Outrage over cabinet gender bias

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ZIMBABWE has since Independence in 1980 been making significant strides in ensuring gender parity in politics, the economy and the social sphere.

Faith Zaba/Hazel Ndebele

This makes last week’s claims by President Robert Mugabe who tried to justify his regressive male-dominated cabinet saying “there were just not enough women”, something of a shocker.

There are only three women out of 26 cabinet ministers, three out of 13 ministers of state and five out of 24 deputy ministers. Sixty women were elected to the National Assembly in accordance with the new constitution through proportional representation.

This effectively means that only 11,5% of the new cabinet is female, well below women’s 52% share of the population recorded in last year’s population census.

Explaining the gender bias in his government, Mugabe said: “This time we did proportional representation but there were just not enough women. Women are few in universities. It’s no longer necessary to do affirmative action. It’s free for all.”

Mugabe’s claims are untenable and unsustainable.

There are approximately 4 200 currently registered students at the National University of Science and Technology, of which 1 600 are females, while at the University of Zimbabwe the ratio is almost 50-50.

Mugabe’s statement outraged many Zimbabwean women, who felt he could have used the provision to appoint five ministers outside parliament to bring in women technocrats.

Instead, he opted for election losers, Jonathan Moyo (Information), Joseph Made (Agriculture), Lazarus Dokora (Lower Education), Martin Dinha (Mashonaland Central provincial minister) and Faber Chidarikire (Mashonaland West provincial minister).

There are many women who have left their footprints on the country’s economic and corporate spheres, whom Mugabe could have appointed.

These include people like Kingdom CEO Lynn Mukonoweshuro, CodChem managing director (MD) Marah Hativagone, former deputy labour minister Monica Mutsvangwa, NicozDiamond MD Grace Muradzikwa, Women’s University in Africa founder and Vice-Chancellor Professor Hope Sadza, Securities Commission chairperson Willia Bonyongwe, Securico founder and MD Divine Ndhlukula, TelOne MD Chipo Mtasa, MBCA MD Charity Jinya and Institute of Directors Zimbabwe director-general and Standards Association of Zimbabwe Eve Gadzikwa, to mention just but a few.

Despite the strides made in the last 33 years which saw Joice Mujuru being appointed the first female Vice-President in 2005, Mugabe has effectively appointed a cabinet that is only marginally different from his first in 1980 regarding women representation.

Then, only one woman, Mujuru, was given a full cabinet post as Minister of Youth, Sport and Recreation in Mugabe’s 23-member cabinet, while Victoria Chitepo was appointed deputy Education and Culture minister and Naomi Nhiwatiwa deputy minister of Post and Telecommunications.

Political analyst Blessing Vava said it was unfortunate that the president failed to conform to the Sadc protocol and is out of touch with the fact that in the progressive world patriarchy is on the wane.

“Globally, everyone is implementing gender equality; for Mugabe to say there are only three women in the cabinet because there are no educated women, is a lame excuse because the country has a lot of women with potential — there are women who have made it both in business and politics,” Vava said, singling out Mutsvangwa.

Laws and deliberate policies have been put in place and targets set to facilitate women’s inclusion in decision-making positions with Sadc and the African Union coming up with specific targets and deadlines for the attainment of this goal.

Sadc has mandated its members to give women 50% political representation by 2015.

With regards to women’s access to decision-making roles the South African parliament, which had a mere 2,7% representation of women before 1994, now has 42% representation since the 2009 elections following consistent improvement after each election.

South Africa’s 25-member cabinet has 13 female ministers and 16 female deputy ministers.

The majority of provinces are governed by women as five out of nine premiers in the country are women. Because of this deliberate policy to promote gender equality, there is an increasing number of South African women holding influential positions in organisations worldwide.

Former South African minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is now the African Union Commission chairperson; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is United Nations Development Programme director of Democratic Governance, while former South African Vice-President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was last month sworn in as United Nations Women Executive Director.

