Aspiring women leaders sue the Government of Zimbabwe over the indefinite suspension of by-elections

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on 13 October 2020, approached the High Court of Zimbabwe seeking an order to compel the President of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to set dates for by-elections to comply with the constitution and electoral act.

The court case follows the suspension of by-elections by the Ministry of Health and Child Care citing COVID19 yet the ZEC had developed a Covid-19 policy on electoral activities with clear guidelines on how by elections and other electoral processes would be conducted without exposing those involved to health risks. The indefinite suspension is notwithstanding that cases of COVID19 in the country have been on a decrease and the country has slowly returned to normalcy.

The by-elections were scheduled to take place on the 5th of December 2020 after some seats fell vacant as a result of the recalls of opposition Members of Parliament and Councillors and other vacant seats of expelled ZANU PF Chivi South MP Killer Zivhu and the passing on of Kwekwe MP. Masango Matambanadzo and others.

According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe in section 67 (1), every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections for such elective public office established in terms of the Constitution or any other law and to make political choices free. Hence, the suspension of by-elections is a complete violation of the people’s constitutional rights to representation.

Other African countries are already intending to conduct presidential elections and others, for instance Burundi and Ghana have conducted Biometric Voter Registration for over 10 million people whilst complying with the Covid-19 regulations. Yet Zimbabwe which has recorded fewer cases and relaxed the pandemic’s restrictions continue to suspend by-elections indefinitely.

With 35 parliamentary communities and 55 wards not being represented, the suspension of the by-elections violates people’s rights to be represented by whoever they want, and the government should have engaged different stakeholders before making such an unpopular decision.

Meanwhile, through the same application, WALPE is also seeking opportunities for its members who are aspiring women leaders to contest in the by-elections to better prepare for the 2023 harmonised elections. The suspension of the by-elections has made some of the aspiring women leaders lose confidence in the electoral and governance system, something that draws back the achievement of gender equality in leadership and decision making processes.

WALPE launches new web series, “All Female Parliament”

Scene from the drama series

WALPE in partnership with top Zimbabwean content producers, BuStop TV on 13 October 2020 launched a new drama series titled “All female Parliament.” The new drama series is meant to promote women’s participation in politics and decision making processes. Pertinent issues that affect women and their participation in leadership and decision making processes are shown in the drama. Hence motivating and inspiring other aspiring women leaders to take up leadership positions.

Regardless of political affiliation, the drama series shows women leaders putting their differences aside in Parliament and pushed for progressive bills that promote democracy, good governance and rule of law. The ‘All Female Parliament’ clearly shows how female leadership is progressive through the discussion of pertinent issues affecting the country such as corruption, women land rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) issues, access to education, electoral and media reforms and gender based violence.

The drama series also encourages women and girls to be bold and take up leadership positions. It brings out how against all odds women came together, resisted patriarchy and worked together for the betterment of the country.

You can watch the play using the link below

Intergenerational coaching and mentorship sessions for aspiring women leaders in Mutasa.

WALPE in partnership with Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) and Mutasa Youth Forum were on the 6th to the 8th of October 2020 in Mutasa District for the Intergenerational Coaching and Mentorship support sessions. The exciting platforms which were attended by a total of 140 participants in groups of 20 from different wards created opportunities for young women and women with disabilities to exchange ideas and strategies with current and former women leaders on how to be effective leaders and role models.

The mentorship and coaching exercises are part of the consortium’s long-term capacity building processes for aspiring women leaders in preparation for public office. The same women were initially trained in transformative feminist leadership and social entrepreneurship skills by the consortium. These mentors will work with the aspiring women leaders as we head towards the 2023 national elections where some of the women are running for public office at different levels. The participants got to learn from their mentors’ experience in leadership positions as well as in the business sector.

Those who intend to run for public office got to learn strategies to run effective campaigns from the female councillors who were present, and those who want to make it in the business world got tips from successful businesswomen who have made it in a male dominated industry. These intergenerational coaching and mentorship programmes are a continuous process and the women leaders will continue meeting and sharing ideas and strategies as part of their leadership journey.