HARARE – As the country gallops towards the eagerly-awaited 2018 national elections, calls for a woman to challenge President Robert Mugabe are getting louder with the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) yesterday saying the time is now ripe for the country to have a woman leader.
This comes as a civic society group, Women4Women, and female politicians drawn from different political parties have joined hands to launch aggressive campaigns targeting women to increase their participation in next year’s polls.
At the same time, the Women Electoral Convergence (Wec) — a grouping of politicians drawn from various political parties — has caused ripples within the opposition movement where there are growing fears that former Vice President Joice Mujuru could use the platform to launch her bid to lead the mooted grand coalition at the expense of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Speaking yesterday after the release of a survey by the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe (WCoZ), ZGC chairperson, Margaret Sangarwe-Mukahanana, said former vice president Joice Mujuru’s experience in government was testament of what could happen in 2018, although she did not mention her by name.
“Zimbabwe is ripe to have a female president because previously we had a female vice-president. So if we could have that it would show that the country is ready and setting precedence over others,” Sangarwe-Mukahanana said.
WCoZ national coordinator Sally Ncube also weighed in saying while a female president may be needed, it was critical that an appropriate candidate be chosen.
“Zimbabwe has been ready for a leader who is responsive to the needs of the citizens. If there is any bold woman out there who wants to give that to the citizens and transform their livelihoods then they should step up.
“All it entails is that someone should come out and pronounce that they want a position in the presidium and the electorate will respond,” said Ncube.
She, however, warned that if women were placed in such leadership positions, and they view situations in patriarchal lenses, citizens would be bound not to see the real reason why women should be placed in such positions.
“Even if we have women in leadership positions, they are operating in a patriarchal context and institutional framework, which clouds their judgment and reason.
“When women do not support each other, it is actually a divide and rule tactic that is played by men,” warned Ncube.
Mujuru, who now leads the fledgling National People’s Party (NPP) following her inglorious exit from the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), has in recent weeks punted herself to lead the envisaged grand coalition, at the same time seemingly questioning the suitability of Tsvangirai to front the mooted alliance.
The former Zanu PF second secretary has been holding meetings in provinces with colleagues such as MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe and ex-Cabinet minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga under the Wec platform in a bid to lure women to vote in next year’s elections.
Wec is a non-party specific platform, driven by women politicians drawn from different political parties to encourage the feminine gender to register and vote for next year’s elections.
Apart from mobilising for voter registration, Wec is also advocating for an increase in the number of women who hold political office.
Some senior officials in the MDC are suspecting that the Wec platform is aimed at puncturing Tsvangirai’s mooted bid to lead the envisaged coalition.
Matters came to a head last month when MDC tried to disrupt, but without success, a Wec meeting in Bulawayo where Khupe was among the participants at a gathering addressed by Mujuru.
Tsvangirai’s backers alleged there could be a deal between Mujuru and Khupe to derail the popular former trade union leader’s presidential bid, and were particularly not happy that their vice president had chosen to attend the Wec meeting, which they perceived to have acted as a distraction to their scheduled rally in Gweru the following day.