Women participation key to Mthwakazi politics

Urging our pro-Mthwakazi organisations to be inclusive is not an attack. It is both progress and patriotic. We cannot continue running men’s clubs and calling them national political parties and act surprised when women keep a safe political distance.

We need to bring ourselves to the understanding that women have most probably withdrawn their participation from male dominated politics as the only way to insulate themselves against isolation from a ‘men’s world’.

To secure our political future, we have to acknowledge and confront the reality that the male-framed, led and protected pro-Mthwakazi political narrative is too narrow in its focus, and it is not making real progress on the ground largely because of the dismal level of female participation. In Mthwakazi as is the case globally, women’s leadership and political participation remains restricted; the women voters are under-represented, as well as in leading political positions when quantity of votes is translated into power. It has to be said that this has nothing to do with lack of ability, it is occurring despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change.

Zimbabwean women make up 52 percent of the voting population but are disproportionately represented in positions of political influence. Photo Credit ©AFP

When it comes to dealing with the toxic discourse of gender discrimination and disparity in the social and political control, the customary way for men to think about the topic of lack of real power in women is to ask, “How would it be if I were a woman?” The best way to approach it however, would be to seriously consider what it is like to be a man in Mthwakazi. If men start to understand what it is like to be men in Mthwakazi only then will they start to understand what a denial of real power means to women.

Absence of real power among women means the global politics and economy is a skewed outcome of a skewed political investment. We have a political regimen that is too invested in power control and a show of military strength is core to that; yearly expenditure of trillions in US dollars strengthening military capabilities is normalised and made out to be justifiable investment while ordinary men and women have to make do with disproportionate minimum wages.

Evidence in the many operations of pro-Mthwakazi movements indicates a time, emotional and material investment bias towards the wealthy and powerful men’s interests risking an unethical accumulation and protection of power without limit. There are no active efforts to financially invest in a strong social and financial support framework to protect women and the poor from the impact of political decisions of men and the powerful elite in society.

Lack of women participation in politics, in particular in higher levels of politics is an enduring problem, not only in Mthwakazi but in the world. A change is long overdue, women in Mthwakazi challenge gender discrimination every day; they have never had a choice. But since they did not build, and fortify for time immemorial, a system of male dominion, they alone cannot be expected to undo it. That responsibility is on men, and their privilege.

Men will have to be brave enough to dismantle those social norms that legitimise the perpetuation of female vulnerability and make women perpetual dependents of male ‘leaders’. Surely, a self-respecting society cannot be content with women’s political role being often limited to a supportive one of which singing revolutionary songs while dressed up in garments displaying male leaders’ portraits is a huge part.

All too often we allow traditional systemic entities to define ‘women roles’ in society and in the process cast them aside from the broader political matters of our nation; in so doing talent in the region is under-utilised – talent is not sex-coded. We need to show through actions our appreciation that Mthwakazi is made up of men and women.

If women and the girl child cannot see themselves in the political landscape being created, they will withdraw themselves from the political sphere, and society as a whole will suffer the loss of their creativity and potential contribution. 

The under-representation of women in the pro-Mthwakazi public and political life must be taken with the seriousness it deserves because it constitutes a serious democratic deficit which undermines the very legitimacy of the agenda. It is hypocritical to fight against ZANU PF oppression of Mthwakazi by upholding social norms that promote gender inequality. For the pro-Mthwakazi politics to take hold, equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions will be vital.

Gender discrimination and injustice is a cancer that destroys society, increases suspicion within communities and destroys public enthusiasm in fighting a unified war against other injustices we face daily as a nation. No one is special, and everyone is needed for pro-Mthwakazi politics to thrive and make tangible changes to households across the Mthwakazi terrain. If we are happy to create and reserve positions of power for men, we should be equally happy to create and reserve positions for women within our political sphere.  

Published by THE RESEARCH HUB

a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Mthwakazi (Matabeleland) human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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