The ugly truth about quota systems

Wendy Nyakurerwa Her Point of View —
Nothing is as fulfilling as effective communication. Speaking to the wall can be a bit depressing. This is why l smiled when one Hurungudo passionately wrote to me the other day after l had penned about how the Mighty Warriors are being neglected by the Philip Chiyangwa and company.

Hurungudo was sounding very patient as he delivered his lesson and laboured in explaining the basics that l was obviously guilty of failing to grasp. A chuckle a day makes the world go round.

“Wendy my sister. You see I call you “my sister” and I’m sure you appreciate that. You would probably be mad if I called you “my brother “. That’s where it all starts,” he began with feigned simplicity.

I quietly remarked that l couldn’t have said it any better, this brother of mine from the other mother was saying the truth and nothing but the truth.

There are men and then there are women for a reason, and l’m sure there are very few cases where any one of them would want to cross to the other side. I’m no exception, proudly a woman and content with that.

“We are different by Devine design. You must not separate female from male in anything be it sport, social, commercial activities, etc. Warriors must be Warriors, not some Mighty and others not,” Hurungudo went on.

How then are we supposed to qualify them? I asked, this time speaking to the wall. Yes, we are one people, but qualifying what kind of person we are referring to is not necessarily segregatory.

“Once you separate human beings on the basis of gender, then everything else becomes different. You cannot redesign humankind. All these differences follow from gender differences and it’s universal. I don’t have a proposal for fixing the problem. All I know is as long as there is female and male, the differences will exist,” he concluded, sealing women’s not-so-pleasant fate.

This is a hard lesson that l already knew, but l appreciate Hurungudo’s efforts nevertheless. So l will borrow from this discourse and expound on it. In fact, l have a proposal to fix the problem.

The genetic differences between men and women are a given. There is nothing we can do about them and there is no reason to even have a conversation around them because they do not limit anyone from doing anything.

The dialogue around gender equality and women’s empowerment revolves around access to equal opportunities regardless of gender.

Equal opportunities are just that — equal. They do not mean favouring the women because then we would have created a gender imbalance, in which case we will have to spend the next two millennia with men seeking equal rights on the turned table.

This takes me to a very contentious issue on quota systems, the latest craze gripping most countries, especially on the political arena. The general consensus is that women are a disadvantaged group and therefore they need some form of protection that ensures minimum representation to safeguard their interests in all spheres.

Zimbabwe is among the countries using this electoral system to increase women’s representation in Parliament. The arrangement reserves 60 seats for women through proportional representation, based on the votes cast for political party candidates in the National Assembly.

In other words, the more candidates (read male) from any given political party who are elected into Parliament, the more women from that party are ‘awarded’ these reserved seats.

As a result, following the 2013 elections, 86 out of the 210 constituency seats went to women.  Only 26 of them were elected into Parliament, the rest — 60 — got reserved seats.

While quotas are the quickest and most effective way to ensure more equal numbers of men and women in Parliament and even on company boards, l have strong reservations with this kind of progress because it is artificial.

The struggle for meaningful political participation is far from secure because if the plug on proportional representation was to be pulled right now, very few women would be in Parliament.

I hear very loud disagreements on this one, especially from women, because they would rather move in to occupy the reserved seats. Perhaps the competition is too hot for them, maybe not.

The moment that we ask for favourable treatment for women in any sphere, we are insinuating that they are more equal than their male counterparts and therefore the whole gender equality dispensation falls short.

Conversing about both quotas and equal opportunities within the same system is contradictory because they do not speak to the same thing.

Quotas are discriminatory to the members of the supposed advantaged group, in this case the men. If we were indiscriminate, the female and male candidates would both go on the start line and we would simply say may the best candidate win, on merit.

Some truths are very difficult to swallow but they have to be swallowed nevertheless. Has anyone ever noticed how the proportional representation tag has stuck with the beneficiaries for the past four years?

Whenever a female proportional representation beneficiary speaks in the National Assembly, the ever-diligent media will never forget to remind us that she is in Parliament due to this arrangement. It’s like someone offering you assistance and then they go on top of the hill to make the announcement every time you sneeze.

You get the feeling that perhaps those holding the reserved seats are perceived as less competent than their colleagues who were elected to the non-reserved seats given that they are perceived to have gained their seats because of their gender rather than their personal capacity.

Are the beneficiaries therefore just pawns in their political parties while the men enjoy the real competition to get their seats? These quotas need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
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  • Dyson Chivasa

    I concur with the writer.