Since the attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the number of women contesting political roles during elections in Kwekwe district has always remained low.
This challenge has been cited to be a result of a number of challenges ranging from lack of financial resources to fund campaigns, especially for independent candidates to lack of gender-sensitive policies in political parties.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) there were 251 candidates that successfully submitted their nomination papers in the local authority elections in Kwekwe in 2018 and out of these only 82 were women.
ZEC Chief Elections Officer for Kwekwe district Assan Mkwananzi told Community Voices Zimbabwe (CVZ) that in the National Assembly only 3 women registered to participate during the 2018 elections.
“In Kwekwe Central, Mbizo and Silobela constituencies no female candidates contested leaving 2 constituencies, Redcliff and Zhombe with 2 and 1 female candidates respectively. Generally, it can be concluded that there is still a very low participation rate of women contesting in elections,” he said.
People Democratic Party (PDP) president Lucia Matibenga alleged most political parties are hostile spaces for women because of the absence of deliberate affirmative action during candidate selection.
“Women have to fight it out with men at primary elections. The challenge is they lack financial resources-a key component in any election campaign,” she said.
“They also lack experience and exposure to effective methods of campaigning, and they also don’t get enough support from the electorate, especially during the primary elections period.”
Executive Director of the Women Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence Sithabile Dewa said women are discouraged from contesting during elections because of fear of victimisation and violence.
She reiterated that her organisation has been receiving various cases of politically motivated violence, noting that perpetrators are not being brought to justice due to their political affiliations.
“Looking at the rural setup, political violence and voter intimidation are some of the major factors pushing women away from the political arena. Traditional leaders in most rural areas are aligned to political parties hence threatening women to align to their preferred political party,” said Dewa
“However, unpaid care and domestic work have also limited the participation of women in electoral processes. Women are the major caregivers at the household level. They spend more time taking care of the family hence failing to participate in political processes.”
Dewa said a lot needs to be done to provide financial assistance to female candidates such as amending political parties finance Act Section 3 to ensure that a specific amount is allocated to promote candidates in political parties.
Former Kwekwe Mayor Angeline Kasipo and candidate for Citizens Coalition for Change in the local authority by-elections said there are several reasons why women are not as participative as men in elections.
“There is the issue of lack of resources. It is expensive to run an election, some women might not have the financial and material resources needed for the election process. Most of the women’s time is taken up with chores around the home. They would be left with no time or energy to run an election campaign.”
She added that women decide not to participate in elections due to fear of violence.
“Elections in this country are known to be violent. Some women stay away because of the violence. Also, some women might want to participate but their spouses refuse them permission to do so.”
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Kwekwe focal person, Partinella Ngozo said political parties do not have gender-sensitive laws to allow more female contestants to take part in elections. She said name-calling discourages some women from taking part in elections.
The United Zimbabwe Alliance party candidate for Mbizo, Gladys Mutunami, noted that participating in elections for women is a personal choice.
Zanu PF Kwekwe District Coordinating Committee chairperson Jacob Chokururama argued that women suffer from inferiority complex.
“Women fear to participate in elections where men are also taking part. They tend to compare themselves against men forgetting they also stand equal chances to win,” he said.
Five women are vying for the by-election seats in Kwekwe. Former Kwekwe mayor Kasipo who was recalled by the MDC-T together with her deputy Melody Chingarande will contest in Ward 10 and Ward 5 elections respectively under the CCC while Dadirai Christine Mapfumo will contest in Ward 8 under the MDC Alliance.
In the National Assembly by-elections Judith Tobaiwa, daughter to the late Kwekwe mayor Shadreck Tobaiwa, will represent CCC in the Kwekwe Central Constituency while Mutunami will contest in the Mbizo Constituency by-elections.