As we demonstrated in a recent study on risk aversion, Operation Murambatsvina [OM] had severe effects upon the population of Zimbabwe (Masunungure et al. 2017). The percentage of Zimbabweans that reported being “risk takers” in 1999 was 84%, but this dropped to a paltry 13% in 2005. Possibly the worst example of forced displacement in the past four decades, OM was recognised for having extreme adverse effects upon citizens’ shelter, livelihoods, health, and psychological well-being, but there have only been few studies on the long-term effects on citizen’s agency. An Afrobarometer report in 2006 detailed many of the economic and social consequences of OM (Afrobarometer. 2006), but what has not been examined in any great detail has been the consequences of OM on political agency.
This opinion piece makes a case for quotas, arguing their need as a correction for past practices and a system that has long proven its importance in achieving gender parity. Despite the challenges quotas present, there is need to extend the lifespan of the quotas in the National Assembly beyond 2023 to fully see the results.
In 2013, Zimbabwe enacted a new Constitution, including strong gender equality provisions that outlaw discrimination against women. The new Constitution promotes women’s full participation in all aspects of society and abolishes all “laws, customs, traditions, and practices” that infringe upon women’s rights and equality with men. But the Constitution’s mandate for gender equality is not necessarily reflected in Zimbabwe’s existing laws or practices. An initial step to address gender inequality and obtain tangible benefits for women and girls is to ensure that laws and policies meet the requirements of the new Constitution.
The Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU) undertook an analysis of the gender equality provisions under Zimbabwe’s new Constitution and compared these provisions to those constituted by select countries in the region.
New research by the Research & Advocacy Unit documents the experiences of women legislators under proportional representation and the perceptions other MPs have on the special measure to increase women representation. This report explores what challenges and opportunities the current MPs under PR have and what the next steps should be after the expiry of Section 124 in 2023. Learning from the shortcomings of the current quota system, the report further seeks to explore how women should utilise the current quota and what is the strategy beyond 2023 to ensure that gender parity is realised.
Women are under-represented in most if not all of Zimbabwe’s political institutions, irrespective of the fact that the Constitution, in sections 17 and 56 states that there should be equal representation. This current opinion piece discusses the problems and offers a range of solutions.
The motivation for the argument comes in the aftermath of the recent ground-breaking meeting held by female members of the opposition political parties in Zimbabwe. Attended by over 1,000 women, the strong consensus was that women are grossly under-represented in all the policy making bodies, and that it is time that this problem was seriously confronted.
Zimbabweans, just like many other Africans, may be described as ‘voters” but not yet ‘citizens” (Bratton & Logan.2006). Mahmood Mamdani’s (Mamdani. 1996) classic thesis about citizens and subjects in late colonialism seems to have no greater application than to Zimbabwe, a country in which the voice of the citizen has been largely non-existent since the colonisation in 1897. The idea that citizens are at the heart of the state has never been a central notion for the state in either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. The majority of the population were denied political voice of any significant kind virtually until the end of the settler state, forced into a brutal and bitter civil war after 1965, and were largely relegated to the minimalist role of mere voters since independence in 1980.
Surprisingly, studies have shown that Zimbabweans are a citizenry with high demand for democracy, high participation in elections, but very low demand for accountability. What might explain this? Is this “risk-aversion” (Masunungure. 2006), or is it something deeper in the Zimbabwean political psyche, what some might call Zimbabwe’s “political culture”?
It i evident that Zimbabwe has a very large population of young people. The 2012 Census reports that 76% of Zimbabwe's population is under the age of 35 years, giving Zimbabwe an enormous "youth bulge". Youth bulges can be sources of increased economic prosperity, as in China for example, or soureces of instability as has been argued by a number of authorities.
One important area in which the youth of Zimbabwe can contribute to the betterment of the country is through participation in elections. Here it was disappointing to see that that nearly 2 milliin persons under 35 were not registered voters in 2013. Did this represent apathy amongst the youth, the result of the difficulties placed intheir way in registering, or both?
Whatever the case, the lack of participation by the youth in elections casts a shadow over the claims that Zimbabwe makes to being a democracy, and may seriously undermine the legitimacy of any government that is elected without the consent of this substantial constituency.
The current opinion piece examines the issues around the participation of youth in Zimbabwean elections, highlighting all the concerns around their exclusion and raises the issues that need to be addressed.
It is conventionally assumed that the middle class will be the strongest defenders of democracy, and therefore it might be assumed that middle class women would be similarly so. However, this does not seem to be true for Zimbabwe where the middle class, and particularly young middle class women, seem disengaged from political life.
It is a conventional position that the middle-classes are the staunchest defenders of democracy, but recent research in Zimbabwe suggests that this is not the case in Zimbabwe. In this study, the educated, employed and urban, who may be crudely described as “middle-class”, were shown to be mostly uninvolved in the socio-political life of the country, and were described as “disconnected democrats” (RAU. 2015). Did this apply equally to men and women, especially as women are frequently argued to exercise less agency than men?
This notion was tested in a study using the most recent Afrobarometer data on Zimbabwe from Round 6 (2014). In this study two basic propositions were tested:
- Middle-class women will be more likely to support democracy and opposition political parties;
- Middle-class women will be more likely to show higher frequencies of social capital, political participation, and political efficacy.
Since the middle class is conventionally seen as the major defenders of liberal democracy, their role in Zimbabwe is worth understanding, but a recent study suggested that this might not be the case (RAU. 2015). In a highly patriarchal society such as Zimbabwe, the role of middle class women may take on an additionally important role, but a more recent study suggested that neither social class nor residence – rural or urban – were indicative of women’s participation in the political life of the country (RAU.2016). The defining criterion for women’s voice and participation was the strength of their belief in democracy. However, with nearly 70% of Zimbabwe’s population under the age of 35 years, the role of the young may become very important in determining the direction of the country’s politics, and hence the role of young women needs to be understood.
The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) conducted a study on middle class women under the age of 35, (defined as university educated, employed and earning above $600 per month as per the World Bank definition) that aimed at investigating what the views of this forgotten class has regarding politics in Zimbabwe and most importantly their participation. Focus group discussions and individual interviews were held with middle class women and one was held with middle class men. The focus group with the men was for comparative purposes to ascertain if their views were different. Both sexes had similar views and opinions on some issues but differed on others based on gender and societal norms.