ZIMBABWE'S bloated parliament is set to expand further to accommodate an extra 60 women MPs provided for in the draft constitution recently endorsed by Zanu PF and the MDCs.
According to Section 124, subsection 1(b) of the draft constitution, the first two parliaments after its adoption, would have "an additional 60 women members, six from each of the provinces into which Zimbabwe is divided, elected through a system of proportional representation based on the votes cast for candidates representing political parties in a general election for constituency members in the provinces".
The new measures come at a time political parties are still to fully implement Sadc protocols on gender requiring them to adopt measures that would culminate in gender equality by 2015, including reserving political positions for women.
Women's Affairs deputy minister Jessie Majome said the country had not done enough to promote gender equality due to "male resistance" and took a swipe at government and political parties for stifling the political advancement of women, saying at 17% Zimbabwe was well below the global average of 30% women representation in politics and government.
"Zimbabwe is still way below the global average as (far as) women's representation is concerned and I am disappointed that the provisions will last for the duration of only two parliaments," said Majome. "I would have preferred that they remain in place until there are proper guarantees that Zimbabwe will have 50-50 gender equality in political positions," Majome said.
She however defended the new constitutional provisions saying it was more important to increase women's representation and worrying about the financial implications was a luxury that can only be afforded by men who were already well represented.
"The only way of avoiding a bloated parliament would have been to reserve a quota for women in the 210 seats already in place, but that has been met with resistance from men," said Majome.
National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson Blessing Vava said the provisions were "expensive, cosmetic and irrelevant in the fight to achieve gender equality".
"The government is already struggling to pay salaries of the current parliamentarians and they further complicate the situation by increasing the numbers," said Vava. "The people never asked for these measures in the outreach programmes, but the parties go on to create more areas of patronage and accommodation for their members."
Questions have always been raised about the desirability and sustainability of a bi-cameral legislature as well as its size given Zimbabwe's relatively small population of around 12 million.
Zimbabwe already has 210 members of the House of Assembly and 80 senators, a result of various constitutional amendments that have been effected during the 33 years of Zanu PF rule.