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Women Take Center Stage in Draft Constitution

  • Sithandekile Mhlanga
  • Tatenda Gumbo

Zimbabwean women are praising the new draft constitution, calling it the most progressive document the country has ever produced since attaining independence in 1980.

Complaining that they are often mere political pawns used by male colleagues, these activists hope women will now have a bigger say in the way the country is run, as the charter reserves at least 60 seats in the House of Assembly for women.

Women’s groups that campaigned for equal representation in parliament said they did not get everything they wanted in the draft, but are pleased that most of what they advocated for has been included.

For example, Chapter 6 (Part 4) of the draft constitution stipulates that 210 members will be elected by secret ballot into the house and an additional 60 women members will be brought into parliament by the political parties.

COPAC Co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora said Zimbabwean women should take advantage of the provisions being ushered in by the new constitution, which appears likely to be approved in an upcoming referendum as the main political parties say they will urge their members to vote ‘yes.’

Commenting, Maureen Kademaunga of the Zimbabwe Young Women's Network said women’s groups will do all in their power to ensure that the draft is adopted since it is strongly in their favour.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary select committee tasked with writing the new constitution on Tuesday started revising changes that were effected in the draft charter by the principals, in preparation for tabling a motion on the document in parliament on February 5.

Believe Gaule, deputy select committee co-chairman of the MDC formation of Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told VOA the process will be completed on Thursday, the day his committee is expected to adopt the document.

However, not everyone is so pleased with the new draft constitution. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) will meet this weekend to launch its ‘NO’ vote campaign, hoping to defeat the draft in the upcoming referendum.

The NCA leadership will meet Saturday and then convene a full conference next week, after the leadership reviews the final document in detail, said NCA spokesman Madock Chivasa.

NCA maintain they will push for a ‘NO’ vote regardless of the contents of the final draft because the COPAC process was - in their words - “illegitimate, undemocratic and not people driven”.

The organization said it would like to see people and democratic organizations continue to push for what it calls a truly democratic constitution drafted by the grassroots.