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Taking up a career in politics
June 27, 2013
on Tuesday shared a panel to discuss careers in politics in a special
DefZee Presents Food for Thought Session at the U.S. Embassy Public
Affairs Section. DefZee is an online publication for youth in Zimbabwe.
The DefZee discussion series is held monthly for youth to hear from
working professionals about the nuts and bolts of a wide range of
session featured three elected politicians and two candidates running
for the first time in this year’s elections. The speakers
included two women: Honorable Lucia Matibenga, MDC MP for Kuwadzana,
founding member of the MDC, and the first Chairperson of the Parliamentary
Women’s Committee, and Honorable Sekai M. Holland, MDC-T Senator
for Chizhanje, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister,
and one of three co-principals in the Organ for National Healing,
Reconciliation and Integration in the Office of the President and
Cabinet. There were also three male politicians: Honorable Saviour
Kasukuwere, Zanu-PF Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation
and Empowerment, and Member of Parliament for Mt. Darwin; Glen Dhliwayo,
an independent candidate running in Highfield West constituency;
and Jacob Mafume, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T)’s
candidate for Harare South. Nqobile Moyo, the founder and Chairman
of Voices in the Vision for Africa (VIVA) Zimbabwe, also spoke about
his organization’s support for youth voting and peace building.
Below is an excerpt of the panel’s views on what motivated
their interest into politics as well as their take on politics as
a career. This is not a complete transcript.
What motivated you to go into a career in politics?
Senator Sekai Holland: …I am in politics
to actually clean politics. Politics is not a dirty game - it is
the highest calling -- and as long as women and the youth make it
what it ought to be - to serve the people - until I lay the foundation
for that, I have failed.
Jacob Mafume: I was Director of Constitutional
Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office overseeing and supervising
process using the Prime Minister’s eyes. I am pleased
with what we did. We have produced a new constitution,
and I have now decided to present myself as the candidate for Harare
South. I have always believed that my goal was to be able to represent
people, the interest of the country, and to serve the country as
best as I could. That is what inspires me and gets me going as a
Gladys Matibenga: I observed a lot of injustices at the
workplace, worse than the injustices that…we fought in the
liberation struggle. I joined the workers union and ended up being
president of the Commercial Workers Union and later Vice President
of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions. I held several positions in the MDC…
I was appointed Minister of Public Services. Why I joined politics
- panongoita kahondo hondo so, kakudonzerana donzerana so, that
inspires me. I take a side and ndorwa ndiriku side iroro.
Kasukuwere: What motivated me was the arrest of my father
during the liberation struggle. How he was kicked as I looked at
him and put into a truck and I wanted to understand, why dad? As
time went I started understanding why we had to go through what
we had to go through. In 1997-98, I was one of the leading youngsters
with businesses in the country and I faced challenges in accessing
capital - how as a young black man in a financial sector dominated
and run by a colonial system would discriminate against me. We set
Affirmative Action Group as we sought to break the challenges of
accessing credit. What pushed me into politics is the desire to
serve. I believe we have to change our country. We are the ones
to build a country that we can enjoy.
Moyo: Voices in the Vision for Africa (VIVA) - we conduct
capacity building and peace building workshops for youth. We are
looking at things from a balanced perspective, bringing in different
views from the social, civic and political side. It is a national
platform, not a political platform. We lobby parliament and we demand
our space, voice, meaningful participation in these things.
Dliwayo: People are born political. When young people play,
that’s political; in the church, that’s politics. My
mother was HIV positive and I did not see my father. At high school,
I began my political career as a peer educator. Now I am a student
engineer and I have been an outspoken person. I was SRC President
at my college after being campaign manager for the previous president.
Student leaders are always evicted or expelled from school and they
have to do a degree that takes eight years to complete because they
are always in running battles with the authorities. As a young Zimbabwean,
I have a right to participate, and my cause if simple: being the
rallying point for youth participation, which is why I took the
seemingly silly position of running as an independent candidate
in a country where only one independent candidate has made it. The
end game is not winning an election. The end game is making a statement
that young people in Zimbabwe are ready to become part of national
Is politics a career?
