Women ‘chicken out’ in political wrangles

Competition within a political party has the potential to result in its disintegration, writes SOFIA MAPURANGA from Harare. Factions within a party can also discredit it in the eyes of its supporters and voters. So are women immune?


Although some argue that the efficiency and stability of a party can be strengthened by competition, there’s no doubt that when the competition reaches alarming levels, the stability of a party is compromised.

Women don’t stay out of the fray in these intra-party battles.

Factionalism is the collaboration of people who form a cohesive, usually contentious, minority within a larger group – and it’s usually the result of conflict within a particular organisation or nation.

Both the ruling party, Zanu (PF), and the opposition, MDC-T, have, over the past few months, been rocked by intra-party battles and the washing of their dirty linen in public. President Robert Mugabe of Zanu (PF) came out, guns blazing, after the 6th annual national youth conference. castigating members for the power struggles within the party.

“I am aware of your clandestine meetings,” said Mugabe, in reference to the various factions within his party. He urged his kith and kin to remain focused and united, saying that the high level of factionalism in Zanu (PF) was destroying the party.

Similar dramas within the MDC-T have seen the country’s main opposition party disintegrate into two main camps, one headed by the former finance minister, Tendai Biti, and the other by the party’s president, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Women’s Assembly in the MDC openly declared its support and allegiance to the Tsvangirai camp, while other party stalwarts, such as Evelyn Masaiti, openly expressed allegiance to Biti’s side.

Masaiti, the Harare Metropolitan legislator and one of the few women in the MDC-T to have openly stated her position as belonging to the renewal team, said factionalism within the political parties was a major setback for the participation of women in politics.

“Hard-core female politicians survive the tide of factionalism,” said Masaiti. “It is easier for women to participate at the same level with men in intra-party fights because the women are assured of support from the men within their parties.”

However, she said women in politics were often left at a crossroads, not knowing which side to take when a party was rocked by factional fights.

“A large number of women in politics do not make swift decisions and may even stop actively participating in politics because they are not certain which side to take. Very few women have the guts to make a quick decision and align themselves to a particular faction,” said Masaiti, adding that such is the case within the MDC where most women were still undecided about the Tsvangirai or Biti factions.

She said that, because women were more cautious in their actions, the majority of them ended up taking a back seat.

Abigail Sauti, a youth leader from the MDC who last year battled it out with local government minister Ignatius Chombo during the July elections, agreed with Masaiti and said young women left politics because of factionalism.

“They either chicken out or they are manipulated by factions using money to garner support. Factionalism affects the general institutional processes within a party and destabilises the effective participation of young women in politics,” said Sauti.

She added that it was evident in her constituency that the continuing fights were disintegrating the party and affecting the course of policy direction, leaving supporters and politicians confused.

Eddie Cross, Bulawayo South legislator, said the constitution provided for women to participate equally with men in the political processes of the country, explaining that there are reserved seats for women.

“The constitution recognises that men and women are equal and this is good news because it creates room for women to manoeuvre and get posts whether there is factionalism or not,” said Cross, adding that, there was need for women to assert themselves and actively participate in politics, regardless of the environment.

Dorothy Ndlovu, Bulawayo Metropolitan province legislator, said there were other constraints for women, including financial, social and cultural challenges.

Post published in: News
  1. Jennifer Buchanan

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