Women speak on quota system as by-elections approach

By Loveness Nyathi

WOMEN have expressed differing views on the gender quota system on female \candidates as parties prepare for by-elections.

While there are mixed signals on the holding of by-elections, parties, including governing Zanu-PF, have gone ahead to select candidates that will contest on their behalf.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission announced early September that by-elections for vacant seats would be held in December but Government has put them on hold citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the discussions around candidates has not stopped and among the issue of female quota seats has been topical with women expressing differing views on the system.

Thandekile Ndlovu a gender expert believes the gender quota system should not be viewed in isolation but as wider measurers to empower women leadership across the spectrum of society.

She said reserving a ward specifically for a woman candidate, more so one that has previously been a woman’s constituency is in my opinion a step towards increasing women’s participation in leadership positions. It is a clear message by the political party, in terms of their commitment to and political will, in upholding gender balance as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and at regional level the AU protocol on 50-50 representation as well as the SADC protocol on gender and development.

“However, it should not be an avenue for abusing women or disrespecting them. A support system will be needed for the women so that they are then not seen as of lesser value as has been the experience with the women’s quota in parliament being referred to as bacossi, a derogatory term for things of lesser value.

“For me the strategy goes beyond just having the ward set aside for women but has to go further and consider how the women will be identified and selected, their protection against different forms of abuse within the party structures.

“It’s broader than just the political party’s systems and policies because at the end of the day the electorate will have to buy into the strategy as well,” said Ndlovu.

A woman, who identified herself as Prisca said she was not in support of the system as it had all the hallmarks of tokenism.

“I do not support quota system as it smacks of tokenism. I believe gender equality as provided in the Constitution is what must be done.

“Since we have 29 Wards in Bulawayo, what I believe should happen is that half are reserved for women with the other half going to men. That way we achieve the 50-50 representation as it is outlined in the Constitution,” she said.

MDC-A has announced they have reserved the Bulawayo Ward 8 seat for a female candidate, and spokesperson, Kwanele Bango said confirmed the development, saying it was a resolution they made during a provincial executive meeting.

The deputy treasurer and provincial executive member said gender balance was part of their policy with certain seats reserved for women.

Siphethokuhle Tshuma said it would be difficult for women to get equal representation if it was left to political parties adding an ideal scenario would be where ZEC decides which wards or constituencies should be reserved for women.

“There is no uniformity among parties as you may find the same ward or constituency have both male and female candidates although some political parties would be saying they are reserving it for a female candidate.

“It results in women competing against men and at times losing lowering those who head to Parliament or Councils,” she said.