By Shingirai Vambe
Marred by gender imbalances and ‘unfair’ societal beliefs, women in politics face a lot of scrutiny but MDC Alliance Bulawayo legislator, Nicola Watson, of Bulawayo Central, is prepared to close the gender and racial gap that exists.
It is believed that out of fear and low self-esteem, most women have resigned from politics, letting the political rope slide to give space to men until a consensus was reached that there are some wards and constituencies set aside for women.
Only a few women, bold enough to brace the unsteady political climate and seeking change in the democratic space, have tossed their names into the hat.
Out of that few, lesser women of colour or race, do partake in politics.
In an interview with Watson, she said her entry into politics was motivated not only by achieving gender parity in politics but to achieve representation of women in the country’s political space.
She noted that despite Zimbabwe’s constitution guaranteeing 50/50 in gender equality, less women have taken up roles in Parliament, local authorities and in government including diplomatic missions.
To assert Watson’s sentiments, Parliament, recently released statistics that only 31.8 percent of the women population have participated in the country’s political arena.
“More steps need to be taken to encourage women to participate in national politics, as required by the law and make politics conducive for all women regardless of their background,” she said.
Narrating her journey into a career of politics, Watson’s bemoaned the current status quo where elected members fail to represent their electorate both in parliament and local authorities.
“We have a big task, though our voices at times fell into deaf ears, we have to continue pushing for a better nation through legislative and council work” Watson said.
Elected in 2013 under the proportional representation system and again in 2018 as a Member of Parliament for Bulawayo central, Watson said proportional representation law should be abolished.
“What are the roles of proportional representative? You won’t be working, I would rather be an Mp” she said.
The Government of Zimbabwe in 2013 introduced the proportional representation seat which political parties appoint women of their choice to represent various constituencies in a bid to promote participation of women in politics as well as closing the gap of representation in Parliament.
“Focus must be on legislators who are elected as they are responsible for representation of people, growth and development in their respective constituencies,” added watson.
To show that she takes her representation role seriously,
in her last submission before Parliament closed last year, Watson inquired from the Minister of Home Affairs how the police are dealing with rising cases of theft of electricity cables and transformers.
She noted police in her constituency seemed to be overwhelmed while under resourced.
“Besides water challenges Bulawayo Central Constituency, suffers another setback due to continuous load shedding caused by vandalism and much to do with the increase of breakdowns at the power station resulting to low capacity turnover” said Watson.
She told this publication that with vast lithium deposits in the region, Zimbabwe could replace hydro and coal power generation if politicians focused more on implementation.
In her submissions, the Bulawayo Central MP also highlighted that the late national hero, Dumiso Dabengwa, had received a grant worth over $5 million dollars from potential investors but due to corruption, the investment failed to take of.
“Because of Obert Mpofu the investment failed to succeed and the investor has since left the country, a project that would have benefited the country even with the manufacturing of batteries years back,” she alleged.
Watson’s argument was
on so many occasions, politicians have been accused of asking for kick-backs from investors to invest in the country, and this has contributed to corruption, a culture that has negatively impact the growth of business in Zimbabwe.
Apart from her legislative work, Watson has partnered with various institutions, helping the poor and vulnerable.
She has managed to support a local orphanage in her area through source funding and entering into partnerships with locals and churches.
“As part of my career, I think it is proper to educate our people on the roles of councilors and MPs, it’s also important to educate office bearers as they occupy these offices to serve. So it is important that the elected know their mandate.”
“So many times I have seen elected members failing to communicate, give feed backs or even consult the people who elected them and in some cases, councilors in my area have failed to make sure that people get water and their refuse collected” added Watson.
“My appeal to government and Bulawayo City Council is to look into our roads in the residential areas, drainage systems and potholes. In this rainy season some roads are impassable and some areas will suffer flash floods because of poor drainage” she said.
Watson highlighted that problems in Zimbabwe differed, as for Bulawayo, there are quite a number of challenges that should be addressed.
Bulawayo is one of the biggest province second after Harare, which was the hub of industrialisation yet now 90 percent of these areas and machinery is now obsolete and majority of the people from Matebeleland have migrated to South Africa for a living.
Report by Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) shows that since 2000 there has not been proper investment in the country’s industrial sector and Zimbabwe already missed the third industrial revolution, and most likely to miss the fourth due to the dwindling economic and political challenges.
“We now have museums and white elephants in places that were known for production, source of income and employment due to misgovernance issues.
We are in a crisis with the future of the generation to come, nothing for them as a source of livelihood.
“Scholarships and trainings out of the country have not benefited us as a people, we have a skills flight due to number of factors such as poor remuneration but above all we don’t have equipment, centres and facilities that can accommodate our people locally. Thus we will have more vendors in the streets and informal traders” added Watson.
The current crisis in South Africa and other neighboring countries, according to Watson is a clear indication that Zimbabwe has lost ‘massive’ human capital and institutions that are running, still face the same risk, as many are resorting to entrepreneurship and informal trading.
“So many at times we have heard of our people being part of serious crimes in other countries. It’s not all rosy out there while local members of the security forces, police and army personnel are part of the 80 percent robbery cases, which again is another indication of the governance crisis and a poor living wage that workers are subjected too,” she said.
As political institutions in Zimbabwe remain male-bloated, stakeholders and institutions have envisions the prospects for the Southern African nation to realize 50-50 representation of women and men in political spheres so that they can equally represent the nation Zimbabwe.