Zimbabwe women cast away in the new dispensation


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When the author asked him about these comments after his appearance at Chatham House, he claimed they were taken out of the context, though he has since apologised publicly.

Chamisa’s attitudes to gender were already viewed sceptically by some.

He became president of the MDC this February after Morgan Tsvangirai passed away.

It was legally debatable who should replace the long-time opposition leader, but Chamisa acted first in getting the party’s national council to appoint him acting president.

In doing so, he outfoxed Thokozani Khupe, the MDC’s vice-president and leading female politician, who was then expelled from the party.

Since then, the opposition has not corrected Khupe’s absence by appointing more women into its executive structures.

This is worrying for an opposition party which claims to be progressive, but reflects the patriarchal nature of Zimbabwe’s political elite circles.

In Zimbabwe, women are broadly absent from positions of power.

However, even when women do end up in influential roles, they come up against other engrained barriers.

Oftentimes, gendered issues in Zimbabwean politics are tokenised where women are seen as additives to the political struggles but never as active political agents.

The inclusion of women is not seen as an obvious prerequisite to representative decision-making, but as a box to tick.

The few women who do ascend to positions of influence tend to be unwilling or unable to champion a truly feminist agenda and pave the way for a more inclusive politics.

Women already in prominent positions are also always treated in the same reductive and limiting way.

Every woman who progresses in politics is ultimately referred to as Amai (Shona for ‘mother’).

This was the case with Mujuru, Khupe and even Grace Mugabe.

This labelling reflects broader associations of women solely with stereotypes that reinforces women’s supposedly inherent nurturing qualities, and cements male-driven standards for what female politicians should be like.

This further restricts the possibilities and roles available for women in power, while typically opening them up for closer scrutiny than their male counterparts.

When Mugabe left power after nearly four decades, Zimbabwe had an opportunity to reflect on the past and address it with all those groups of society who remained historically marginalised.

Yet while attention may have been directed towards the economically-excluded and the country’s young people in this moment, women continue to be side-lined.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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