'Female politicians hide in safe seats'

HARARE - Political analysts have condemned veteran female politicians who seized reserved safe seats at the expense of grassroots women.

MDC’s vice president Thokozani Khupe, seasoned members of parliament like Zanu PF Women’s League secretary Oppah Muchinguri, MDC founding MP for Mutasa Evelyn Masaiti, Zanu PF politburo member Abigail Damasane and Zanu PF Youth League member Annastancia Ndlovu are some of the stable political players that have confined themselves to the comfort zone.

Political analyst Phillip Pasirayi said the development was sad.

“There is not going to be any progress towards achieving 50-50 representation at this rate,” Pasirayi said.

“We were thinking that these seats would assist potential women who have no names, have not been in leadership and may find it difficult to rise.

“I am surprised that these women were in parliament to make policies that benefit themselves to maintain the status quo and not grassroots women. They have been there before, have made money but they are still clamouring for safe passage into parliament.”

The 7th 210-seat Zimbabwe parliament had a mere 18 percent female representation and the 8th Zimbabwe parliament will have an additional 60 reserved seats that have been accorded proportionally to the various competing parties.

Trevor Maisiri, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, described the development as distasteful and disenfranchising upcoming and young female politicians.

“It shows that despite the call for women empowerment in politics, they are pursuing the same discredited methods that their male counterparts have taken — that of protecting the positions of political elites,” Maisiri said.

“This does not indicate an intention of women political leadership renewal and neither does it promote the girl child’s hopes of being given space in politics.

These seasoned women politicians should have used their experience to go and fight it out in the open competitive election process and left these ‘safe seats’ for other upcoming politicians.

“As long as there is still this protection of political space for elites, then even the women’s quota seats in parliament will not help in advancing a broad based and empowering women political leadership in the country.”

Virginia Muwanigwa, a gender expert and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) director, said it will be incumbent upon the women who will make it under the reserved seats to build a critical mass of women parliamentarians who will ensure that gender equality and empowerment of women alongside men is part of the national agenda.

“It is a reality that while we would want all processes to offer equal opportunities to women and men. This does not necessarily happen and the parties themselves would be able to explain how experienced women politicians who have won seats before were deemed candidates for reserved seats rather than the constituency-based ones.

“For the WCoZ, ultimately what we are looking forward to is an increase of representation of women in parliament,” Muwaningwa said.

MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party looked at how popular the aspiring candidates were.
Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF spokesperson, said as a party their candidates were selected democratically during the primaries.

“As for Oppah Muchinguri, she is the party’s secretary for Women Affairs therefore she has a right to do as they would have agreed within the league,” Gumbo said.

While some took the easy route, others like vice president Joice Mujuru, Muchena and her deputy Jessie Majome, Bulawayo East MDC candidate Thabitha Khumalo, outgoing Regional Integration and International Cooperation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, squared it off with their male counterparts.

A total of 85 women having been elected into the lower house, translating to 33 percent representation.


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