Speaker calls for increase in female legislators

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
There is need to harmonise the national Constitution with those of political parties to combat the continued decline in female Members of Parliament, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda has said.

He said while the national Constitution provided for gender parity in Parliament, the supreme laws of political parties were silent, leaving women at the mercy of their parties.

Adv Mudenda said this on Wednesday during a meeting with members of the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute electoral observer mission for the July 30 harmonised elections that paid a courtesy call on him.

The mission, chaired by former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Johnnie Carson, is in the country to finalise its election observation report.

During the meeting, Ms Constance Newman, who held several positions in President George W. Bush’s administration, wanted to know challenges Zimbabwe was facing.

“One element, which I am concerned about as Speaker is that while our Constitution demands gender parity, but the constitutions of political parties do not demand that,” said Adv Mudenda.

“There is a contradiction between the constitutions of political parties and the national Constitution.

“This area needs to be addressed because if it is not, we will continue to experience diminishing numbers of female Members of Parliament. We used to have 35 percent, but we now have 31 percent. That is not good.

“If the national Constitution says we must strive for gender parity, the political parties must respect that by amending their constitutions so that there is equal opportunities for men and women who come into Parliament on equal basis.”

Adv Mudenda said one way of dealing with the challenge of gender parity was to extend the Constitutional provision providing for a 60 women quota system beyond 2023.

“Currently, our Constitution is a hybrid in that it provides a first-past-the-post and Proportionate Representative,” he said.

“Proportionate Representative is constitutionally grounded where you have appointment of six female MPs from each of our 10 provinces giving us a figure of 60 female MPs.

“Now, that provision expires in 2023. Because we have this challenge of gender parity we may sensitise MPs to ensure that Constitutional provision is amended so that it is open.

“In that respect we shall be guaranteed of 60 female MPs coming to Parliament.”

Adv Mudenda said political contestations, which saw the Constitutional Court adjudicating on a court challenge brought by MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa, was not unique to Zimbabwe as the United States had its presidential election dispute resolved by the courts.

“It reminds me, I hope you will not take offence, especially those who are American, when there was a dispute on the outcome of the election of George Bush, the matter ended up in courts,” he said.

“And it was finally arbitrated there. So, what happens to us here is not unique.

“The first nation in democracy has experienced similar problems where election results are contested and you end up at the highest court which makes the final determination.”

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