AS Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world this year in commemorating the International Women’s Day marked under the theme “Pledge for Parity”, the country appears to be struggling to fully comply with a new constitutional requirement that demands that women — who make up the majority of the country’s population — have at least an equal say in public affairs, a research by the Financial Gazette reveals.
Section 17(1)(b)(ii) of Zimbabwe’s new Constitution that came into effect in 2013 states that: “The State must promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society and in particular …must… take all measures including legislative measures needed to ensure women constitute at least half of the membership of all commissions and all elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament.”
According to the results of the 2012 national population census, at 52 percent, women are a clear majority, but this majority does not reflect in most public institutions, although the country — though struggling — appears to be making modest progress in bringing more women into leadership positions.
After the unceremonious exit of former vice president Joice Mujuru from the ruling ZANU-PF and government, men — President Robert Mugabe and his two deputies, Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa — currently occupy all the coveted top three positions in the Executive arm of the State.
At its last annual conference held in December last year, the ruling party came up with a resolution to re-introduce a female member into its Presidium — which member would automatically become one of the country’s two vice presidents — but as the party reels from feral factional fights, that resolution is yet to be implemented.
Of President Mugabe’s now ever-changing 30-member Cabinet, only four are women.
The same situation obtains in the case of ministers of state for provincial affairs, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, directors as well as ambassadors posted around the world, among other key appointments made by the Executive.
The same holds true for the composition of boards of the country’s 100-plus public enterprises — there are more men than women appointed to these positions.
In the legislative arm of the government, there are also far fewer women in positions of influence.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly is Jacob Mudenda, who is deputised by Mabel Chinomona and Edna Madzongwe is the President of the Senate who is deputised by Chenhamo Chimutengwende, while men chair most of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, possibly a reflection of the gender complexion of Parliament itself, which is male-dominated.
The Judiciary arm of government is no different. Traditionally, a male-only area, it came as a surprise to many that the Supreme Court building was set up to house three male judges only and had no facilities for female justices, because it was previously unimaginable that a woman could rise to a position of advocate, let alone a Supreme Court judge, in order for them to have any business in that building.
However, although things have changed at the Supreme Court, whose bench today has five men and five women, the top two positions on that bench — that of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice — are currently occupied by men, Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Justice Luke Malaba respectively.
Of the 45 judges on the High Court, the Labour Court and the Administrative Court benches, just about a quarter of them are women.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which according to Section 189 of the Constitution, is supposed to be made up of 13 members, currently has 10 members, of which only two are women. This is a slight improvement from the previous male-only six-member JSC.
However, in the case of the JSC, the majority of its members constitutionally become commissioners by virtue of the public offices they already hold. These include the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, the Prosecutor General, the Attorney General, the chairperson of the Civil Service Commission and the Chief Magistrate.
Zimbabwe has six independent constitutional commissions that include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC), the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), as well as the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC).
Of these six commissions the NPRC is still to have its commissioners unveiled.
Of the existing five constitutional commissions, only three comply with the gender requirements of the Constitution. These are; ZHRC (four men, four women), ZEC (five women, four men) and ZGC (five women, four men). The nine-member ZMC that was sworn in 2010 — which then included the now former Cabinet minister, Christopher Mutsvangwa and the late Lawton Hikwa — has only three women on it.
Only three women are commissioners on the nine-member ZACC chaired by Job Wabhira, who is also a member of the Civil Service Commission.
Only the Justice Rita Marakau-chaired ZEC and ZGC — which is chaired by Margaret Sangarwe-Mukahanana — are chaired by women, while ZHRC (chaired by Elasto Mugwadi), ZMC (chaired by Godfrey Majonga) and ZACC have women as deputy chairpersons.
Notably, ZEC which is chaired by Justice Makarau, has another woman, Joyce Kazembe, as its deputy chairperson.
Only the Mariyawanda Nzuwah-chaired Civil Service Commission is overly compliant with the Constitution as five of its eight commissioners are women.
The Uniformed Forces Service Commissions Agency is made up of the Defence Forces Service Commission, the Police Service Commission and the Prison Service Commission, which are all male dominated.
While the various commissions are busy on their respective work, what makes some of their work tricky are the cases where some of them are constituted in a way that is not compliant with the gender-parity requirements of the Constitution as there is a real possibility of any party aggrieved by decisions made by a commission so composed to challenge their legality on the technicality that their composition is not in conformity with the supreme law of the land.
Lawyer and Harare West legislator, Jessie Majome, who is a member of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, told the Financial Gazette that the committee has always highlighted the constitutional shortcomings of the compositions of some of these commissions and other public appointments.
“We’ve raised this issue in the Parliamentary Legal Committee as well as ad nauseum for other boards which were gazetted,” she said. firstname.lastname@example.org
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