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The MDC Alliance and its anti-women DNA exposed

18 May 2018 at 10:30hrs | Views
When the MDC Alliance was launched in Harare in August 2017, the immediate reaction of most progressive Zimbabweans was that the political grouping was conspicuous by the absence of women in its leadership ranks. Scarcely a week after the launch the MDC-T, which is the lead party in the alliance, made headlines when some of its youth league members travelled from Harare to Bulawayo to assault one of the party's then  three vice presidents, Thokozani Khupe for disagreeing with the then party leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai over the alliance and boycotting the launch. Such has been the MDC-T's DNA when it comes to its position on gender parity.

Although people like Khupe had risen through the ranks to senior positions in the party, with hindsight one realises that, despite meriting the position, the appointment was for Tsvangirai's convenience to silence gender activists among its membership. Put differently, she was used for political expediency. She was seen to have been done a favour and, therefore, she was expected to toe Tsvangirai's line on any matter.

As if the unfair and undeserved 2017 assault was not enough, Khupe was also dispossessed of the MDC-T leadership position by the incumbent MDC-T leader and MDC Alliance presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, following Tsvangirai's death on 14 February 2018. Before Tsvangirai's body was even buried Chamisa organised meetings to endorse his unconstitutional ascendance to the party's leadership. This was despite the fact that Khupe was the rightful heiress to the throne given that she was elected by the party's congress in October 2014, while Chamisa together with Elias Mudzuri were cherry picked by Tsvangirai in July 2016 ostensibly to strengthen the party following his (Tsvangirai's) diagnosis with colon cancer that year. In line with the party's disdain for women, Khupe was not consulted and the move was widely interpreted as calculated to spite her for disagreeing with her leader over a number of issues which include partnering other political parties ahead of this year's elections. Khupe felt that a coalition or alliance was only necessary in provinces where the party performed badly such as the Mashonaland Provinces.

Khupe will forever live with the nerve-wrecking memories of 20 February 2018 when members of Chamisa's internal terror group, the Vanguard, and other excitable and rowdy youths assaulted her and the MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, before attempting to set alight a hut in which they had sought refuge. It took police intervention to save their lives. Khupe was accused of being a dissident from Matabeleland Province for laying claim to her right to succeed Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai and Chamisa used youth violence against Khupe to scare her from attending the party's meetings in Harare for over six months so that she could be kicked out using the technicality that she absconded from meetings.
But the patriarchal party was not over with her yet. On 4 March this year, Chamisa's youths assaulted her and her personal assistant, Witness Dube. Her Land Rover Discovery motor vehicle was also stoned by the youths. Khupe's crime? Occupying the party's Bulawayo offices. She was ultimately hounded out of the offices.

The MDC-T candidate selection process has also revealed another facet of the party's anti-women agenda – using women to settle political scores and indulge personal vices. The Harare West incumbent legislator, Jessie Majome recently announced her intention to contest the forthcoming elections as an independent candidate after being frustrated by Chamisa out of the party's candidate selection process. Chamisa threw her out by stating that she had served the constituency for 10 years and, therefore she should step down for a 24 year old Joanna Mamombe, who is reportedly having a fling with him. Chamisa's criterion smacks of inconsistency as there are other sitting legislators in the party such as Paurina Mpariwa of Mufakose and Gift Chimanikire of Southerton, who have served for more than ten years and are eyeing a return to the same seats.

To Chamisa and his party women, even their own siblings, are also objects for use as wagers in political bets. While addressing a rally in the United Kingdom from atop a table this month, Chamisa offered President Emmerson Mnangagwa his (Chamisa's) sister if the latter garnered so much as 5 percent of the vote during the forthcoming presidential elections. The media quoted him: "If Mnangagwa wins 5% in a free election, I will give him my sister. I have a sister who just turned 18 and looking for a husband. I'm betting on this because I know it won't happen." An 18 year old woman is an adult who has a constitutional right to choose a marriage partner of her choice. His joke, if it was meant to be one, flies in the face of the country's ongoing efforts to combat the social vices of child and forced marriages.

Whether or not Chamisa, in fact, has a sister to offer the President, his statements is simply demeaning of women in our society. While those in attendance cheered loudly most people at home were surprised and angered by his attitude to women. Although he later explained that the statement was merely meant to emphasise that he would win the election, his views on women had been laid out in the open for all to see.

Chamisa plumbed the depths of his sexist stance this week when he tried to emphasise that he was a young and energetic leader by stating that: "We want young and energetic leaders like me. Is there anyone who can doubt that I am energetic? Just give me any woman here and see if I will fail to score," So much for an aspiring president. These childish utterances added to the anger of the already incensed Zimbabweans.

Even during Tsvangirai's helmsmanship of the party, women were targeted. In July 2006, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to Senegal Trudy Stevenson and three other members of the then MDC-M were severely assaulted by a mob of MDC-T youths near the Lafarge Cement plant in Harare for opposing Tsvangirai's decision to force his executive and party not to participate in the 2005 senatorial elections, which led to the splitting of the party. Members of a party, which touts itself as a "party of excellence" and a champion of democracy, assaulted Ambassador Stevenson for holding contrary views. Double standards would not even begin to describe the party's inconsistent ways.

The MDC-N leader, Professor Welshman Ncube in whose bloodstream the MDC-T anti-women strain flows, seems to be similarly disposed towards women as Chamisa. He walked out of the MDC-T in a huff 13 years back but the strain persists. He recently announced his party's election candidates list minus its former secretary general, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga with whom he fell out following the souring of an alleged love affair. Use them and dump them, seems to be the senior MDC-T male members' mantra. Given his MDC-T past, one cannot help but conclude that the anti-women spirit runs in the alliance's MDC old boys. MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti was also abandoned by MDC-T Khupe faction spokesperson, Linda Masarira and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) splinter group leader, Lucia Matibenga also left his party due to his dictatorial tendencies.

It is clear that the MDC-T only pays lip service to women's emancipation and equal participation in political and decision making processes. Women only come in handy as political bet wagers, vote sources and sex objects for the gratification of senior party officials. The few women in the party, who seem to command some measure of respect, include treasurer general, Theresa Makone whose family has reportedly occasionally bankrolled the party over the years. In other words, were it not for her wealth, she would be bagged together with Khupe, Majome and Stevenson and consigned to the political dustbin at the slightest opportunity.

Given this blatant disregard for women's dignity and right to political participation, it is incumbent upon women among the electorate to vote from an informed point of view. One may promise political heaven on earth but if he tramples on women and their rights, what does it profit the Zimbabwean society? Women should, therefore, vote wisely during this year's elections.

Source - Nobleman Runyanga
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