By Daniel Chigundu
WOMEN say the idea to introduce Proportional representation system in the constitution did not come from them but was a creation of the country’s unrepentant political parties.
The Proportional representation system which came into effect during the July 2013 general elections resulted in the number of Parliamentarians swelling to about 350.
The idea to increase the number of Parliamentarians drew heavy criticism for government as people argued that it would not serve any purpose except to increase government’s wage bill which is already unsustainable and has seen government failing to fund critical social services.
According to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, about US$3.6 billion will go towards employment costs from the US$4billion 2017 National Budget.
In Zimbabwe each Members of Parliament is entitled to a vehicle, fuel allowances and sitting allowances and when they come for Parliament they are booked into hotels which cost the country huge sums of money.
Addressing journalists at a Parliamentary reporting workshop on gender and development, Women in Politics Support Unity (WIPSU) director Sakhile Ngoma said women wanted a share of what was there already (210) and not the extra 60 seats.
“When the constitution making process was going on, the women of Zimbabwe did not want to make Parliament have 350 people; I think I need to say it so that we are all very clear, no one wanted a Parliament with 350 MPs.
“What women wanted was half of what was already there, so the 50-50 issue or campaign is now in our constitution but when it started way back around 1999, if you follow the draft constitutions that came out during that period; remember the women sector voted no for the NCA constitution.
“It was not because they were pro-Zanu PF or anti-whatever but that draft constitution did not have enough provisions to safeguard women’s rights and women said on a rights basis we are not voting for it,” she said.
The WIPSU director added that up until 1999, parties were generally using a “Voluntary Party Quarter System” to meet gender balance in selection of candidates during election time.
But when the constitution making exercise came, women saw it as an opportunity to finally put their law into the country’s constitution as opposed to political parties and the political parties agreed to it.
According to Ngoma, political parties somersaulted at the 11th hour and decided that it was better that the law be implemented in parliament instead and not in political parties.
“Literally at the 11th honour during the constitution making people decided that it can’t be done at parties better it be done in Parliament and so the 60 came and became 60 on top and not 60 inside and I want to clear that because we are now in the 3rd year of the Eighth Parliament and we can’t keep talking about where they came from,” she said.
Ngoma however added that even though proportional representation was crafted with women in mind, it has also benefited men especially in the Senate through the Zebra listing system.