By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
MANY general or municipal elections in various countries offer voters opportunities to show their cultural preferences concerning the gender, religious beliefs or denominations of those they choose to lead them.
In Lebanon, for example, political parties are founded and run on either Islamic or Christian lines — or so are senior Government posts.
In Italy, France and Germany, religion, social characteristics and cultural practices play major roles in people’s political party membership and alliances.
Patriarchal nations reflect that practice by voting only for male candidates, a practice that was quite prevalent in the UK until relatively recently, in historical terms, when universal adult suffrage was introduced after which gender equality slowly but inexorably took over centre-stage.
The recently held July 30 Zimbabwe harmonised election results show how very little, culturally, transformed Zimbabweans are on gender equality issues, especially political ones.
Among the 23 presidential candidates, Dr Thokozani Khupe and Dr Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru, well-known political leaders who have stamped their names indelibly on the country’s history prominently featured, but heavily lost.
Both women have philosophiae doctor (Doctor of Philosophy) degrees they actually studied for and were officially awarded by internationally recognised universities.
Dr Mujuru is a former armed combatant, having spent many years in the liberation struggle and was later appointed Minister in Zimbabwe’s first post-independence Cabinet in 1980.
She served well as a result of which she later became Vice- President under former President Robert Mugabe.
She was later booted out of ZANU PF.
She then decided to form and lead her own political organisation which has come together, with a couple of others, to form the People’s Rainbow Coalition under whose banner she stood as a presidential candidate.
Dr Khupe is, legally speaking, the constitutionally-elected VP of the MDC whose founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, died a few months ago.
She served as deputy Prime Minister during the Government of National Unity, her immediate principal being the late Tsvangirai.
Before he died, he appointed two additional vice-presidents, one of whom (Nelson Chamisa) later, most unconstitutionally, elbowed out the others and became the top leader of an MDC that teamed up with some parties and adopted the name ‘MDC Alliance’ as a strategy to win the recent harmonised elections against the revolutionary Party, ZANU PF.
Dr Khupe remained the constitutional leader of the MDC-T; the original ‘T’ stood for Tsvangirari, but now, however, some people say or think that it stands for ‘Thokozani’.
Some MDC youths are on record as saying they would not be led by a woman, an attitude many believed had been transformed by the Zimbabwe armed struggle in which a large number of women took part.
But their attitude, however, now shows how little the MDC has politicised its members, especially about the role played by women in the liberation of Zimbabwe.
It was most revealing that Chamisa said during the election campaign that he was so sure of winning the national presidency against President Emmerson Mnangagwa that should he lose, he would ‘give his 18-year-old sister to President Mnangagwa!’
Obviously Chamisa is still living in the cultural era when some Bantu patriarchs forcefully gave away their daughters or sisters as wives to whomever they liked themselves, and but not whom the girls freely loved.
After his statement, one would have expected the women of Zimbabwe to demonstrate their condemnation of Chamisa’s outdated male chauvinism, irrespective of their political party affiliation.
Should we now wait for possible Constitutional Court procedures for the poor girl to be led from her home like a sheep to President Mnangagwa, or was it a mere joke in very poor taste?
That statement unwittingly exposed the MDC leader’s attitude towards the organisation’s female members and leaders.
Notwithstanding that Chamisa howler, Dr Khupe’s electoral performance was more or less always a distant third behind mostly Chamisa or, in some cases, President Mnangagwa.
At times, she came fourth after Joseph Makamba Busha of the FreeZim Congress.
That was the case in both the Chivi South and the Chivi North constituencies where she got 162 and Busha 201 votes.
Meanwhile, Chamisa received 10 574 and President Mnangagwa scooped a hefty 23 353 votes.
Dr Mujuru managed to get a paltry 56.
In Matobo North and Matobo South, Dr Khupe received 826, Busha some 166, Chamisa 11 447 and President Mnangagwa a towering
14 169 votes.
Dr Mujuru pocketed only 76.
The trend was more or less the same in other constituencies where the very little known Busha received more votes than Dr Mujuru and Dr Khupe, two well-known women who had publicly called on the female population of Zimbabwe to vote for them.
The reason Zimbabwean women feel safer in men’s, than in women’s, hands is a tradition dating back to time immemorial when men defended their respective families against a variety of enemies, including marauding wild beasts.
Men, either as individuals or as groups, would take their cudgels, clubs, spears, bows and arrows and scour the forests, hills, glens, valleys and dales for either food for their families or to eliminate dangerous beasts.
It was during that era that the English coined the saying: “The place of a woman is the home.”
That applied to the Bantu as well.
The English went a violent step further, however, by saying: “A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be.”
The modern world has culturally changed, however and believes that men and women are equal before the law and that capable women should be enabled to lead communities and nations.
The world has gone further by advocating the education of the girl-child because an enlightened woman is most likely to enlighten her family as well as the whole nation.
That was what one of Africa’s most famous educationist, Dr Aggrey (of Africa) said.
“If you educate a woman, you educate a nation, if you educate a man, you educate an individual,” she said.
Doctors of philosophy, Khupe and Mujuru, can play a role in the development of the country in spite of having electorally lost to a team comprising mostly men.
The economic development of Zimbabwe requires a truly national approach and this could be a good opportunity for ZANU PF to meld the nation together on the basis of its vast electoral success.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell
0734 328 136 or through email, firstname.lastname@example.org