President of Zimbabwe sued over gender insensitive appointments

i) WALPE and ZWLA sue the President of Zimbabwe over gender insensitive appointments.

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) together with Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) represented by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum approached the High Court of Zimbabwe suing President Emmerson Mnangagwa for making cabinet appointments that are not gender balanced.

Section 17 (1) (b) (ii) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires that women constitute at least half the membership of all elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under the Constitution or any other Act of Parliament.

However, President Mnangagwa has failed several times to abide by these constitutional provisions for example when he appointed five female and eighteen male ministers on 08 November 2019 when he did a cabinet reshuffle. Through those appointments the number of women in cabinet stood at 21% instead of 50%. The President also went further to appoint five women and thirteen men as deputy ministers and thus women constituted 28% of the total number of deputy ministers instead of the constitutionally required 50%.

Moreso, after firing health minister Obadiah Moyo over corruption, the President replaced him with a male candidate, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. The replacement of the late Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri was also  a man, Anxious Masuka, whilst when Energy minister Fortune Chasi was fired, he was also replaced with Soda Zhemu, another male leader. The case is still pending before the courts.

ii) WALPE releases the state of women’s rights and wellbeing in the era of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe report.

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence has released a report titled “The state of women’s rights and wellbeing in the era of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.” The report outlined the impact of Covid-19 on Zimbabwean women who reside in both urban and rural areas and expose the disproportionate burden that the pandemic has had on women.

With women being the most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, the major impacts of the pandemic on Zimbabwean women include; violence against women human rights defenders and political activists, domestic violence, access to health services, education, unpaid care work and domestic work, women working in the informal sector, corruption, access to reliable, clean and potable water and demolition of vending stalls as well as the lack of support systems for mental health issues.

The organisation also recorded a total number 985 cases of human rights violations against women across all the ten provinces of Zimbabwe since the first case of Covid-19 infection was reported in March 2020. The provinces which recorded the highest number of cases are Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo whilst Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Matabeleland had the least number of cases.

The recorded cases also came in different forms of torture which include, arbitrary arrests, assault, online violence, unlawful detentions and abductions. Amongst the appeals made by WALPE to the Government is the need to spearhead a  campaign to end all forms of violence against women and girls and bring to book all state security officials responsible for perpetrating gross human rights violations countrywide against women.

The report concluded that the state of women’s rights and well-being in the era of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe has rapidly and negatively reshaped the participation of women in political, social and economic activities.


iii) The Zimbabwean Crisis: Women as Solution Holders, What needs to be done?

Women have for a long time been side-lined in key decision and leadership processes, and with Zimbabwe having its fair share of challenges, very few platforms have been created to allow women to freely, actively and fully contribute to how the country can come out of its current mess. In light of this, WALPE held a virtual meeting titled: “The Zimbabwean Crisis: Women as Solution Holders, What needs to be done?. The discussion brought together vibrant and renowned gender justice and women’s rights activists who discussed in depth the social, economic, political, environmental and health challenges currently haunting the nation. The meeting was an inaugural consultative discussion process on how women can equally contribute in defining and  proffering solutions to the challenges affecting the country.

The virtual meeting consisted of a panel which comprised of a member of parliament, young women from civil society organisations, regional and international gender justice activists. The meeting kicked off with submissions from the panellists as they unpacked the Zimbabwean crisis.

In their submissions, Namatai Kwekweza a youth activist and Mantate Mlotshwa a social justice activist raised concern  over the upsurge of human rights violations, especially targeting women human rights defenders and activists. They demanded for justice for women victims of abuse and torture. They also emphasised the need for broader national processes that involve women in coming up with solutions to the current challenges facing the nation.  In her submission, Nangamso Kwinana, an advocate for human rights, justice and freedom in South Africa encouraged women to contribute to ideas that strengthen human rights, justice and freedom in Zimbabwe and beyond the borders.

Hon Priscilla Misihairabwi -Mushonga emphasised the need for intergenerational discussions were women of all ages come together and proffer solutions to the challenges bedevilling the country. She highlighted that Zimbabwean women should be able to define their own issues in the form and nature they understand from their own lived experiences. Rumbidzayi Kwandawasvika- Nhundu a gender equality and human rights advocate said that women should critique male privilege, male patriarchal entitlements versus empowerment of women and be able to come up with holistic solutions that help in overcoming the current challenges facing the country.

Follow on similar discussions shall be held in all the ten provinces where women in the rural and urban areas shall be engaged so that they also contribute in proffering solutions to the current impasse whose implications are being felt by women and girls more. WALPE shall produce a position paper at the end of the engagement process to be used to engage political parties, parliament, Government, SADC, African Union and other regional and international human rights institutions on the Zimbabwe situation from a women’s rights perspective.