Free for All but Not Free for 52% : A Feminist Analysis of Zimbabwe’s 30 July 2018 Harmonized Election

Introduction

Zimbabwe held her historical Harmonised Elections on 30 July 2018. This was the first plebiscite without Robert G Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. The political environment in Zimbabwe has been very fragile around national elections, evidenced by the high levels of violence and intimidation during the elections in 2000, 2005 and 2008. Mugabe’s rule was generally characterised by political intimidation, violence and repression on dissenting voices and opposition political parties. Therefore, being a politically active woman in Zimbabwe has historically not been without risk. In 2008 the violence escalated, politically motivated rape and in some instances gang rape was used as a means to punish female opposition politicians, supporters or their spouses. Without the long standing two arch-rivals, 30 July was presented by Emmerson Mnangagwa as a break from the past, in which he invited observers from all over the world, thereby reigniting a re-engagement with the international community who had been prevented from observing elections in Zimbabwe by Mugabe. The new major presidential contendors became Mnangagwa leading the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and Nelson Chamisa leading a unified opposition political movemement under the banner of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance. Moreover, significant for the election was the diversity of political parties contesting, with a record of 23 presidential candidates on show, four of them being women and 19 men. With (i) the international observers and media on the ground; (ii) less incidences of overt violence; (iii) opposition parties’ rallies happening with minimal or no disturbances; (iv) civil society facilitating debates with candidates across the political divide on key policy and developmental issues; (v) state media covering opposition rallies (although still criticised for being biased), Mnangagwa strived to have 30 July Harmonised Elections pass the credibility test. However, observing the 2018 election with a feminist lens, it is obvious that although progress has been made, the political environment is still not conducive for women’s participation. This is the core issue we are responding to in this report.

Source: Institute for Young Women Development

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