Zimbabwe’s political soap opera


Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister, Nyasha Chikwinya

ZIMBABWE’s political landscape can make a perfect script for an exhilarating soap opera.
Everyday ushers in a new chapter that could otherwise be reproduced into a film that could keep one glued to the screen for hours on end.
While men have been the main actors in this comic script, women have of late come out from the woodwork to claim their fair share of space and time.
Last week, a new character in the form of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister, Nyasha Chikwinya, was introduced into the ever intriguing Zimbabwean political soapie.
The setting of her scintillating episode, which really introduced her to the real world of politics and masses, was at Nembudziya, Gokwe, where she distributed sex enhancement pills to a hungry, impoverished rural community that would have otherwise appreciated food handouts.
That the Minister, who two days earlier had vowed to unleash the full wrath of the law on rapists, went to Gokwe to dish out sex pills to a community that is in desperate need of socio-economic assistance, was evidence enough of how out of touch some Zimbabwean politicians have become.
Her antics came soon after she had said: “All men who are abusing and raping young girls please come to my Ministry. There are a lot of women there, I have seen that; ndokupai (I will give them to you),” during a reception for the visiting United Nations Population Fund director, Kate Gilmore.
Although guests laughed, thinking that it was meant to be a joke, she most probably meant it given her actions a few days later in Gokwe.
In this ever exciting soapie there is never a dearth of plots and characters that keep the nation ever keen to get their next day’s papers.
If it is not Chikwinya leaving the nation speechless, it has to be Matabeleland South senator, Sithembile Mlotshwa, who at one time suggested that government should buy sex toys for prisoners to discourage them from engaging in homosexual acts while behind bars.
She even went to the extent of suggesting that people should have sex once a month to curb the spread of HIV and Aids.
These and many other such out-of-the-blue episodes have raised questions about the intellectual acumen of some of the country’s female politicians.
What with the unconventional behaviour of other female politicians and legislators whose deportment over the years has been more than unbelievable.
For example, Bulawayo East Member of Parliament, Thabitha Khumalo’s theatrics did not only leave the House of Assembly in stitches, but the rest of the nation gasping for breath.
Khumalo advised wives to befriend their husbands’ “small houses” as a stop-gap measure to reduce the risk of contracting the dreaded HIV infection.
She also even went as far as inviting rapists to try and attack her or some strong women because they would get what they deserved (read thorough beating).
“I am also inviting those men who are raping minors to go and look for people like us, we are waiting for them. We want to see them, if you are man enough, I am woman enough,” charged Khumalo.
Recently, she also went topless in public to express her disapproval over the ill-treatment of some women Movement for Democratic Change activists, who were on their way to a rally in Njube suburb, in Bulawayo. The women had been allegedly stripped by ZANU-PF supporters.
While the situation may read like a comedy of errors that has resulted in these women being laughed at, ridiculed and called all sorts of names, analysts said it is time for women to show the world that their appointments were on merit and competence. Their concerns can be driven home through other means that at least leave them and their characters dignified, they said.
Political analyst, Ricky Mukonza, said the country’s political space was still perceived as a predominantly male dominated trade such that it was the male politicians who were seen to be championing important socio-economic and political issues, whereas women were seen to be pursuing so called peripheral issues to be taken seriously.
“The following question needs not to be considered: Why have the key Cabinet posts such as Finance and Defence never had female occupants? This then supports the notion that the Zimbabwean society is yet to entirely entrust women with bigger responsibilities. Where that has been done, for example, the Joice Mujuru case, demeaning comments such as ‘she is naive’ or ‘too simplistic’ or ‘unsophisticated to manage the State’ have been used,” Mukonza said.
Gender activist, Edinah Masanga, still has confidence in Zimbabwe’s female politicians, despite the fact that sometimes they may make bad judgments.
“There is no doubt that women in Zimbabwe have enough substance to be leaders and they should be given room to make errors or errors of judgment, (they should be treated in) the same way their male counterparts. We must extend an olive branch and give them second chances and not judge them harshly,” Masanga said.