By Margaret Chinowaita
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Position fell vacant following the disgraceful fall of the incumbent Kembo Mohadi after he was embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to announce a new Vice-President, in line with the dictates of the 1987 Unity Accord, which say that one of the two deputies should be drawn from the ZAPU political party with a heavy presence in Matebeleland.
The vacant position will test how Mnangagwa will handle the military, tribal, gender and regional political dynamics.
Zanu PF stalwarts from the Matabeleland region are angling to take up the Vice-Presidency.
According to press reports, Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu, who once described himself as Mugabe’s “most obedient son” is leading the pack.
The ruling party’s spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Cain Mathema and Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda seemed to be contenders. All these men have links to Zapu the party that Zanu PF agreed with to include someone in the presidium from the party with strong Matabeleland roots.
It is interesting to note that no female name is currently being touted for the Vice Presidency position. It is worth noting that the constitution of Zimbabwe provides for a woman to be included in the VP position. Zimbabwe has had one female VP, Joice Mujuru in the Presidium since gaining independence in 1980. She was removed from her position following a nasty fallout led by the former First lady Grace Mugabe and fierce factionalism that saw her powerful faction backed by her husband Solomon Mujuru being elbowed out by a G40 faction that boasted of young leaders under the banner G40.
Women in politics are fully aware of the requirements for a VP position, but they are arguing that the system can also work for them. They believe that that women with the right credentials in Zanu PF with a Zapu background can be nudged forward and be angled for selection by the President.
A name that kept cropping up as I spoke to women in politics was the name Sithembiso Nyoni. Nyoni has the right credentials but can she be selected. Women want Mnangagwa to select a woman by any means even if it means by overlooking precepts of the Unity Accord.
However, women also realise that this is a litmus test of how much they can organise and advocate for important political spaces. I spoke to five women with strong ties in politics.
To get an in-depth understanding of women’s views on the position of the country’s VP, I spoke to five powerful women in different political spheres.
Jessie Majome- Former Member of Parliament, a practising Lawyer and a serving Commissioner said;
What I can say is I hedge no idea if a ZAPU candidate can be found, or who could be a candidate (either one, two or three)- I think those in ZANU PF are best equipped to say that. I think anyone serious about campaigning for a female VP must wade deep into the party dynamics – that way they’ll know which buttons to push. Megaphone advocacy for this is not going to work I’m afraid.
The law on the appointment of a replacement VP is in terms of section Part 4 section 14 of the 6th Schedule (Transitional Provisions) that apply from 2013 to 2023, that is before the running mates provisions start (which will be never if the present attempts to amend the Constitution succeed). Section 14(2) provides that a President may appoint a 2nd VP if s/he wants to, as one is what is mandatory, urgently after the election, which means the urgency doesn’t apply now. There is also no requirement to replace a 2nd VP as would apply to one chosen as a running mate in terms of section 101(2)(b) which has not come into effect. One may argue that as the Constitution is silent on the replacement of a second Vice President there is no authority at law to do so.
It might be argued that it would be unconstitutional to appoint a replacement because there is no such empowering provision, as that power extends to only immediately after the election.
Margaret Dongo- outspoken former legislator and women’s rights activist. The first independent member of parliament in Zimbabwe after independence.
The country cannot continue being divided in terms of a tribe that the issue of reserving a seat to the Ndebele under the Unity Accord should stop. We had unity for a long time in the country we should be treated as one. That is what I want to address first the country cannot be ruled according to tribes the country should be ruled as one, and we should have a productive unity. I am not supportive of tribal politics. People should be elected because they have the capacity not because they come from a certain tribe.
I want a situation where a woman is elected because she has the capacity she can do it not because she comes from a tribe not because she had been in the system for a long time, we want them to pass on a button stick. We also have young women, and we have a lot of women with energy but do not belong to a certain tribe that’s why I am saying no to tribalism we want to run the country as one.
The issue of president Mnangagwa choosing a Vice President is up to a political party and the people who should spearhead the issue of a female VP are the women that are in that political party because Mnangagwa does consult from his political party he respects views from his political party. People from outside yes, they can influence but not as much as people from inside. I was in that party’s hierarchy for some time, I think the issue is better spearheaded by those women that are in Zanu PF, in the women’s league that is in the structures of the central committee, in the politburo and so forth those women have a right to push for a woman to replace the VP, Kembo Mohadi not on a tribal basis not because she is a Ndebele but because that woman can lead. The incumbent should be the best person to be a VP a woman that can lead and give an example to all women.
Women are not ready for leadership because we have the same power that we have in the family. This mantra that Musha Mukadzi (A woman is responsible for a household) does not end in the home alone it goes even outside. No leader can lead this country without the support of a woman so if you know that then you understand that you are not ready for a woman leadership. A woman is seen in a support system, someone who has access but not control of the household of her life. So it’s not anyone’s fault but ours as women, we should have control. Let’s not keep on blaming man for no apparent reason we should put our house in order period.
