by Kudakwashe Chitsike
Dear Mr President,
I read with concern an article in one of the newspapers, which reported that you defended your decision to appoint only three women to Cabinet by saying that Zimbabwean women are uneducated and do not have the intellectual capacity to take up office. The newspaper quoted you directly as having said the following: “Give us the women. This time we did proportional representation; there were just not enough women. Women are few in universities.” Is this really true, Mr President? I have always regarded you as a progressive man, and I am having a hard time believing that these were your words. Perhaps the media misunderstood you, or just deliberately misconstrued your statement. The private media is very mischievous, isn’t it?
You have been the president, and therefore boss of this country for more than 30 years, overseeing everything that happens in your government. How is it possible that 52% of your population is still not educated enough to take Cabinet posts? There are other important things I could raise, that seem to have also escaped your attention, but that is a letter I will write on another day. I hope that now that you have noticed this challenge, you are going to do something over the next five years to turn around the education system and ensure that there will be more women in the next Cabinet. Such a positive outcome is something we would look forward to in 2018!
I am a product of the education system that you inherited from the British when you took over the reigns in 1980. Kudos to you for maintaining the system for years, you really did your best. I stand proudly as a Zimbabwean wherever I go because I know I can hold my own in my chosen field, thanks to this system. Most Zimbabwean women in my circles are educated, holders of Masters degrees and even PhDs. Is this still not good enough for the Cabinet? Zimbabweans are finding jobs all over the world because they are well educated. A few months ago, you rightly pointed out that Zimbabweans are running the South African economy. A good number of Zimbabweans working in illustrious jobs in that country are women. If they are good enough to be scooped up by vibrant economies, why not our Cabinet?
The University of Zimbabwe - the oldest higher learning institution in this country - is churning out more women than men and has been for quite some time. None from there were suitable? We as Zimbabweans have always prided ourselves in our education, this year we were rated as having a literacy rate of more than 90%. Unfortunately this percent was not gender disaggregated. Had it been, then that would have been something I would draw your attention to.
Could it be that, Mr President, you meant to say that women in your party are the uneducated ones, since you were only looking within the party for these posts? If that is the case, then I understand. You were clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Your desire must have been to have a number of competent women in the Cabinet not only to adhere to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development ratified by the 7th Parliament in October 2009, but also so that Zimbabwe achieves the gender equality enshrined in our constitution. I understand if you say that in your party, there were just not enough competent female candidates. What could you do but select the best of the lot? You only managed to find 3.
Isn’t it also interesting that the issue of quality and level of education arises only when it comes to filling certain positions with women? What about the qualities and qualifications of the men in your Cabinet? Did they all go to university? What kind of men are they? What exactly was your selection criterion for Cabinet? It took you more than 40 days to come up with the list, so I assume it must have been a rigorous exercise. Were the candidates selected because of their qualities, or on the basis of them being loyal to you and/or the party? One of these days I will sit and go through each of their profiles, maybe the answers will come from there.
I look forward to your response Mr President.