Statement By Walpe|AS 1 000 aspiring women leaders who are members of Walpe, we submitted 1 000 letters to Parliament on Thursday 20 February, 2020 rejecting the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2.
The proposed Bill seeks to, among other proposals, extend the women’s parliamentary proportional representation (PR) quota system by 10 more years. The women leaders drawn from all the 10 provinces in Zimbabwe have been carrying out community consultative meetings with fellow women on the proposed amendment. They all agreed to reject the Bill in toto.
The main reason for rejecting the extension of the quota system is that it delays the achievement of gender equality in Zimbabwe by 10 more years. They cited that the extension is a ploy to avoid aligning gender parity laws with the Constitution, and in the process, maintain the status quo where women occupy less than 15% of all leadership positions in the country.
The quota system came into effect in 2013 when the country adopted a new Constitution. Section 124(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the women quota system of 60 seats in Parliament which are given to each political party based on their tally of votes in the National Assembly elections for each province.
“… For the life of the first two Parliaments after the effective date, an additional 60 women members, six from each of the provinces into which Zimbabwe is divided, elected through a system of proportional representation based on the votes cast for candidates representing political parties in a general election for constituency members in the provinces …”
The system had a sunset clause of 10 years and is supposed to expire in 2023.
When a constitutional Bill is proposed, Parliament through the Clerk of Parliament invites the public to submit its views regarding the proposed amendments.
The women leaders took advantage of the procedure and submitted their objections. Some of the issues raised by the women in rejecting the Bill are as follows:
Extending the PR quota system defers the achievement of gender equality in Zimbabwe by 10 more years. The existing system has been in effect since 2013. After two full cycles of harmonised elections and numerous by-elections, the net number of women in elected leadership positions has decreased. For example, the number of women MPs directly elected into constituencies dropped from 26 in the 8th Parliament to 25 in the 9th Parliament.
Political parties used the PR quota system to deny women (particularly young women) opportunities to compete for constituency seats. The system was abused by political party leaders, mainly men, to further divide women. The women were appointed on loyalty, bootlicking and factional basis, leaving out more deserving women.
The system also failed to produce many new leaders as the older women parliamentarians who had served for many years take “retirement” in the PR “safe seats”.
The PR system is a huge burden on the country’s fiscus, and a waste of taxpayers’ money as it leads to a bloated Parliament. Given the economic hardships facing Zimbabwe, the extra 60 seats on top of 210 are too many for the country and very costly.
Statistically women are the majority (52,3%) of the population yet they are disproportionately represented in leadership and decision-making platforms. Women are currently occupying an average 15% of all leadership positions nationally.
The women leaders were clear that what is needed is to fully implement sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution which clearly provide for gender equality in Parliament and all other leadership positions that include community level leadership positions such as school development committees, health centre committees, village development committees, ward development committees and also local government.
These positions are critical for women to occupy as key developmental decisions that affect women and girls more are made at these levels.
Walpe will continue to engage more women to air their views regarding the Bill and shall mobilise them to attend the Parliamentary public hearings on the Bill to be conducted across the country. The women will again reject the piecemeal approach to the achievement of gender parity in Zimbabwe.