Women deserve fair treatment

HARARE - Former Vice President and now interim leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), Joice Mujuru, has been under scrutiny lately.

On the other hand, the grand coalition topic has resurfaced in the media and this time, it is around who will lead the coalition. Mujuru and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai are reportedly the front-runners.

Debate on social media and comments in the press are clear that Mujuru may not be the leader of the coalition in the run-up to the 2018 general election in which 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe indicated he will be running, making it his eighth term in office if he wins.

There are several reasons why Mujuru cannot be leader of the coalition.

The fact that she would still be in Zanu PF had she not been fired plays very much against her.

She would most likely not say a word against the arrest and elimination of opposition leaders and activists in the same way she did not stand up against the Gukurahundi massacres of the mid-1980s.

For 36 years, she stayed with a party and a government that she now criticises.

Even her attempts to show compassion to the people of Matabeleland today seems not genuine and smacks of hypocrisy.

The sudden willingness to compensate a white farmer who was forcibly removed from his farm appears like an attempt to manipulate the masses into believing that she is now and always has been moral and ethical during her time as a government minister and vice president of Zimbabwe.

She has not publicly spoken out against the abduction and torture of activists of the various movements that are staging peaceful protests around the country.

What is particularly striking is her silence on the treatment of women activists like Linda Masarira.

For feminists and women in opposition parties, this should be one of the main reasons why her credibility is in question with regards to leading the coalition.

All this having been said, it is not appropriate to use misogynistic and sexist language which demeans Mujuru.

Such language as can be found on social media is demeaning and disrespectful not only to Mujuru, but to women in general.

Discussions about her eligibility to lead the opposition coalition should stick to the facts and pertinent issues rather that degenerating into nasty comments about her physical appearance.

The press is also guilty of reckless and undisciplined language in their reportage on Mujuru.

Recently, one weekly paper published an article describing how Mujuru did not sit properly and “showed her hairy innards” when she was interviewed by Violet Gonda’s show In the Hot Seat.

Women have to fight for space and influence in the political arena and the battle for them is rendered more difficult due to the power differentials inherent in the patriarchal structure of our society.

Women generally hold weaker social and economic positions and their insistence on entering a predominantly male space usually results in tactics aimed at undermining their intelligence, their worth, their self- esteem and their efforts to contribute to the political debate both at party and national level.

These “below the belt tactics” are the reason many women stay out of politics. Many would rather not deal with the basic misogyny in politics which manifests not only in comments but in sexual harassment and assault.

The sad fact of the matter is that politics in Zimbabwe is a dirty game played by those who are profiting from the status quo.

It is a shame that when a woman commits herself to a life of politics she is also committing herself to a life of intimidation, ridicule, torture and marginalisation.

Women in politics have been called all kinds of derogatory names and they live under constant threats and disregard from their male counterparts.

At the constituency level, there are reports of women being raped and beaten as a way of forcing them out of politics, or to silence them when they challenge graft within their parties.

It is incumbent upon those involved in social and political commentary to write and speak responsibly and respectfully about women who are willing to serve in political positions.

The obsessive focus on Mujuru’s outlook is distasteful.

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