by Kudakwashe Chitsike
In September 2013 the President selected his Cabinet and appointed only three women into it. Yet the Constitution clearly stipulates that Cabinet should have equal gender representation. In response to the queries raised pertaining to his decision to appoint few women, the President stated that there weren’t enough women qualified to fill the positions, as women are not sufficiently educated to take up these high government posts. This prompted me to write an open letter to the President. My letter was unfortunately not responded to.
Yesterday, as I was going through the daily newspapers, I read that the Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, had sworn in new Commissioners to the Judicial Service Commission. Out of curiosity, I checked to see how many women had been appointed and whether there were as many women as there were men. As to be expected, given the context of the Ministerial appointments, more men than women were appointed. Although congratulations are and remain in order to the appointed female Commissioners; Mrs. Priscilla Mutembwi and Mrs. Priscilla Madzonga, along with 6 other male commissioners, there is still need to interrogate this continuing culture of the exclusion of women from occupying key decision-making positions.
The Constitution stipulates in Section 17(1) (b) (i) that both genders should be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at all levels, and that (ii) women should constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed government bodies established by or under the Constitution and any Act of Parliament.
Clearly this has not been followed, and it raises questions; is our Constitution just a guiding instrument whose sections can be taken up or disregarded at a whim? If the Constitution says there must be gender equality why is this not being adhered to? Is the Constitution not the highest law in the land? So then if we do not follow it, how much more will we respect subsidiary legislation?
It is civil society’s job to raise these questions as our Constitution – which is not even a year old – is going to be meaningless. The women’s movement must work tirelessly to ensure that Section 17 of the Constitution is strictly followed, after all, this is one of the main reasons women were encouraged to vote for it. Let us not waste opportunities to raise issues as they arise.
There are 5 other commissioners that are yet to be appointed, I sincerely hope that most of the appointees are going to be women. There is no excuse to say there are no qualified women; especially women lawyers. If the relevant authorities are hard pressed to find qualified women lawyers, a simple phone call to Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) for recommendations will provide them with a long list to choose from.