Lack of financial clout hampers female politicians

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ELECTORAL campaigns require a lot of money for campaign vehicles, fuel, adverts or posters, and even paying agents.
BY VENERANDA LANGA

Women generally have no financial clout compared to their male counterparts. This has been used to their disadvantage during elections when men dangle money or food handouts to garner support.

During the 2018 elections campaign period, whenever male candidates refrained from using violent tactics to scare away females from contesting, the most commonly used tactic was use of money to buy votes or to endear themselves to supporters.

Female candidates like Marbel Nkatazo who contested for the Murehwa North constituency during the Zanu PF primary elections and Irene Zindi (Mutasa South) said their opponents dangled money to voters and as a means to badger them out of the race.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa also touched on the thorny issue while addressing members of the Zanu PF Women’s League at the party headquarters in June.

Mnangagwa admitted that women have been hounded out of this year’s elections by men who used different tactics including financial muscle, describing the tactic as “macho skills” to elbow women out of the contest.

The President said only 22 female candidates out of 210 managed to win during the Zanu PF party primaries.

“The Constitution should be amended to ensure more women get into Parliament,” Mnangagwa said as a way to appease the women that lost the Zanu PF primary elections.

Zindi said her opponent, Misheck Mugadza, had financial advantage as a lawyer by profession.

She said the method which he used was to financially drain her through lawsuits. One of the lawsuits which she claimed was fronted by Mugadza pertained to reports that she had fraudulently acquired a council house.

“Mugadza who is a lawyer used the tactic of taking me to court on different fabrications and this financially drained me. He had financial muscle. I did not have the kind of money that he had. He had been using his money to attend different funerals and functions to donate stuff to people and in the process creating financial competition between us. No female MP can sustain that,” she said.

Zindi said Mugadza’s move created a situation where voters then concluded that women were incapable of leadership and men were better than women.

Zindi’s male opponent was said to have lured other women with his money and caused them to fiercely oppose Zindi’s candidature.

“I feel that there is unfair competition and if the 50/50 gender parity ratio is to be achieved, then all political parties must say that all sitting female MPs must not be contested. They can even say that at all constituencies where there was a female sitting MP, only females should contest each other during primary elections so that those seats continue to be retained by females,” she said.

Mutare had 24 constituencies won by Zanu PF in 2013 and of those, only three females won seats. With loss of seats by female candidates in 2018 it means that female representation in Parliament is likely to dwindle from the current 35%, and it will be unlikely to get 105 seats for women in 2018.

An online survey by think-tank Research and Advocacy Unit on young women and elections noted that in local government there was 16% representation of women and 35% in Parliament, which was bolstered by the quota system in accordance with section 124 of the Constitution.

“Without section 124 of the Constitution (quota system) the figure of women in Parliament drops to 17%, and in Cabinet there are only 12% women. This is not because the women are not interested in taking up these leadership positions, but rather they are overlooked in favour of men,” Reyhana Masters, a researcher with RAU said.

In Murehwa North, Nkatazo said she did not have as much money as her opponent Daniel Garwe who won the Zanu PF primary elections.

“As a female contestant I did not have as much money as Garwe who moved around the constituency with war veterans pretending that they were campaigning for Mnangagwa’s Presidential bid, and yet they were actually campaigning for him. I was so disappointed because I thought that I would be given a chance as a woman,” she said.

“Whenever we mounted my posters, they would tear and remove them. There was also a lot of vote-buying whereby people were given money and food handouts to coerce them to vote for Garwe.”

Nkatazo said during the voting day there was a lot of bussing in of voters, and old people were carried in lorries to vote for Garwe. She said she had no money to do the same.

Theft of ballot papers and rigging

In a dramatic feat which females are unable to attain, Nkatazo said during election day when Zanu PF primary elections were held, Garwe used his macho skills and he forcefully grabbed and bolted with ballot papers.

“This candidate was so cunning and dramatic that before voting even started during the primary elections, he just snatched all the ballot papers and ran away with them, leaving all other contestants amazed and helpless,” Nkatazo said.

She said when the issue was reported to the police and the Zanu PF Mashonaland East Provincial leadership, nothing was done to discipline or disqualify Garwe.

“What further amazed me and other candidates was that the figures that were announced seemed very inflated. Garwe was said to have polled 4 765 votes, Nkatazo 1 308 votes, Cleopas Chinyadza 461 votes, Tendai Makunde 410 and Eunice Mangwende 146 votes. Everything was so dramatic that we witnessed people that had three ballot papers. They still declared him the winner despite the serious anomalies,” Nkatazo said.

Legal protection for female candidates

Women experienced numerous challenges during the 2018 campaign period despite the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission having a code of conduct prohibiting violence or intimidation during elections.

The Zec Code of Conduct (5) reads that, “no political party or any of its members or supporters, and no candidate or any of his or her supporters may (a) use violence, or threaten violence or incite or encourage the use of violence against anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or participation in the election”.

Other prohibited conduct by Zec includes intimidation to incite or encourage intimidation of anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party, or to use violence or threats or illegal pressure to force voters to refrain from voting for a candidate.

Elections Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini said the Zec code of conduct was just an academic piece of paper, adding there was no political will to fully implement it.

“In other countries we see candidates being disqualified on the basis of evidence brought before them by their opponents, even issues of vote buying.

So, it is about Zec taking full responsibility of their mandate and implementing what is in their code of conduct.
“With an election process where female candidates are already complaining, then technically that is not a free and fair election process and Zec have the power to stop the elections and say that they cannot proceed,” Chimhini said.

When the Electoral Amendment Bill was before Parliament, MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga pushed for amendments in the Electoral Act that will force political parties to field candidates on a 50/50 gender parity ratio.

She wanted the Zec Code of Conduct to disqualify any candidate or party involved in violence, including hate speech, particularly the speeches that are being made in social media, and disqualification of those parties that do not adhere to the 50/50 gender representation ratio.

Unfortunately, most of her suggestions did not make it into the Electoral Act, and even as Zimbabwe goes for elections next month, it is evident that very few female candidates will make it.