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MDC ALLIANCE DISMANTLING patriarchy towards a people’s movement,
in so doing promoting an inclusive people’s movement that honours and respects women
Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deep economic and political crisis, further worsened by Cyclone Idai that has ravaged the eastern parts of the country leaving scores dead, hundreds injured and thousands homeless.
All Zimbabweans have looked forward to is empathy from the man who claims to be legitimate President,Emerson Mnangagwa – but the patriarch who describes fellow citizens as ‘chanana’ or his ‘people’ decided to go on a costly jaunt to the Middle East instead, with photo opportunities on display, including a staged swing of a golf club in his trademark suit and scarf.
Mnangagwa’s cold reaction to the suffering of the masses over the past months is simply an embodiment of the nationalist model which is rooted in patriarchal notions of power and liberation.
This is not a challenge exclusive to the ruling party. As we prepare for our watershed Congress slated for the end of May, the biggest challenge President Nelson Chamisa and party leadership face is how to effectively dismantle patriarchy in the party, in so doing promoting an inclusive people’s movement that honours and respects women. That is a primary litmus test for the MDC’s social democratic credentials; a party that treats women not as distant others, but equal participants in party politics and nation building.
Dismantling patriarchy means doing away with exhausted nationalist notions of male privilege in terms of political power and positioning – a radical agenda for transformation, where women will not struggle to be heard, where they can be understood and elected to befitting leadership positions in the party hierarchy.
Above all, the MDC must promote a male and female leadership that has compassion and is connected to the suffering and the needs of the people. It is no longer about just jobs for the girls and boys, no, but about the qualities, capabilities and track record in servant leadership.
What Zimbabwe needs more than ever are leaders who care and are seen to be doing so, beyond choreographed photo opportunities.
Have we learnt any lessons from post-colonial regimes that adopted governance systems that were based on the double pillars of militarism and repression? This is exemplified by the horrors unleashed on Zimbabweans in January and serve as a painful reminder of what happens when power is located in greedy and selfish hands.
Such regimes claim to pursue revolutionary agendas, but as we have seen with Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa’s leadership, has reinforced a political economy that benefits a connected predatory elite, not a polity representing all Zimbabweans. This is evident from an elite divorced from the people’s suffering and unwilling to support real reform.
The MDC Alliance must shape up and inject a radical new politics, characterised by tolerance of diversity and alternative views.
This model is not new to African politics and the benefits thereof can’t be underestimated.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is drawing admiration from all corners of the world for his transformative leadership. Since coming to power, he has been lauded for releasing political prisoners, widening the democratic space, ending the military stalemate with Eritrea, while averting a looming financial crisis. In short, his dynamic leadership, energy, and enthusiasm have pulled off what a Washington Post editorial described as an “astonishing turnaround” for the country. He also represents a generational shift in Ethiopian politics with the old making way for the new. This includes a conscious decision to have at least 50% women occupying key cabinet posts.
In Zimbabwe, we are in reverse gear, against a background of a poisoned political environment, characterised by the militarisation of the state and ensuing brutality that has seen women bear the awful pain of arrests, rape and murders.
ZANU PF, as a nationalist movement, has never understood or accepted women as equals, from during the days of the liberation struggle to date, women have played second fiddle to their male counterparts, a scenario sadly echoed in the rest of the Zimbabwean society today.
Our focus in the MDC and more broadly on generational renewal is important, but should not exclusively be about age issues. Rather, this should embrace the promotion of the “full package”, which includes giving women their rightful place in society and this takes political will.
This is not an emotional piece to mourn and groan over the many disadvantages women in politics have against their male counterparts- no that is all well documented. President Chamisa himself during the International Women’s Day celebrations articulated male privilege so well, which leaves women at the mercy of their husbands or males as women shoulder most household burdens, community roles disproportionately.
I also remind our leadership that most women who decide to go into mainstream politics are single mothers, a quick survey reveals, with very little capacity to balance home life and political life, say when she is arrested, or is being haunted there is no husband to look after the psychological or economic needs of the children at home.
Male privilege means a disproportionate share of the suffering. Male privilege means when the state machinery goes after a certain male leader he is anchored enough at home, at work, resources wise and a wife who is there to take of his children. A single mother has to come back and pick the emotional and mental pieces. Not to mention the single sisters who have to go it alone.
As we prepare for congress dismantling patriarchal notions of power and leadership as seen in ZANU PF, is the main challenge,these are the honest discussions that should guide us, inform us, giving us a winning formula.
Source – Grace Kwinjeh