By Linda Masarira
When I set out my political journey, I had this belief or illusion that Zimbabwe is a country that has moved away from the culture of patronizing and marginalizing women. I put my all in forming LEAD with other trade unionists, with no thought that it will be viewed as a women’s movement. I never thought that one day, the electoral system would reject both my party and me on gender basis. Now, I am awake from my delusion and do understand that Zimbabwe is not ready for women leadership. I now know that the legal system in Zimbabwe still segregates women as ElisabethValerio’s payment wasn’t accepted as well.
It took me 5 years to raise the money needed by ZEC for one to contest for the presidential election & to field a few MPs. On the 21st of June, I approached ZEC with all the confidence that I had done everything & was sure that my name was going to be on the ballot. It never occurred in my mind that I was going to be discriminated against by ZEC & the Zimbabwean courts because I am a woman. It is on record that I am one of the people who supported the raising of nomination fees by ZEC because of the prevailing situation at that time were we were experiencing relative stability. What I had not foreseen was the fact that ZEC had a hidden agenda to use the huge sums of money to bar even those who can afford it. Some would say that I should have paid earlier. I can accept that, but even if I had started paying a week in advance I still would not have managed to pay because of the current economic system.
Why should the burden of payment be put on Linda & not ZEC. It is ZEC that wants the money & ZEC should have made provisions to receive the money in RTGS. ZEC was very aware of the obtaining economic environment when it said payment could be made in local currency at the obtaining bank rate. ZEC should have either communicated with the banking sector of its intentions to receive huge sums of money or communicated with prospective candidates to come up with a payment method. Yet ZEC never bothered to do that & now puts the burden of payment on candidates. From where I am standing, ZEC knew that female candidates would not be able to come across USD and would use that to kick them out of the race. In short, systematic elbowing out of women.
If it was a male candidate would ZEC be treating them the same way it is treating me. If it was Nelson Chamisa or Douglas Mwonzora would ZEC be treating them the way it is treating me? I am surprised at the hypocrisy of the local Civil Society and the International community. They claim to fight for democracy and the rule of Law in Zimbabwe, yet I don’t hear anyone raising their voice to fight with or for me. Is it because I am a woman. If it had been Chamisa or Mwonzora having this fallout with ZEC, there could have been a deafening chorus claiming rule of law. When it is a vulnerable and unprotected woman, nobody cares. It is all about power, not equality, fairness & justice.
I am also appalled by the legal system. I approached the courts, hoping for an urgent redress of the matter, seeing that the campaign period has already started, but I have realized that the courts may be complicit with ZEC in segregating women. Nothing is happening, and at the pace at which this matter is being handled, it will not be surprising to hear that the matter is being attended to after 23 August 2023.
I have decided to redirect my efforts to build a strong, critical mass of opinionated women who have the courage to transform the current status quo. Women will not continue to be pawns in a game of chess in this country. There is no democracy without women. Henceforth, we will advocate for equal opportunities for all, equality before the law, non discrimination, supremacy of the constitution as we build a viable women’s movement with the capacity to win the women’s struggle with a successful women’s revolution.
The struggle continues unabated!