The remarkable gains that have been made in elevating women to positions of authority have been obliterated by the “cat fight” pitting the First Lady Grace Mugabe against the Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Female politicians and lobbyists said the fight was retrogressive to the fight for equality.
“This is a very disturbing gender debacle which has clearly confirmed that this country is still largely patriarchal. Men are still in control and are using women to oust other women,” said Jessie Majome, Member of Parliament for Harare West.
The outspoken legislator said regardless of who was right or wrong, the fallout had dented efforts and reversed gains that have been made in pushing women into positions of influence.
“Someone is obviously furthering their interests by setting up these women against each other and what concerns me more is that other women are buying into this charade,” she said.
Her comments come in the wake of public attacks on the person of the VP by Grace accusing President Robert Mugabe’s second-in-command of incompetence, corruption and plotting to wrest power from her husband.
She even went to the extent of attacking Mujuru personally, inferring that she was ugly.
“This is a typical cat fight where all the dirty laundry is washed in public. This has stifled prospects of women occupying the space previously held by men,” said Majome.
Ten years ago Mujuru stepped onto a platform that had never been occupied by any woman in Zimbabwe. She was elected as the first female second secretary and subsequently appointed as the country’s first female Vice-President.
Mujuru was the youngest cabinet minister at independence, aged only 25. She held several ministerial posts over the years, more than any woman in Zimbabwe.
In 2010 she was awarded the Pride of Africa Women and in the preceding year was nominated the 5th most influential female in Africa by Forbes Magazine.
This year, she graduated with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Management focusing on Entrepreneurship. The First Lady also graduated but her doctorate remains steeped in controversy.
“This just confirms what we have always said, that space for women in politics is limited. We have been socialised in such a way that we believe that a woman can never dislodge a man from power,” said MDC secretary general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
“Women in positions of power are targeted because they are vulnerable to such attacks. I do not want to judge anyone but the real culprits are quiet while the women are busy pulling each other down.”
“It is really sad because the men in the respective camps are quietly watching as the ladies claw at each other.” Misihairabwi-Mushonga added it was surprising that there was no response from the many women’s groups to unfolding drama.
“I feel that even if there are issues to be cleared, it should have been done differently and not in the public domain,” she said.
The legislator said gender movements were too quiet and just watching from the terraces.
“Someone should have sought to intervene and assist in finding an amicable way of addressing this. It is a major undoing of women empowerment. History is being replayed,” she said.
Political analyst Gift Mambipiri said it was a tragedy that women were being used as pawns in a game whose main characters are men.
“What is queer about this whole issue is that men in the various camps involved have found it useful to manipulate the women for their own gains and come congress time, the women will be elbowed out,” he said.
He said the language that was being used in the attacks was dehumanising and exposed glaring gender connotations that would cast female political figures into disrepute.
“If indeed Mujuru is rightfully accused, she deserves to be questioned but in a dignified manner. Women have not taken the time to understand her predicament but are pushing other people’s agendas,” he said.