Rwanda is ranked first in the world for having the highest number of women in Parliament. Females constitute 56,5% of the Rwanda’s National Assembly and 38,5% of its Senate.

Rwandese President Paul Kagame’s cabinet reshuffle in February saw the inclusion of 10 women, equivalent to 35% which is above that country’s constitutional minimum requirement of 30%.

At Independence Zimbabwe adopted affirmative action and strategies to promote women in all spheres of society. However, Mugabe said despite the improvement of access to education, women continue to lag behind as they have not taken up opportunities to improve themselves, while others would not simply emerge.

“Let the women contest alongside men without any preferential treatment. But this time around, we had to do affirmative action, but the women would not emerge,” Mugabe said.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said Mugabe was being “disingenuous” when he claimed there were not enough women to choose from.

“All the five posts (of ministers who are non-constituency MPs) Mugabe allocated to men, most of whom had been defeated in either primary or general elections. I don’t think he was entirely being honest — he was rather disingenuous,” he said.

“There was a vast pool of women who may have been available outside partisan politics. It is unfortunate, but the president has not been honest.

“It is not a question of being educated but that most educated women are not excited by politics or they fear participation in politics. Also there are cultural constraints where women find it difficult to attend meetings in the evening.”

A Zimstat report titled Women and Men Report 2012 says while women’s dedicated efforts to challenge the status quo have allowed more women to reach positions of power in recent years, women continue to be under-represented in all areas of decision-making such as religion, the media, culture, law and military services.

“Women’s participation in political decision-making as full and equal partners with men has not yet been achieved,” reads the report. “Although women make up about half of the electorate and have attained the right to vote and hold office in almost all the countries of the world, they continue to be under-represented as members of national parliament.”

According to the report, in the inclusive government women in cabinet accounted for 14% of the 33 ministers, while 15% were deputies, 23,5% provincial governors and 10% of ambassadors.

In 2008, there were no women holding positions of town clerks and treasurers. There were eight female municipal heads to 16 males.
The new constitution, approved earlier this year, provides legal protection for women, including equal rights in the workplace and a 50-50 representation in all public offices, which includes cabinet.

National coordinator of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe Netsai Mushonga said it was disheartening that women were unfairly represented in cabinet.

“The new cabinet, on gender balance, is not guided by the country’s new constitution, the Sadc protocol which we signed and African Union’s Women’s rights protocol,” said Mushonga.

Director of the Women’s trust Memory Kachambwa dismissed claims by Mugabe that women in Zimbabwe were not educated enough to be in government. She said the only way women could thrive is by giving them the same opportunities as men.

“Most women opt for the corporate world as compared to politics because only a few are given the opportunity to prove themselves; women regard the corporate sector as a safer terrain compared to politics,” she said.

“We cannot hide our disappointment at having only three women in the cabinet. However, it was a political decision which we cannot do much about.”

Explaining his cabinet choices Mugabe said selections were mainly guided by educational qualifications, allegiance to Zanu PF and regional and ethnic balance.

2 thoughts on “Outrage over cabinet gender bias”

  1. Black Crow says:

    women have themselves to blame. they constantly boast about forming the majority of the population and they are very quick at furnishing us with statistics to back their claims. right now if we look at the voting patterns, the very same women will tell us that they are the ones who went out in numbers to vote.

    so if they have numbers as their strength, why didn’t they vote for people who would champion for their cause? how many women stood for election but fell by the wayside? were there no women to vote for them? you are the ones who discriminate yourselves by not supporting each other and all what men are doing is just putting icing to the cake you would have baked.

  2. King Tubby says:

    “Outrage” my sweat-stinking foot! Is it news when Mugabe shows SADC Protocol the middle finger? Is his trashing of SADC not the reason our elections are in dispute? Disabuse yourselves of this naivety that Mugabe can play fair. Idiots.

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