Half state appointees on university councils to be women

Zimbabwe has come up with a law compelling the higher and tertiary education minister to ensure that at least half of ministerial appointees on all university councils are women, as required by the country’s Constitution.

The General Laws Amendment Bill, which is being steered through parliament by Vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, also seeks to achieve “fair regional representation” at universities.

The bill seeks to bring 126 laws into conformity with the Constitution negotiated between President Robert Mugabe and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2013, during the days of coalition government. The coalition ended in July 2013 with elections that were won by Mugabe – Tsvangirai claimed they were rigged.

The new Constitution was the one major achievement of their working together, providing checks and balances on Mugabe’s power and giving Zimbabweans greater liberties than previous constitutions.

Mugabe’s subsequent cabinet had few women, sparking outrage among women’s activists. MPs are now pushing for laws to achieve gender parity, such as in university governance.

Constitutional stipulations ignored

Part of the General Laws Amendment Bill says that the higher and tertiary education minister “shall endeavour to ensure that at least half of appointed members of the council are women”. Gender clauses in the bill were adopted by the National Assembly’s justice portfolio committee.

Jessie Majome, chair of the committee, said in an interview that MPs pushed for the law as constitutional stipulations on gender and regional representation were not being adhered to.

“The Constitution requires that there should be gender balance and fair regional representation in all sectors and institutions and there have been many appointments, even at the highest level, that are not reflecting these things,” said Majome of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, who was deputy justice minister in the coalition government.

According to the Constitution, the state should take just and fair affirmative action to promote previously marginalised groups, and should ensure that all communities have equitable access to resources to promote their development.

“The state must also take all measures, including legislative measures, to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government and (ii) women constitute at least half the membership of all commissions and other elective and appointed government bodies,” the Constitution says.