IN Zambia, especially in the political party that wants to take over from PF, they seem to relish suppressing women, says Vice-President Inonge Wina.

And Vice-President Wina says UPND members of parliament have done a disservice to women, youths and people with disabilities who were guaranteed some safe seats in Parliament after they rejected Bill 10.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wina says the ruling PF is a very democratic party despite party secretary general Davies Mwila’s decision to ask MPs to exculpate themselves for failing to vote for Bill 10.

Speaking in Parliament, Friday, during the Vice-President’s Question Time, Vice-President Wina charged that the UPND did not want to see women’s faces in Parliament as evidenced by their rejection of Bill 10, which would have increased their representation in the House.

She was responding to a question from Nsenga Hill PF member of parliament Kapembwa Simbao, who queried her over government’s failure to pass Bill 10, when women’s representation in Parliament stood at less than 11 per cent.

“The failure of Bill 10 embarrasses me, as a man, and I wonder if I am in the same country with those who proudly brought it down. The demographics of this country show that women make up 51 per cent of the total population and they also make up 60 to 70 per cent of the voters in this country. Yet in Parliament, women are less than 11 per cent. Bill 10 provided a sure way to increase the number of women [in Parliament]. I want to know if government has come up with a very good explanation to the 51 per cent in Zambia, why the attempt to improve the number of women in Parliament was not supported by the same party that wants to rule them starting from next year, and, thereby, failing this Bill 10?” asked Simbao.

In response, Vice-President Wina argued that UPND MPs had done a disservice to women, youths and people with disabilities, who were guaranteed some safe seats in Parliament.

“The UPND MPs have done a disservice to the women of this country, to the youths and people with disabilities, who were guaranteed some safe seats in this House so that they participate in the decision-making of running their country and contributing to the democracy in Zambia. UPND does not want to see women participate. When they even know that in their strongholds, they can sponsor women, but that party does not do so because they don’t want to see the faces of women in Parliament,” she claimed.

Vice-President Wina said that countries that had put women at the forefront had seen substantial developments, but added that a “certain political party” that wanted to take over from PF seemed to relish suppressing women.

“Countries that have put women at the forefront have seen substantial developments in running their countries. But here, in Zambia, especially in the political party that wants to take over from PF, which they will not do, they seem to relish in suppressing women…I don’t want to take it further to know how their women are treated in their homes,” she said, before the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini guided her not to “go there,” prompting her to swiftly withdraw her statement.

Vice-President Wina, however, said that Bill 10 had offered an opportunity to young people and women to be part of the governance of the country.

She stressed that as long as women were left out of the country’s governance, Zambians should not expect much development because women “see what men did not.”

“Bill 10 was offering an opportunity to the young people, to the women to be part of this governance. So long as we are leaving women out of the governance of Zambia, we should not expect much development. Women see what men do not see, sometimes. And it’s only appropriate for a progressive country, like Zambia, to ensure that when progressive Bills of this nature are introduced in the House; these Bills should be welcomed and endorsed by all members of parliament. I am still very disappointed, and I hope the women in UPND will be able to impress upon their leaders that they change their mind and look at women as equal contributors to the development of their country,” she said.

Chikankata UPND member of parliament Kabwe Mwiinga also asked:

“The PF government has been attacking the opposition as being undemocratic as far as Bill 10 was concerned. Few days ago, we saw letters that asked [some PF] MPs to exculpate themselves as to why they did not support Bill 10. Isn’t that mocking the MPs who had all the rights to make their own decisions, not based on political lines?” he asked.

But in her response, Vice-President Wina said that the PF remained a very democratic party.

“The Patriotic Front party is a club and it has its rules and regulations. The [PF] Secretary General [Davies Mwila] is not part of this House, he was acting outside Parliament. And he does not perhaps even know the voting patterns in the House because what he wanted to know was ‘what transpired’ ‘why is it that the three MPs do not show on the list of members that voted.’ This matter is still under investigation as to how perhaps the machines did not do a good job in capturing members, who were here, but don’t seem to have voted. So, there are still some discrepancies there that the members that have been cited are questioning,” replied Vice-President Wina.

“PF as a party is very democratic. We take collective decisions and we are not compelled like some parties do where their members are stopped from participation. Because those members that absented themselves and could not even debate, in PF, we debate no matter how negative the subject may be towards the party. And we are not stifled by anyone in terms of freedom of expression. So, this is what we should see in other political parties, not where they are gagged and cannot participate. In Bill 10, for example, we should have heard the reasons why some MPs were opposing the Bill, not just to keep quiet and to be told ‘don’t participate’, that is undemocratic.”