Sorry ladies, not this time

In Africa’s 54 nations, only two females have been elected into office: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) and Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius).

Twenty-three people have thrown their hats in the ring for the July 30 Presidential election.

History tells us this is the highest number of presidential aspirants since the start of democracy in 1980.

It is also the first time we have female candidates going for the highest political job in the country.

In the mix are Violet Mariyacha of the United Democratic Movement, MDC-T’s Thokozani Khupe, and People’s Rainbow Coalition leader Joice Mujuru.

Being on that ballot paper matters.

But the quality of the candidates and their ability to actually emerge tops is the subject of much debate.

Mariyacha is very much an unknown quantity, Khupe appears to be more concerned with winning an internecine battle with Nelson Chamisa than on winning a national election, and Mujuru has been rather unconvincing.

While these three women have to be commended for stepping up for the big challenge, they have a real fight ahead of them.

Let us be clear on something: I do not seek to belittle the female candidates. If anything, I salute them for their courage.

The reality, however, is that Zimbabwe is unlikely to have a female winner in the Presidential race this year.

The structure of Zimbabwean politics and the power of our social upbringing plays a vital role in shaping voter preferences.

This is particularly true when it comes to our visual images and expectations of a Head of State.

At the moment, Zimbabweans are largely not visualising a female president.

Those brave enough to even imagine a female president have to be prepared for a calamitous wave of misogynistic backlash.

This is not peculiar to Zimbabwe. The United States, one of the loudest preachers of democracy and equality, is among the majority of the world that is yet to be led by a woman.

In Africa’s 54 nations, only two females have been elected into office: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) and Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius).

Others got into office either as interim presidents (Central African Republic and South Africa) or ascended briefly by constitutional succession (Malawi and Gabon).

Worldwide, in the countries that have achieved the feat, few females have secured presidencies where they did not share power with a male prime minister.

Back to Zimbabwe, it must be noted that Mujuru, Khupe and Mariyacha will not lose the 2018 elections just because they are women.

They will lose because they are not the best candidates around.

Still, their participation brings hope for stronger female presidential hopefuls in future, as it inspires other women to take up national politics.

Mujuru rides on the name of her late husband, former army commander General Solomon Mujuru.

And it sadly seems that this is the only card she is playing.

Khupe’s rise was not sexually transmitted. She was elected vice-president to then MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

But it appears her party only wanted her as a token, and when the time to replace Tsvangirai came, Chamisa’s hordes unleashed violence against her and threatened to burn her alive.

Now she is a faction leader, same as Chamisa, without much of a message for the nation — again, same as Chamisa.

Mariyacha has been based in the United States, and it seems her claim to fame is her song titled “Mukoma Itai muri gamba redu”, in honour of Itai Dzamara.

None of the above engenders confidence in these three women’s ability to run a national political administration.

But it is a start all the same.

There is urgent need to deconstruct the gender biases that permeate our culture and political institutions and see people beyond male or female.

At least the world is beginning to acknowledge the role of women in society and power as evidenced by the greater focus towards creating gender equality.

Rwanda is leading the way with women occupying about 60 percent of all parliamentary seats.

Zimbabwe is doing its bit through the quota system. Perhaps the elections after 2018 will bode better for women who want to lead a nation.

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