By Star Matsongoni
MASVINGO – A prominent women’s rights lawyer has criticised government’s move to extend the life of the proportional representation system beyond its 2023 end, saying the move was an attempt to perpetuate female servitude in politics.
In her contributions during a discussion jointly organised by TellZim and the Community Tolerance, Reconciliation and Development (Cotrad) Trust at Chevron Hotel on Friday, March o6, Lucy Chivasa said the system was meant to make female politicians forever grateful to the ‘benevolence’ of their male counterparts.
The discussion was also attended by the Co-Chairpersons of the now-defunct COPAC, Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora.
COPAC was the committee which spearheaded the constitution-making process during the inclusive government which ran between 2009 and 2013.
Section 124 of the constitution makes for a more gender-balanced parliament by providing for the appointment of 60 non-constituency legislators drawn with reference to the proportion of the total number of votes that a party gains in each of the country’s 10 provinces.
The provision is supposed to end in 2023 but government wants to extend the clause through one of the at least 27 amendments it wants to effect onto the constitution.
Chivasa, however, argued that on the surface, the provision seemed noble but was, in actual fact, bad for women’s development in the field of politics.
“We are tired of being a charity case. We must compete on an equal footing and be voted for; if we lose we lose. That would be the result. This whole idea of saying that since there are 10 men, there should be 10 women should stop. Rather give us a chance to be voted for in a fair manner.
“The bill seeks to extend the women’s proportional representation system for more years and that will be the single entry point for women to parliament. All those women will be at the mercy of men who will abuse them saying, ‘if you want us to include your name on the list, better do this and that for us’. What we want is a level playing field where female politicians can compete on an equal footing,” said Chivasa.
She also attacked the whole idea of amending the constitution, which she said needed to be defended not amended.
“Amending the constitution is retrogressive. We are not moving forward but rather going back to the Mugabe era where so much power was concentrated into the hands of one man. It’s shocking that this time around, you want to make it even worse.
“If it’s not broken why fix it? There is no reason to amend the constitution when we haven’t even implemented it to the fullest,” said Chivasa.
She said she was also particularly worried by provisions of the bill that seek to dilute the Human Rights Commission’s powers by giving some of the powers to a Public Protector who will be appointed by the President.