Source: Financial Gazette
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's appointments to the new Cabinet reflect a "worrying' deviation from the new Constitution which does not inspire confidence in some sections of society.

Topping the list of the deviations is the gender composition of the Cabinet as well as the issue of devolution.

In a Cabinet of 26 members, only three women have been appointed.

"It is a mockery of the new Constitution which clearly states that there should be equal representation of women and men in public administration bodies at the national and local government levels," said Virginia Muwanigwa, chairperson of Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe and director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre.

Muwanigwa said not only did this violate constitutional provisions, but it also went against what the ZANU-PF party's own manifesto purported.

"In light of the new Constitution, it sends out a message, unfortunately very clear, that women's rights and gender equality are not among government priorities, despite what the political party manifesto says," she said, adding, "It does not inspire confidence and while this relates to the provisions for women, it has implications on respect for guarantees on socio-economic and humanitarian issues contained within the Bill of Rights, not just for women but for all the people of Zimbabwe."

Former minister of education, sport, arts and culture, David Coltart, told The Financial Gazette that President Mugabe's disregard of constitutional provisions set a bad precedent.

"I am concerned by the deviations from the Constitution. Clearly the objective of gender balance as provided for by Section 17, which must be read together with sub section 4, has not been met," Coltart said. "How is it going to be possible to ensure that this objective is met at other levels when Cabinet has clearly deviated?"

Muwanigwa concurred, saying that the implication of under-representation of women in Cabinet was likely to be echoed in other bodies and institutions of governance.

"We may yet see more reneging of the commitments to respect women's rights to not only representation in other bodies still to be appointed, but absence from key decision making posts such as chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, commissions, among others," she said.

While it may have been too much to hope for immediate adoption of the constitutional guarantees in full all at once, Muwanigwa said, "We would have wanted to see an increase in representation not lower than 30 percent and in light of the African Union Women's Rights Protocol, closer to 50 percent."

Gender balance was not the only point of deviation observed. Coltart said he was also concerned with the appointment of resident ministers as it impacted heavily on the move towards devolution, as provided for in the new Constitution.

"I am sure the President can appoint as many ministers as he likes but on the issue of the resident ministers what role are they going to play? Constitutional provisions in Chapter 14 and section 268 make provisions for provincial councils. It undermines the whole concept of devolution"


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