'May the force be with you' AN OPINION by DELTA MILAYO NDOU

'May the force be with you'


The shadow being cast by the forthcoming harmonized elections is so vast that hardly any of us can afford the luxury of shrugging a nonchalant shoulder, wrapping ourselves in swathes of indifference and hoping that these elections will 'just leave us alone'.


There is too much at stake for the eligible voter to merely decide that their pink finger is not worth staining or to make the ignoble choice of sitting at home, flipping through DSTV channels and pretending that elections are none of their business.


The elections are everyone's business €¦ no in fact they are everyone's battle.

Elections are not business they are battles. They are battle to elect the people we want and the people we want to vote for are those whom we think will protect and advance our interests.


You see elections are as much about self-interest as they are about any other more 'noble' human quality.


The self-interests of the voting public reigns supreme in the ballot box - not the will of politicians but the will of individuals, expressed through one 'X' after another until cumulatively thousands upon thousands of individuals collectively morph into millions saying the same thing.


Millions of individuals, like you, determining whom they will entrust their wards, districts, towns, cities, as well as provinces and ultimately whom they will entrust their country to.


Against the background of having the Draft Constitution sail through the lower house on Friday May 10, the Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU)'s launched its "Vote for a Woman € campaign in Harare which was attended by politicians from across the divide who were motivated by self-interest.


Specifically, their attendance was indicative of the self-interests that come with belonging to a social group that has been historically sidelined and relegated to the margins of political processes - it expressed the desire by women to enjoy equal representation.


Barely, 24 hours later a similar 'battle cry' echoed from the Large City Hall in Bulawayo were the Citizens Election Series provided a platform for women assembly representatives from various political parties to articulate their party's positions on various issues.


They all somehow managed to mention that it was imperative for women to be voted into power and that women should be at the forefront of voting for other women.


Now I resist this idea that I should vote for anyone because of the body parts they possess, I find it as offensive as the notion that we should not vote for certain candidates because they don't have a certain body part.


Body parts are not a basis for voting for or against any candidate BUT the promotion of self-interests is certainly a persuasive premise to begin soliciting for votes.


Like I said, elections are battles and for anyone to be invested in the victory of any candidate - there has to be a benefit that accrues to them should that candidate succeed. There has to be some self-interest that is served by choosing one candidate over every other.

Women need to vote for other women out of self-interest. The youth need to vote for women out of their own self-interest. Besides given that our definition of a youth is a person between the age of 18 and 35, and given that so many females enter into marriages young and assume adult responsibilities that erode their classification as 'youth' - the category of 'youth' as we understand it is quite a fluid one.


The self-interests of the voting public reigns supreme in the ballot box. The 'Vote for a Woman' campaign is putting political parties on notice - and rightly so.


The campaign is putting political parties on notice regarding their failure and insulting disinterest in fielding women to stand as electoral candidates. It is a clarion call for women to elevate their self-interests above the partisan politics that has not rewarded their loyalty with anything more substantial than cheap talk, empty promises and a lot of hot air.


The campaign is putting political parties on notice that this time around there will be considerable political costs for political hypocrisy evidenced by the perpetual failure of parties to honor their own constitutions and quota systems for women.


The political stakes have never been higher.


Political parties need to realize that not fielding a woman in a constituency where their rivals have fielded one is not only a gamble but also the throwing of the gauntlet - a dare to the female voters to prove that they will protect their self-interests over and above the interest of any political party.


Fielding a woman used to be considered risky because the voters supposedly had little confidence in the capabilities of women to lead but the tide has turned and the eligible voters of today are people who were raised in a society dominated by career women so their lived experiences inform them that body parts have nothing to do with competence or the lack of it.


The 'Vote for a Woman' campaign is a pro-choice initiative - it doesn't tell you what party to vote for but it urges you on what kind of candidate to place premium-voting value upon. Vote for a woman. For no other reason than that your self-interests demand that you do so.


In conclusion, I must explain the odd choice of title for this article. Having said that elections are a battle and being cognizant of the obstacles that women face within their internal party structures to even get nominated as party candidates and the uphill struggle they face to be accepted by the electorate as viable leaders - I realized that the power does not lie with the parties but with the voters.


The force for change as far as equal representation for women is concerned is the voting public not the party politicking. I was reminded of that Star Wars movie in which the phrase 'may the force be with you' is used to convey best wishes, good luck and hope ahead of a battle.


So to every woman candidate whose name will make it to the ballot papers in the battlefield of the harmonized elections - may the force be with you and may the voting public chose to elevate self-interest over partisan interests by entrusting the future of this country to deserving women.

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