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  • on 03.07.2014
  • at 05:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Namibia’s Gender Zebra 0

A quiet gender revolution the like of which has been unseen in Southern Africa and perhaps anywhere in the world, is now firmly underway in Namibia.

The ruling party, SWAPO has not only committed to filling half of its seats in parliament with women but also committed to what they call a ‘Zebra system’ whereby if a Minister is a woman then the Deputy Minister will be a man and vice versa. Even more ambitiously, the implication is that the roles will be switched in successive elections. What this means is that Namibia’s likely appointing a man to the presidency in 2014 is being read by many decision makers as a SWAPO commitment to appoint a woman to the presidency in 2019.

The reason why this is a revolution and not just another election promise, is that SWAPO is already moving to operationalise this commitment to gender equity. SWAPO initially agreed in 2002 to pursue greater gender equality in calling for 50% of leadership positions in parliament, government and state owned enterprises to be occupied by women. At the most recent SWAPO conference, it was agreed that this policy will be operationalised in the November 2014 elections that SWAPO is almost assured of winning. Currently 25 members of parliament out of 72 are women meaning that if the policy is operationalised as many as 11 male members of parliament risk losing their seats, if 36 seats are to be filled by women. SWAPO’s response has been to expand parliament thus removing the fear of losing a seat as a major obstacle to implementing this new ‘Gender Zebra’ policy.

Last month, the Namibian government executive took the first steps towards expanding the number of seats in parliament’s national assembly from 72 members to 100.The issue was discussed in Cabinet on June 27th 2014 with the press reporting that a bill is now being prepared for circulation. The meeting was called at a high level, being chaired by Prime Minister Hage Geingob, indicating that SWAPO is serious about this. Already, SWAPO has sent a directive to regional executives on the election of parliamentary candidates. In the July 2014 electoral college vote, the directive calls for the zebra list to be applied. SWAPO’s future secretary general will be a man and his deputy a woman with the subsequent 20 positions alternating between men and women.

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By Alexander O’Riordan – SACSIS

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