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Is there a gendered voting nature in Zimbabwe
Janah Ncube
February 22, 2005

The debate that has been sparked by two of Zimbabwe's great freedom fighters Hon Priscilla Misihairabwi and Grace Kwinjeh is an important one and it is my hope that it shall be carried forward even beyond these upcoming elections. Is there really a gender vote in Zimbabwe? Are women mobilised to vote one way or another and as such can any one particular party sway their votes over an issue or action? Certainly, the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe are generating many kinds of speculations and anxieties due to the political dynamics of Zimbabwe, which are extremely different today from both 2000 and 2002.

It is true that ZANU PF has not been overly bothered by women's issues or by women as a group both in the past and in the present. It has dealt with women and their issues at its convenience and when exploiting for sprucing up its image. This unfortunately does not mean that the MDC on the other hand cares for women as a group or their agenda. Infact for me, this is one issue the MDC failed to make the most of and failed to address right from its inception. The MDC, which promised better for all, did not, has not delivered to women and for women both within the party and in the general public. While ZANU PF maybe playing the gender ticket for many reasons including trying to garner more votes, I doubt very much that it will succeed in this regard.

As long as the women’s movement in its broadest definition does not raise the scale on the gender vote by mobilising women behind the gender vote, women will continue to vote for the political parties they are members of without demanding those parties to deliver for them. Zimbabweans are not going to vote for policies or even personalities. The voting agenda unfortunately remains unchanged from 2000 and 2002, those who want change will vote for MDC, those who are intimidated will vote for ZANU PF together with the few who really are committed to what ZANU PF used to be about. The sad thing is this time round most people may just not be bothered to go and vote. This is the greatest challenge this election faces.

Those of us in the women's movement acting outside political parties have failed to generate gender issues as currency in political processes. We have failed our sisters acting in the political parties by not ensuring that women and gender issues become an integral part of the current political struggles besieging Zimbabwe. This is more so because the most violated and most degraded persons by the current regime and the current politicking are of a female gender both in extent and in numbers. We have not mobilised women to prioritise women’s issues and concerns over their political parties. We have failed to show why its important to have many more women representatives in our political systems, many more women who will stand to defend women’s concerns and women’s issues at policy making.

It took the women in ZANU PF 20 years to coerce their party to ensure that a 30% quota would be allocated for them in all their party structures. To get this, they literally had to mobilise thousands of women and barricade their party offices before the male patriarchs conceded. They did the same thing with the Vice Presidency, coaxed their way to desired results. While there are little more women in the party structures and now their general elections candidacy list, they are compromised by the powerlessness that falls on those granted a favour and accommodated by the chefs. Their strategies in the party and in government are continuously those asking and if asking fails begging, ego dressing, manipulation and buttering to get gains for women. Thus whatever progress ZANU PF made, some women within its system had to work hard at it.

MDC on the other hand has fewer women within its structures at all levels and even fewer women candidates than promised by the party or expected by those seeking to see positive gender changes in Zimbabwe’s sought democracy. At their own admission as said by Hon Misihairabwi and Grace Kwinjeh, those in the system are having to struggle and fight the system of patriarchy which the party is structured and operationalised under. It certainly is not easy for the women active in this system and will not necessary attract the much-desired votes.

The women of Zimbabwe are highly politicised, along party lines not on issues. While many may agree with ZANU PF implementing quotas for women up to the Presidency it does not translate to the fact that they like ZANU PF and thus shall vote for it. They are too hungry and angry to be so easily swayed. ZANU PF did what was right but it does not mean one right covers for the thousand wrongs. While MDC may have disappointed many who expected more from it, it does not mean they will change their votes as their motivation for supporting MDC is not its policies but the hope it brings them.

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