Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) on 16 October 2019 launched their collaborative research report titled: ‘The Efficacy of the Parliamentary Women’s Proportional Representation Quota System.” The launch marked the apex of the research effort which commenced in July 2019 and reached out to 610 participants in 6 provinces (Bulawayo, Harare, Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland South) of Zimbabwe.
The key findings of the research show that the majority of the participants (65%) felt that there was an urgent need to fulfil sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe so that 50/50 gender representation in leadership positions is attained. However, participants also felt that Section 124 (b) of the Constitution which provides for the 60 proportional representation seats in the House of Assembly should not be allowed to expire without a credible and better alternative. The zenith of the proceedings was a panel discussion which presented on the possible pathways towards attaining 50/50 gender representation. The panelists comprised of seasoned women’s rights activists and elections experts who are Virginia Muwanigwa, Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) Chief Executive Officer, Tawanda Chimhini, Executive Director of Election Resource Centre and Commissioner Netsai Mushonga with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). From the panel discussion, there was consensus that only a proportional representation system can guarantee 50/50 representation for women in leadership.
The panel presented three possible models for attaining 50/50 representation. Virginia Muwanigwa presented on the first option of overhauling the electoral voting system from first past the post to a proportional representation system on a 50/50 gender representation party list basis. “…A proportional representation system of elections will definitely guarantee equal representation of women and men in leadership. It is achievable because our electoral patterns since 2000 show that voters actually vote for political parties when it comes to the House of Assembly elections and even for President,” she added.
The second option towards 50/50 was presented by ZEC Commissioner, Netsai Mushonga, she argued that it was possible to attain 50/50 by amending the electoral act and ensure that 50% of the constituencies are reserved for women. “…If the Electoral Act is amended so that 50% of the constituencies are contested by women candidates only, then 50/50 can be achieved. This will however require extensive stakeholder engagement so that everyone is abreast of the fact that gender equality is important and central to our constitutional democracy..,” she said while emphasizing the need to enact a law regulating internal political party processes to attain 50/50 at party level.
The third option towards 50/50 was presented by ERC Director, Tawanda Chimhini, he argued that a hybrid system of reserving a women’s quota and having direct elections on certain constituencies will result in 50/50 representation. Mr. Chimhini argued that, “this model assumes that we retain the 210 constituencies but have 150 directly elected through a zebra system (proportional representation). The remaining 60 constituencies will then be allocated to women on the basis of the votes garnered by each party across the 10 provinces.”
He further added that the model will have to work alongside incentives for having more women in parliament. “We can also take a cue from South Africa which gives more political party finances to political parties which meet a certain threshold of women in parliament. Of course this is not to commodify women representation but to promote it using clear incentives which induces a change of culture in political parties,” opined Mr. Chimhini.
Giving the way forward, WALPE Director, Ms. Sitabile Dewa said “…This launch marks an important milestone in our journey towards 50/50 gender parity. However, real work remains ahead as we will be engaging community members with the findings through outreach programmes. Through our targeted lobby and advocacy strategies, we will also engage political parties, Parliament and aspiring women leaders on the need for gender parity in leadership. We at WALPE and SAPST also expect everyone here to take up the gender equality campaign to your various spheres of influence…”
A documentary detailing the positive efforts made by PR MPs in Parliament and also in the communities was also launched at the same event. Ms Natasha Ntini from SAPST who officially launched the documentary highlighted that there has been a lot of negativity portrayed on PR MPs yet they have done a lot in terms of contributing to policy formulation and the development of the country. She thanked all the MPs who participated in the documentary which chronicles the gains made towards the empowerment of women. The launch was attended by civil society leaders, Parliamentarians, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, aspiring women leaders, the academia, political leaders and youth.
Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)