Is Zimbabwe ready for a woman President?

The major political party on the Zimbabwe political scene, the Zimbabwe African National Union -Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) recently held its 5th national congress in Harare, Zimbabwe.

There were a few leadership changes in the upper echelons of the political party. Of notable significance was the elevation of Mr John Nkomo from the position of National party chairman to that of the a co-vice president of Zimbabwe partnering Amai Joyce Mujuru, the elevation of Mr Simon Khaya Moyo, the Ambassador to South Africa as the new ZANU PF party national chairman and the formal readmission of Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Member of Parliament for Tsholotsho in the party structures and his subsequent appointment into the party central committee. Most of the other appointments were peripheral in their national outlook. President Robert Mugabe was duly endorsed by all the 10 provinces as the party leader until the next congress in the next five years.

However, a disturbing trait seems to have developed in the aftermath of the congress following the swearing in of Mr John Nkomo as co-vice president of Zimbabwe. It has now become common practice to refer to Amai Joyce Mujuru as the "first" co-vice president of ZANU PF and of the republic Zimbabwe and Mr John Nkomo as the "second" co-vice president of ZANU PF and of the republic of Zimbabwe.

Under the agreement of a government of national unity (GNU) currently in place in Zimbabwe, between ZANU PF lead by president Robert Mugabe, MDC-T lead by the Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC-M lead by Deputy Prime minister Professor Arthur Mutambara, section 20, subsection 1.6 of the agreement signed in Harare under the supervision and guarantor ship of SADC spells out the composition of the executive within this government of national unity as follows:

that there shall be a President, which office shall continue to be occupied by President Robert Mugabe. There shall be two vice presidents who shall be nominated by the President or ZANU PF. That there shall be a Prime Minister, which office shall be occupied by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and that there shall be two deputy Prime Ministers, one from MDC-T and the other from MDC-M.(clause 20.1.4)

And In the event of any vacancy arising in respect of posts referred to in clauses 20.1.6 and 20.1.7(b) above, such vacancy shall be filled by a nominee of the Party which held that position prior to the vacancy arising.

It is this last provision read together with the Constitution of Zimbabwe that should give us Zimbabweans reason to earnestly debate what this means. In my own view, the developing trait of calling Amai Mujuru first vice –co president pits her as the natural or constitutional successor to President Robert Mugabe. The very act of labelling which co-president is number one or number two did not exist or was at least played down during the reign of the late co-vice president Joseph Msika.

What this means is that in the event of the death or incapacitation of President Robert Mugabe, Amai Mujuru according to the provision of the GNU has to be appointed acting president of Zimbabwe in President Robert Mugabe’s place pending any presidential election as read with the constitution of Zimbabwe.

The GNU agreement stipulates that in the event of a vacancy….such a vacancy shall be filled by a nominee of the party which held that position prior to the vacancy arising.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that any acting president can run the country for a period of ninety days after which any election is to be held. If Amai Mujuru becomes the acting president for the republic of Zimbabwe for the constitutional 90 day period, precedence in other African countries tells us that an acting president has any eighty percent chance of becoming the substantive head of state and government due to advantages linked to incumbency.

The question that Zimbabweans need to ask themselves is, are we ready for a woman president? What would be the overall implications of this to the overall stability of Zimbabwe as a nation? Will the man in competing political positions take this "laying" down literally?

Zimbabwe by its very nature is largely a paternalistic society like many other African countries were the very idea of a woman president is impossible to fathom, well at least at this stage of the young democracy. In a paternalistic society women in leadership positions are only tolerated in as far they report to a man above them.

This I suppose is a natural consequence of our culture. Both public and private institutions in Zimbabwe have a general aversion to having a woman as the CEO or the President of a company. Are we then ready as a young country that has known one leader since independence to embrace a woman president in a post Mugabe government.

As Zimbabweans we need to begin to discuss this issue, forge our own political realities as we begin a new decade, cognisant of the fact that our President Robert Mugabe is also human and will as nature demands exit the political scene when he is eventually recalled by his maker.

It is a truism that the stability and future success of a post Mugabe Zimbabwe era will largely depend on who succeeds him. As things stand now it appears that the "first" co-vice president, Amai Joyce Mujuru is the legal option available to ZANU PF and indeed Zimbabwe despite the rumblings of other political players in the background.

The Government of National unity in Zimbabwe has by default created a new political reality of which neither ZANUPF nor the MDC’s can claim centre stage. The two MDC’s have by default become the custodians of the new economic reality, in which Zimbabweans have tasked both MDC parties to recover the countries fortunes and reinstate its national and international creditworthiness, whilst at the same time ZANU PF lead by president Robert Mugabe has by default become the custodian of the liberation war legacy and the attendant land reform exercise.

And it is because of this, it seems the GNU maybe the political reality in Zimbabwe for sometime to come. The successor to President Robert Mugabe will need to have the same degree of umpf (sic) that has been exhibited by this man in the last thirty years for Zimbabwe to continue on this very delicate road to prosperity without compromising the legacy of the liberation war as the work to restore Zimbabwe to its former glory begins in the new decade.

The writer Lloyd Msipa writes from the London, UK and can be contacted at lmsipalaw@googlemail.com