THE new draft constitution could be a boon for some high profile women MPs as it provides them with an escape route from contesting the high-stakes general elections which may result in their defeat.
Under the new constitution expected to sail through parliament early next month, women are guaranteed 60 seats on the basis of proportional representation.
According to MDC-T sources, the guaranteed seats have provided senior women party officials with a way out of possible defeat in next polls.
“(MDC-T deputy president) Thokozani Khupe and (Women’s Assembly leader) Theresa Makone are some of those women who are running scared,” said an MDC-T insider.
“A host of factors, including in-fighting, poor service delivery and competition from new aspirants has caused these and other women to opt out of their constituencies and take advantage of the new constitutional dispensation, or face humiliating defeat.”
Khupe, who is also deputy prime minister, defeated MDC leader and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube and Zanu PF’s Tshinga Dube in the Makokoba constituency in the 2008 elections, but her fortunes appear to have taken a severe knock after several clashes with senior Matabeleland-based party officials, including outspoken MP Tabitha Khumalo and Matson Hlalo, in highly publicised episodes of infighting which also saw some disgruntled party members crossing over to the MDC.
Senior party officials told the Zimbabwe Independent Khupe would leave the party’s Bulawayo provincial chairperson Gorden Moyo to contest the Makokoba seat and concentrate on campaigning nationally since she is the second most senior party official.
However, indications are that she is abandoning Makokoba to avoid looming defeat and is counting on party leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to appoint her to take up one of the non-constituency slots available for women.
Makone is also said to be considering standing aside for Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu in the Hatcliffe constituency. Makone is reportedly uneasy as Zanu.
PF is fighting to reclaim the constituency and has been investing in it heavily by providing housing stands to desperate home-seekers.
“Khupe and Makone’s behaviour militate against the empowerment of women that the constitution seeks to achieve” said the party source.
“Women should not be leaving the 210 constituencies to male candidates. They should be grabbing those and then taking advantage of the additional 60 available if they are going to achieve 50-50 gender parity in parliament.”
MDC-T is also seeking to replace Khumalo, Bulawayo East legislator, with academic Mandla Nyathi.
There are also moves to get out Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda and deploy someone more educated as the party seeks to bring in people with academic and professional expertise.
Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development deputy minister and MDC-T national executive member Jessie Majome professed ignorance over the developments saying the party and government should be adding more women to parliament, rather than using the 60 seats clause to subtract them from the 210 constituencies.
“I worry that if we do not ensure more women are elected in the 210 constituencies, come 2023 (when the 60 seats provision expires) we will be faced with the cruel irony of having fewer women in
politics than we had before this provision was enshrined in the constitution,” said Majome.