Women’s rights organisations have criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly rewinding the clock several years backwards by appointing an all-male new team of top government officials, ignoring the 50/50 gender clause stipulated in the Constitution.

Mnangagwa on Wednesday appointed Zvinechimwe Churu as the secretary for the Local government ministry, Aaron Nhepera as the Homes Affairs ministry secretary, Melusi Matshiya as the secretary for Women Affairs ministry, former ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa as the chief of protocol and another ex-diplomat, Raphel Faranisi as the head of the secretariat in the Office of the President.

Women in Politics Support Unit executive director Sakhile Sifelani-Ngoma yesterday told Newsday Weekender that her organisation was deeply concerned with the trend of public sector appointments that demonstrated limited political will to meet the constitutional standard of gender parity in representation in the public sector.

“It is through the failure of various members of the Executive to respect the Constitution as they exercise their powers to appoint that we begin to question the reform agenda as it pertains to the rights of women to have equal representation in the public sector in State institutions, parastatals and State enterprises,” she said.

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“Moreover, this negative trend in public appointments greenlights such negative trends in the private sector where women are glaringly excluded from the top echelons of leadership.”

In the Women Affairs ministry, Mnangagwa replaced former ambassador Rudo Chitiga, a woman, with Matshiya, a man.

Sifelani-Ngoma said Mnangagwa’s administration was depriving women of their right to be included in top posts as enshrined in the Constitution.

“If the State can’t meet constitutional standards in its day-to-day management systems, it will be difficult to provide leadership to the country to demonstrate commitment to the 50/50 in wards and constituencies. Women have a right to lead and if they cannot be found even in the Women Affairs ministry where will they be found?” she questioned.

Imba Mukadzi director Siphathisiwe Moyo said Mnangagwa was betraying the gender balance gains which had been attained a couple of years ago.

“We are going back. Look at Rwanda which is at 52% gender balance and South Africa our neighbour which has 50% gender balance. This is retrogressing that a woman permanent secretary is even removed from the Women Affairs ministry and replaced with a man,” she said.

Women and Law in Southern Africa director Fadzai Traquino said Mnangagwa’s recent move to sideline women in his administration was unconstitutional.

“Take note of Section 17 (b)(ii) which says the State must take all measures, including legislative measures needed to ensure that women constitute at least half of the members of commissions and other elective and appointed government bodies established by or under this
Constitution or any Act of Parliament. The language is not ambiguous therefore any list of appointment that doesn’t meet this requirement, it is only fair to say is unconstitutional,” she said.

“We should be using the reappointment or shuffling to self-correct by replacing some posts with more women in order to meet the 50:50 target. Any posts occupied by women should be replaced by a female. Moreso, for the Women Affairs ministry such a high post in the ministry as a matter of principle should be occupied by a woman. The ministry already has a number of male directors, now a male permanent secretary. We are reinforcing male dominance for a ministry that is supposed to deal with gender equality.”