and refuted claims that she did not want to be contested, stating that she did not feel entitled to be member of parliament neither did she feel entitled to be the representative for Harare West. She said that she did not mind contests as long as they were conducted within set parameters.

In her withdrawal, Majome citied ‘irregularities’ which she said constituted manipulation of the party’s guidelines towards a fair outcome. She felt that her participation in the primaries would have meant that, ‘the will of bona fide and genuine Harare Westerners would have been lost.’

Harare West constituents have vowed to back Jessie Majome with Political commentator and Harare West constituent Rashweat Mukundu, taking to his Facebook page and writing, “I am convinced we Harare westerners have the capacity, both intellectual and resources to retain Jessie Majome as our MP.”

Baba Comfort another constituent said he would rally behind Majome saying “she is one MP who has contributed meaningfully in parliament and we still need MPs like her in the August House.”

Tsitsi who is a vendor at the Mabelreign People’s Market said she would vote for Majome on any day because she was a people person “MP wedu Majome munhu wewanhu, tinomuona muno muconstituency, anogara munho huye tinoziva kwekumuwana kana taiata matambudziko!”

“I deserve a free and fair electoral contest. In my view, politics should be civil and should not be a fight. I have been subjected to abuse on social media by different youth chauvinist groups within the party,” she said.

Pressed to elaborate on the nature of abuse, Majome said, she could not repeat some of the vulgarities. She however said that she had been told that she was old and should ship out and go and herd donkeys.

“I do not understand. I feel all this is just targeted at me even though I am in the same generation as my party president, Nelson Chamisa. I am 6 years older than him! So how is it that when it’s Jessie Majome seeking to contest, she is old and must go home and herd donkeys? So what is this about?” she said.

Contradictions on terms of office

The conversations arising from the terms of office that have been raised in relation to Majome’s candidature, raise concerns on the party’s gender sensitivity. Particularly when one notes that fellow members of parliament in the party including Tapiwa Mashakada (Hatfield), Innocent Gonese (Mutare Central), Paurina Mpariwa (Mufakose), Amos Chibaya (Mkoba) and Nelson Chamisa himself have served had more or less the same years in parliament.

Majome said that she had written to the party outlining five areas that had eventually led to the withdrawal of her candidature.

These, she said, included the disregard for the criteria that we as the party set for candidate selection, the bending of rules for primary elections in order to achieve a particular end or outcomes, lack of transparency, dishonesty and good faith in the conducting of official party business in the preparation for the Harare West primary election.

Majome said that as a result, she noted and experienced a disregard of the basic requirements of fairness in situations that involved two or more people who are vying for a position. She said that her candidature, in particular, was treated with great unfairness as decisions were made based on representations made about her that she was not privy to.

Asked to comment on whether the MDC-T remained a democratic party Majome said, “I would find it difficult and interesting to see how they say these particular issues are democratic.”

Struggle just got real

It would be an understatement to say that the struggle for women’s political emancipation and empowerment continues. Actually, the struggle just got real. There seems to be lack of sincerity on the part of the political parties to deal with gender parity, equality and inclusion in political office and processes. The question then is how do women move forward in pressing for what is rightfully theirs?


About the author:

Donald Mukota is a broadcast journalist with almost 20 years of experience. He has worked as a broadcaster for different radio station in Zimbabwe and for a print media house in South Africa. Currently he employed as a Talk show host on Capitalk 100.4 FM. Donald is an Advocate for Media Freedom, Freedom of Speech and Expression, Good Governance,Democracy and Human Rights.