WALPE’s Response to Hon Mliswa’s Utterances on Proportional Representation MPs

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), notes with concern the retrogressive statements uttered by Norton Constituency Member of Parliament (Independent), Hon. Temba Mliswa to the effect that women MPs under proportional representation (PR) come to Parliament “to sit and do nothing.”

He goes further to insinuate that because of this, the women’s Parliament quota under the PR system should be reduced to 20 with the remaining 40 seats allocated to youths (20) and the disabled (20). As WALPE, we acknowledge the need to for all marginalised groups to be empowered and get representation in decision making platforms. However, we believe that an empowerment programme can be done without disadvantaging an already marginalised group. In other words, it is possible to empower people with disabilities and youths without disempowering women the two are not mutually exclusive.

The statements by Hon, Mliswa are saddening especially coming from someone who has also charged that Parliament is not a safe space for women leaders to freely and actively contribute to policy formulation. Women Parliamentarians have carried the heavy burden of being heckled and sexually harassed by men in Parliament.

In addition as a country and society, women are still saddled with patriarchal prejudices and stereotypes which limit the scope of their participation. Political parties where these women are selected from are male dominated organisations where intra and inter party violence, vote buying and bullying continue to limit the scope of women participation.

Therefore, as a country we are still at a stage where representation by way of numbers still matters. It means a lot for young girls to grow up knowing that women too can lead and they can see women Parliamentarians leading. This will change their world view and build confidence for them to also seek to participate in leadership.

Real transformational change is a process because it involves the entirety of society changing their way of doing things. Surely its illogical to expect that in just 6 years of the quota system, women are already empowered enough to undo centuries of domination by men which in any case is still ongoing. That is why at WALPE, we believe leadership capacity can be developed and enhanced through deliberate programmes targeting women.

It is also our contention that any policy changes regarding the status of women and the PR system must be informed by empirical evidence and not impulse and emotions. Some women MPs on PR are denied entry into constituencies to do programmes by paranoid constituency MPs, who are mostly men who feel that their power base would be swept from them if these women start working with the people. Further, many of the women on PR seats work hand in glove with a variety of stakeholders who are involved in various policy advocacy initiatives in areas such as health, education, women empowerment, and youths among others.

Therefore, it is inherently unfair and unjust to judge women MPs on PR by what they have said in parliament only. The women have also being actively contributing to portfolio committees but these significant milestones go unreported. Our parliamentary system is operated by a whipping system which means that the male dominated parties design the party parliamentary caucus agenda which as always would give men more voice as they are always used to “hear themselves”. In any event, the majority of male MPs themselves have barely added anything sensible to national policy debates, rather they are known for singing and heckling. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander and by Hon. Mliswa’s reasoning, then 90% of men in parliament should be removed because they have contributed nothing.

We therefore challenge Hon. Mliswa to desist from using a combination of the ad hominem fallacy and sheer populist demagoguery when addressing critical issues such as women’s representation in Zimbabwe. Policy makers must frame their arguments within the confines of reason and logic which brings all the relevant factors affecting an issue into perspective. To simply say women MPs have not delivered based on just one dimension is totally misguided and Hon. Mliswa should know better.

As WALPE, we underscore our commitment to women empowerment in leadership, and we are in the midst of conducting a research into the PR system which will inform our advocacy on the nature of changes to be undertaken as the quota system comes to an end in 2023. WALPE shall advocate for provisions that will make sure there is 50/50 gender representation in all leadership positions as per the Constitution of Zimbabwe in section 17, 56 and 80. We will also be producing a documentary showcasing the work that women on the PR seats have done in communities to make Zimbabwe a better country for all.

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Source: Women Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)

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