Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Credit: Official Twitter handle of Mr. Emmerson. - Photo: 2023

Re-Elected Zimbabwe President Gets Low Marks for Gender-Balance

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | HARARE. 17 September 2023 (IDN) — Women’s groups in Zimbabwe are calling on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to have a gender-balanced cabinet. The recently reelected leader has appointed just six women out of 26 cabinet positions.

Women comprise 54% of Zimbabwe’s population, but men received the lion’s share of ministerial positions. Among them was the President’s 34-year-old son, Kudakwashe Mnangagwe as deputy finance minister, and his nephew Tongai Mnangagwe as deputy tourism minister.

Madrine Chiku, the chairperson of the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe, told the DW news agency that women remain underrepresented in decision-making.

“I am not very pleased with the [cabinet] outcome,” Chiku said. “When we look at the presidium, we do not have any representatives.”

She pointed to Section 17 of Zimbabwe’s constitution, which calls for the state to promote full gender balance and rectify gender discrimination in Zimbabwean society. She said having a woman in the presidium and more women in the cabinet would have been ideal.

“But we don’t see this happening, and we continue to experience the suppression of women in occupying decision-making portfolios.”

Mnangagwa, 80, did not include any members of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, which disputed his victory in elections last month.

Opposition disputes Mnangagwa

“Rather than think of the national plight, Mr. Mnangagwa has set up an infrastructure to feed his family,” CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said in a statement.

“Constituted of his friends, family, loyalists and the least qualified, the cabinet is the worst since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 … It is yet another missed leadership opportunity for Mnangagwa,” the party said in a statement.

The President also conferred an honorary doctorate on First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, recognizing her “philanthropist work” in the country. It is the second honorary doctorate for his wife, awarded earlier for her contribution to charitable work in the country.

The country’s first lady has several honorary doctorates. In May 2022, GD Goenka University in India conferred an honorary PhD on her. In December 2022, the Russian State University for the Humanities awarded her an honorary PhD in recognition of her philanthropic work.

In September last year, the Vernadsky Crimean Federal University in Russia also gave her a gold medal in recognition of her contribution to the education sector in Zimbabwe.

The president, who is the chancellor of all state universities in the country, capped his wife, 60, with an honorary PhD in law from the University of Zimbabwe during the graduation ceremony in Harare. An earlier award allegedly given by Harvard Health Catalyst to Zimbabwe’s first Lady was revoked after 14 top US diplomats and civil society leaders wrote a letter protesting the prize.

ZANU-PF retained its parliamentary majority, but without enough numbers to change the constitution without the cooperation of the opposition. There have been suggestions from within Mnangagwa’s party that the constitution should be changed to allow him to stand again.

Zimbabwe suffers from a raft of economic problems, including high inflation and an escalating cost-of-living crisis. The local currency lost more than half its value to the US dollar in June, and the country owes billions of dollars in debt arrears.

Harare-based economics professor Gift Mugano, told CNN that Mnangagwa’s appointment of his son was unlikely to do much to address the country’s economic woes.

“It’s clearly nepotism. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Zimbabwe’s economy has been in the doldrums for the last 25 years and we need the right critical minds to drive the economy.

“So, if you put someone who is just coming from the university in that critical ministry to support Prof. Ncube, who by himself has also failed for the last five years … to change around the economy, the president missed the point on that appointment,” Mugano said.

Observers criticized the election, citing intimidation against the opposition before and during the vote, harsh security laws, banning opposition meetings and rallies, and public media bias.

The CCC scored one victory, however. Owen Charuza was elected mayor of the Ward 6 farming and university town. Chip Mlotshwa will become deputy mayor.

Mnangagwa has dismissed calls by the CCC for fresh elections supervised by neighboring countries. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Credit: Official Twitter handle of Mr Emmerson.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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