Mafume: The stories people tell you make you think it’s
a mountain. It’s not really that. It is something that an
ordinary person can do as long as you have the need to serve the
people at heart. You just need to know what society wants and how
you can deliver those needs. Some of our politics was stuck in the
past, and where I am situated we can deliver better now and, possibly,
a better future for our people. In an ordinary story is where the
greatest politics is.
Mativenga: Coming from the private sector where I started
working, a career has a path. When I look at politics, I can’t
say the same. Politics inochinja na five to. When we went for the
inaugural MDC Women’s Congress in 2001, the campaign team
told me we had all the 12 provinces, but the following morning the
chief campaign officer came and said to me, “We are left with
eight.” I don’t consider politics as a career. You cannot
even tell what tomorrow holds. You don’t know until it is
over, until someone raises my hand and says you are the winner.
So how do you make a career of that? But for me, there are no painful
moments. You can continue your representational role even in defeat.
Kasukuwere: I think it’s a calling…Politics
is a game of “you must never give up.” Do you really
believe in what you are doing?...It’s about people. You must
know what you want to do and deliver…. Some of us are in for
the marathon. I don’t exercise for 100 meters; no, long distance,
the Comrades Marathon. It’s also about issues; you must identify
the issues. I have my reasons why I joined Zanu PF. It is those
values that I hold dear in my life…. When I started serving
in Mount Darwin, in terms of vehicles, there were no more than 20.
Today, I think, on a daily basis there are two or three accidents.
This gives me a great sense of accomplishment…. As young people,
if you want politics as a calling it means you must remain with
the people, remain relevant. They should know you very well. When
you go into politics, go in, not for the money, but to serve the
Moyo: Politics is a career for young people because of
the way people in politics have portrayed it. It is for those that
have the muscles…But what is important is how you can take
that energy that drives you inside to be relevant to the people
within your constituency. All that is lost given the dollar sign...
Dliwayo: … it is because of the circumstance that
we find ourselves in, especially in Africa, that makes politics
a career. Once you get into politics, it disrupts whatever career
path you had planned. We cannot run away from the fact that politics
has become a career. But should politics be a career? No. It is
a calling that should contribute to the affairs of the nation…
The tragedy is that those who fight oppression end up being mirrors
of the oppressors. In 1999, PM Morgan Tsvangirai was saying President
Mugabe had ruled for too long. Fourteen years on, he (Tsvangirai)
is still ruling at his party. Where is the difference there?...Young
people should redefine politics.
A career in politics is not a place for the faint-hearted, people
say. The intense media scrutiny, long working hours, and constant
pressure to please are certainly not going to be to everybody's
taste. All newspaper front pages start and end with politicians.
How do you manage this public glare/ attention?
Kasukuwere: Attention is very exciting by the way. I have
been looking forward for somebody to ask me about how I manage the
Baba Jukwas of this country. I think at this stage I am the most
vilified politician in Zimbabwe. You wake up in the morning. You
check Baba Jukwa - Kasukuwere must be there. My mother is supposed
to be a n’anga and so on. I do read (Baba Jukwa), I am a politician
and a smart one too. I find myself in this limelight because of
the portfolio I am in charge of. It naturally would attract much
more than what I am going through. It is about the liberation of
our people. It’s about the economic independence of our country.
For as long as you believe in that cause, I am prepared to die for
it. I receive no less than 50 or so calls a day, some insulting
me, some insulting my mother, and I have developed a tendency of
answering “urikudei”? Ndaitei? That does not worry me.
What worries me is the fight on my hands - the empowerment of our
people….The attacks on me, my kids - you know, I am family
man and I have three kids. We sit on the table in the evening, and
my kids are praying. They go to school, and somebody is saying,
“Baba Jukwa says his father this and that” - look at
the emotional stress. It’s a price we have to pay for our
country. I go to my mum and say, “Mama, don’t worry;
they have called me everything.” It’s painful….
Whatever they, say, it strengthens me. It gives me the resolve.
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