To say that I was shocked to read in the media that Zimbabwe president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – during his recent visit to the Johane Masowe Apostolic sect – accepted their declaration that women should not lead, would be a grave understatement, but, rather I was dumbfounded – such comments are not to be expected of a leader of a modern society in the 21st century.
This worrisome declaration by the Johane Masowe Apostolic sect came in the wake of their blasphemous proclamation that Mnangagwa had been anointed by Jehovah God to win the forthcoming elections, and that if he was to stay in power, he should never allow a woman to take the reins.
The sect made it clear that they did not allow women to lead, and as such, he should follow suit.
One would have expected Mnangagwa – as both the current leader of a modern civilised society, and a presidential candidate in the 30 July 2018 harmonised elections – to have taken a stand against such a brazen attack on women, but sadly, he failed to do so, resorting, instead, to thanking the apostolic sect.
As much as this sect’s declaration was made following the claim that then Zimbabwe president Robert Gabriel Mugabe lost his “anointing” due to his surrendering his “powers” to his wife Grace, Mnangagwa should have been quick to point out that this was not a gender issue, but a case of a misguided first lady.
Actually, the fact that the apostolic sect even warned Mnangagwa “not to involve a woman in his reign”, confirms that this had everything to do with gender discrimination than anything else.
The sect’s proclamations are neither in tandem with modern society, nor the Holy Bible, as even Jesus Christ himself involved women in his ministry – a case in point being Mary of Magdalena.
What happened with Mugabe was not – by any stretch of the imagination – about gender, but that he married a somewhat wayward wife.
Therefore, for Mnangagwa to simply thank the apostolic sect for their “anointing” and proclamations, without so much as correcting them on their brazenly sexist and primitive stance, speaks volumes about the president.
Does he endorse such views that women should not lead?
Is that why his cabinet has so few women?
Is that why his Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party never bothered to address its women’s league concerns that they were short-changed during their primary elections?
Zimbabwe is not expecting another wayward ill-disciplined Grace, but reducing this to a gender issue, and Mnangagwa to seemingly accept this, is more that worrying for the country’s future should he win the elections.
Such issues as gender are so sensitive that there should never be any room for diplomacy when disparaging remarks are made towards any sex – and, as such, Mnangagwa was expected to respond as soon as they had been made.
I remember watching a press conference recently between the British Prime Minister Theresa May and United States President Donald J. Trump, in which the former tried all her best to remain as diplomatic as possible amid controversial policies and statements by the latter, especially in The Sun newspaper a day before.
However, when Trump reiterated his opposition to immigration and multi-cultural societies, May immediately broke ranks with him, and threw diplomacy aside, by making it unequivocally clear how immigration had benefitted Britain.
As this is a very touchy subject, May did very well in swiftly rebuffing Trump’s statements, and fearlessly expressing her views.
The same was to be expected from our own Mnangagwa after the apostolic sect made their unfortunate sexist statements.
He should have never let the sun set without setting straight the Zimbabwe government, and his personal, views on the subject of women and leadership.
Did he fear that the “anointing” placed on him would be revoked?
If so, then the “anointing” would clearly not have been from the Jehovah God that I know and worship – as His anointing can never be withdrawn by anyone except himself.
Genuine prophets of God are mere messengers, and cannot change anything that Jehovah would have established.
Thus, if these so-called prophets were genuinely sent by God, then Mnangagwa should have corrected their misguided perceptions on women, whilst still receiving his anointing.
The fact that he did not, may possibly show that, deep down, he does not believe that this anointing was truly from God, but it was from these “prophets”’ own dubious powers, which they can revoke anytime they please.
He preferred placating them and getting into office, than standing up for women’s rights.
On the other hand, as mentioned before, he could have been in agreement with this apostolic sect’s views that women should not be in leadership – something that would be more worrying for our struggling democracy.
Even some of the most seemingly gender oppressive societies – such as those in North Africa and the Middle East – would gloat in the face of such sentiments from a country like Zimbabwe, as they have women in leadership positions.
A leader can easily pay lip-service to issues of gender parity – even setting up a women’s bank, and availing other services – but, the true nature of his or her beliefs are exposed in such circumstances as Mnangagwa found himself.
A person’s true colours are only laid bare by their reaction when they are caught off-guard – and Mnangagwa was not any different.
As Zimbabweans are left with only two weeks to the watershed harmonised elections, this is an opportunity for those, especially women – who were about to make the gravest mistake of their lives by believing that Mnangagwa was on their side – to correct their perceptions.
Here is a man who, when confronted with blatant sexist attitudes towards women, would rather look aside and act as if he heard nothing.
Can women, then, trust that their bank – which was conveniently launched just before elections, clearly as a political gimmick – would still be offering any loans this time next year?
Can women in leadership positions be certain that, once Mnangagwa is given a mandate to be president for the next five years, they would still be in office a year or two from now?
It is anyone’s guess, but the signs so far are not encouraging at all!
Zimbabweans, especially women need to be very careful as they go into the ballot box on 30 July, as one misplaced “X” can cancel out any hope for gender parity.
* Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a Zimbabwean social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He can be contacted at <[email protected]>