Women, your vote is a sacred right

Edmore AM Ndudzo
Before the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Ian Smith regime in 1965, and during my primary school days, we were made to sing the then National Anthem, “God save our gracious Queen” before classes commenced each and every day.

Whilst watching Sky News on June 10, 2018, I saw British females celebrating the 100th anniversary of their right to vote.

There were some males in the crowds.

Given that we are going for elections on July 30, 2018, wherein the right to vote is a given for citizens above age 18, and without gender discrimination whatsoever, I got to thinking about women and voting.

Before the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Ian Smith regime in 1965, and during my primary school days, we were made to sing the then National Anthem, “God save our gracious Queen” before classes commenced each and every day.

Queen Elizabeth was on the throne. More than 300 years ago, when the United States gained its independence from Great Britain, it was understood that one of the big misgivings was being made answerable to and being under the control of the English monarchy.

Americans preferred a system and style of government headed by an elected executive president, who then also became their head of state and commander-in-chief of their security forces, as is the case to this very day.

The British have also maintained for centuries now their monarch, whose succession system is by descent. This system has similarities to our chieftainship system.

That said, when I became politically conscious and knowledgeable in the late 1960s after UDI, I remember very vividly, a voter was described in clear and unambiguous terms: “A voter (or more specifically one who has or enjoyed the right to vote in National Elections or other plebiscites) as ‘A white male aged 21 years (the then age of majority), or above’.”

On top of the ugly racial overtones, this also meant even white ladies in Rhodesia were disenfranchised.

I also recall during the late 1960s going into the late 1970s, white ladies would be seen driving their partners and sons to polling stations. They would drop them off and go and engage in other activities while white men determined the course of the country.

It did not seem strange or unfair to them to be doing this.

White ladies, either by design or accident, also did not join the military and were exempt from national service and compulsory call-ups, unlike males.

Such a discriminatory conscription system later came back to haunt the Rhodesian system as it did not have enough human resources to contribute to their war effort against black freedom fighters.

For the nationalist cause, things were different: many women and girls joined the struggle and it was never in question that upon attainment of Independence, females would have the right to vote.

However, in the early stages of the Second Chimurenga, female recruits — after getting basic military training — had to be content with assignment to duties and responsibilities that were largely centred around ferrying war materials for use by their male counterparts.

As the war of liberation intensified, it became apparent and obvious that these women were as good, in some cases even better fighters, than their male counterparts.

It was very quickly realised that a female finger could pull a trigger just as well as a male finger.

As such it was easy for us to speak of and implement “one person, one vote” rather than “one man, one vote” come 1980.

Nonetheless, it has to be observed that discrimination against women persists in many parts of the world up to this day.

For instance, in some countries in the Middle East, women may not just be de-franchised for life, but may not even be permitted to do some activities, which elsewhere are now considered mundane, like driving a car.

In some parts of the world, women are not allowed to dress as they may wish.

We should not even overlook the previous legal position and case in our very own country, where married black women were to be the same as minors.

Other such outdated and discriminatory practices based entirely on sex — too many to mention here, but including such matters as inheritance laws — have been gotten rid of. Thank God for the progress made, but more still needs to be done.

All this makes the case for women to sacredly observe their right to vote.

 

Edmore AM Ndudzo (CA(Z),CPA(Z), RPAA(Z), IOD(Z),B Acc and SAAA) – is the first black treasurer of the City of Harare. He was the lead consultant in the crafting and compilation of the Public Finance Management ACT of Zimbabwe of 2009. He is also a land commissioner of Zimbabwe

 

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