THE Zimbabwe Gender Commission has launched a thinly veiled attack at the Nelson Chamisa led MDC-T over physical and verbal attacks recently directed at former party Vice President Thokozani Khupe.
“The Commission is deeply concerned about the attacks against female political leaders, which have been reported in some sections of the media recently,” said the Commission in a statement.
Khupe was recently expelled from the MDC-T and further recalled as party proportional representation MP for Bulawayo by the Chamisa-led party after she fiercely opposed the presidential hopeful’s controversial ascension to the main opposition’s leadership.
The leadership wrangle between the former MDC-T co-VPs was ignited by the death of founding party leader Morgan Tsvangirai who succumbed to colon cancer while receiving treatment in South Africa February this year.
Khupe was subjected to violent attacks by suspected Chamisa loyalists during Tsvangirai’s funeral in Buhera who allegedly accused her of being a “dissident”.
Unknown assailants also followed her to her Bulawayo base where they stormed a party meeting she was addressing, beating up her aides and smashing cars.
Her ordeal at the hands of suspected MDC-T followers was not just limited to the two incidents as she was last year also attacked when Tsvangirai was still party leader.
The former Deputy Prime Minister’s continued attacks have spotlighted on the opposition’s violent side at a time Zanu PF violence on opponents seems to have taken a break.
At a time Chamisa appears to have put the party leadership question to bed, Khupe has repeatedly accused her former colleagues of collaborating to elbow her out of the race for the MDC-T top job because she was a woman.
Although making no mention of names, the Gender Commission accused political parties of attempts to silence women voices in Zimbabwe’s male dominated political arena.
“These attacks are worrisome particularly with the looming general elections, as they will inevitably escalate to outbreaks of political violence during and after the elections, if left unchecked.
“These heinous acts of political violence are aimed at intimidating the democratic contestation of ideas and silencing the voices of women in politics.
“This also exacerbates the disparity between men and women in politics and decision-making positions and flies in the face of gender equality and peaceful, free, fair and credible elections that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde. E.D Mnangagwa has been preaching about.”
The Gender Commission called on “political party leaders to take a strong public stance against the use of electoral and political violence against women and improve the status of women within their political parties” and for the parties “to create gender responsive intra-party and inter-party dispute resolution mechanisms”.
The statutory body also urged political parties to uphold the gender equality provisions in the Constitution and for the media to “portray women leaders positively and avoid the deliberate negative portrayal of women in leadership as this creates negative stereotypes of women in the political arena”.
Khupe is the most prominent female politician to have been subjected to acts of violence in the recent past.