Karen Mukwasi: Director Pada Platform
We can have a woman as VP. Right now we have a lot of men in leadership positions who have displayed that they do not have the right attributes. Sadly, the issue of qualifications and leadership qualities is only questioned when it comes to women. However, we can get women with better leadership qualities that can run the country. Men running this country have a poor track record so far.
A woman could fail to be appointed because of the lack of political will to honour the issue of gender equality. There’s a great chance that the President will honour the Zanu Pf constitution instead.
To ensure the appointment of a woman VP, women need to speak with a common voice. Those women within Zanu PF should set aside party loyalties and speak for women. The Gender Commission can also champion this issue because they exist to ensure gender equality. The message should be if they want to honour their party constitution then they should either consider women from Zapu or even reappoint the man who is currently VP to pave way for a woman.
The best candidate from the ruling party would be the current Minister of Defence, Oppah Muchinguri. I’m not sure about 2 others but if there’s a high ranking woman from Zapu then we can consider her as well
Linda K Sibanyoni: Independent politician
Unfortunately, my limited knowledge of ZAPU has resulted in me not being able to name at least three women from the party that can be considered to be candidates for the 2nd VP post. It then has led me to think what If ZAPU can’t submit a candidate for the VP position who is a woman are we willing to accept a VP regardless of the party as long as she’s a woman?
Or we will be headed towards another fight with tribal nuances if 2nd VP is not from ZAPU regardless of gender?
The only woman I can think of right now who is not the exact fit for the 2nd VP post (based on historical agreements needing to be honoured) but would work well in appeasing all stakeholders is Honourable Sithembiso Nyoni. She is a woman – she fulfils the gender parity component in the presidium, though she is not ZAPU she is Ndebele which also answers the question of the continued regional politics representation that must be maintained based on historical agreements.
I believe we have a historical task as women at hand here. We all know that the 2nd VP must come from ZAPU let’s find women from ZAPU who can be good candidates for the 2nd VP post and suggest them to the President. Failure to finding a 2nd VP from ZAPU who is a woman let us make suggestions regardless of the party of other good candidates who are women who can fill in the 2nd VP post. Not only as a ceremonial placement but women candidates who can be efficient and effective in the office of the 2nd VP.
Esther Vongai Zimudzi-Human rights and Constitutional activist
The National Constitution in Section 17 mandates the winning party to place a woman as the next Vice President. Thus, if they don’t field a woman for that post, it will be unconstitutional and illegal which I, like many other constitutional activists will approach the courts of law over.
Zanu PF can ignore detects of the constitution which demands women’s total inclusion and 50/50 in all spheres of influence.
Intraparty politics in Zanu PF can be used to block a female candidate to the position of VP.
Women can increase the awareness for the installation of a second VP calling for a female candidate.
Increase the awareness on the constitutional provisions which mandate 50/50 and empowerment of women like sections 17, 56 and 80.
Follow-up actions to ensure that the VP is female using institutions like the constitutional courts if Zanu Pf picks a male candidate. Mobilizing women to come out and defend the position of the female VP.
Three women I would love to be VP outside Zanu PF
• Beatrice Mtetwa, a lawyer
• Margret Dongo, a politician
• Priscilla Musihairabwi, a politician
Internally my only candidate is Goodluck Kwaramba
I feel the unity accord of 1987 which saw the joining of Zapu and Zanu joining in present-day Zimbabwe has been overtaken by events and nature.
With where Zimbabwe is presently and if vision 2030 is anything to go by, the President must look more into quality not the political background of a candidate.
From ZAPU an eligible person would be Sithembiso Nyoni based purely on gender not capacity to deliver. I feel she is now way over retirement age and her ministerial track record in the public domain is not appealing.
We need a woman with feminine attributes. A woman with compassion for the vulnerable people in Zimbabwe. A woman of stature and wisdom. A woman of good works and excellence. A woman of action, competence and a strong-willed person who has a vision of Zimbabwe being a 1st world country.
Women in Zimbabwe feel they must be in the presidium. They want to make sure that a woman is selected to fill in the position left vacant by Kembo Mohadi. However, it remains an uphill task as female politicians interviewed felt women are not measuring up and are waiting to be hand-picked without meaningful effort. This is an unfortunate assessment given the numerous campaigns that women have conducted to claim their places in a leadership position.
Women were urged to desist from ‘megaphone’ campaigns and become more strategic in their political advocacy and communications.
A female VP in Zimbabwe is possible if all women stakeholders speak with one voice. Focussing on working within the laid down rules and the system to make sure that women are recognised as forces to reckon with in the politics of the nation.
Women cannot be ignored in the VP question. The Constitution provides for a 50 50 representation in leadership positions as was outlined by Esther Vongai Zimudzi, a human rights and constitutional activist quoted above.
It is up to the women to claim their positions. To leverage the feminine abilities that make them more sensitive to the plight in Zimbabwe. Maybe if we have a female VP the same will contest for Presidency in 2023. What happened in Tanzania where President John Magufuli passed away and left his female VP Samia Suluhu Hassan at the helm? Zimbabwean women are fully aware of the power the VP post. We want a female VP to replace the male Kembo Mohadi that resigned disgracefully.