ZANU PF and the two main MDC parties have agreed controversial new plans to establish a bloated Parliament with close to 400 legislators.
The measures are contained in a new draft constitution. The parties resolved to retain the 210 parliamentary seats, 88 Senate seats and add a further 60 seats for female lawmakers.
Under the new arrangement, Parliament will now have 368 lawmakers in both the Lower and Upper Houses.
The 60 female MPs will be seconded by political parties on a proportional representation basis in line with the number of seats the parties would have garnered in elections.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga confirmed the development, saying: “That issue was agreed on — three to four weeks ago — and it will be in the draft.”
President Robert Mugabe last month told a continental women’s lobby group in Harare he was mulling affirmative action to increase women representation in Parliament.
But Joy Mabenge, chairperson of an economic lobby group, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, accused the parties said the additional constituencies would be a drain on the national purse.
“We used to do well with 120 MPs,” Mabenge said. “The country’s geographical boundaries have not expanded, neither has its population risen significantly and it boggles the mind why the number of parliamentarians keeps on increasing.
“The money given to the legislators can be channelled to education, food provision and health care needs of the people such as antiretroviral drugs.”
Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Charity Manyeruke said seconding 60 female legislators was an unnecessary cost as the women quota could still have been achieved within the 210 seats.
“Men are not prepared to share power with women and that is why they come up with special circumstances to increase women representation in Parliament,” she said.
“It’s the same as saying women are giving us a burden; let us just give them the seats yet they are capable of winning an election if given space to campaign freely.”
She said women were victims of patriarchy but evidence had shown they were capable leaders.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said such a bloated Parliament for only 13 million people was unsustainable.