POLITICAL analysts believe the bombastic entry of First Lady Grace Mugabe into politics may have reversed the fight for gender equality in Zimbabwe by denigrating the country’s highest ranked female official and the ruling party’s second in command.
Grace has relentlessly spewed venom at Vice-President Joice Mujuru since announcing her entry into politics at the supposed invitation of a faction reportedly linked to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Grace claimed Zimbabwe had drifted backwards in the 10 years that Mujuru has been vice-president.
She accused the vice-president of plotting to topple her 90-year-old husband and demanded that she resign or be “baby dumped” at the Zanu PF congress next month.
Grace even went to the extent of saying Mujuru could be replaced by a man in government, as only the Zanu PF constitution stipulates that one of the vice-presidents be a woman.
Analysts said such caustic attacks proved that gender equality was a long way off in Zimbabwe and trampled on the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The declaration resolved to spearhead the agenda for women empowerment and remove all obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making.
In Mujuru’s case, Grace and her Zanu PF women’s league backers have rubbished the Beijing Declaration in their quest to replace her with Mnangagwa.
Political analysts have castigated women’s organisations for remaining quiet when Mujuru, an elected official, was being attacked by the First Lady, who is not yet formally in the ruling party structures.
Political analyst, Dumisani Mpofu said Grace’s vitriolic attacks on Mujuru destroyed efforts made by women that met at the Beijing Conference advocating for women to be considered in leadership positions.
“We did not expect Mugabe, the youths and the women’s leagues to behave in such a way as they are the disadvantaged groups,” he said.
“The Constitution is really advocating for women to hold higher positions at work and in politics, but in this case the president’s wife is the one actually at the forefront of criticising the most senior elected woman in the country backed by the women’s league.”
Mpofu said it was disturbing gender groups that are supposed to be supporting Mujuru had conveniently turned a blind eye and deaf ear.
Grace revealed to her bussed audience last week that she had trapped Mujuru and had a video of her dressed in a mini-skirt saying “rotten” things about the First Lady in her living room with a young man.
“This has done a lot of damage to the next generation as they will not take women empowerment issues seriously since we have already failed,” Mpofu continued.
Former Education minister David Coltart said the issue of women empowerment was a war yet to be won.
“The main concern is that women actually have the opportunity to lead, but they are actually allowing men to use them so as to get positions at the expense of other women,” he said.
“This demonstrates that it is really a war that is yet to be won which does not affect only Zimbabwe.”
Coltart said the language used by Grace was not befitting of a First Lady and showed that women were sometimes their own worst enemies.
However, university lecturer and analyst Lawton Hikwa said this was just a series of feelings by women on whom they wanted to lead them.
“The First Lady and the women’s league have never neglected the issue of women empowerment,” he said.
“Recently they had to meet cross-border traders, where women are the most affected.”