JOURNALIST-cum-businessman -cum-politician Supa Mandiwanzira recently won the Zanu PF parliamentary ticket to represent the party in the forthcoming harmonised elections as its candidate for Nyanga South, Manicaland province. NewsDay reporter Moses Matenga (ND) spoke to Mandiwanzira (SM) on his political life, allegations of him losing his wife to DRC President Joseph Kabila and alleged factional fights in provincial party structures.
Report by Moses Matenga&picture compilation by Tinotenda Samukange
ND: You are a politician, businessman and journalist all rolled into one, how are you managing all that?
SM: I think that a lot of people are many things in what they are or in what they do. If you consider that a man has to play the father role, breadwinner role, CEO at the office and lead at the church. Men have been created to be able to multi-task and I think I have the privilege to multi-task and I do that pretty well.
I don’t think it’s a difficult role to be able to multi-task, but what is critical is to be able to distinguish each role from the other and l think I do that very well.
ND: By making known your political inclinations, don’t you think you have alienated your station from listeners and advertisers considering that Zimbabwe has many political parties?
SM: I have not heard any rule in Zimbabwe or any law that denies anyone in politics an opportunity to do business. You must consider my ownership of a radio station just as the same perhaps as the ownership of a supermarket. If you own a supermarket and decide to be a political player do you alienate your customers?
Do people make a decision to shop in a shop because it is owned by someone from political party X or political party Y, I don’t think so? I think Zimbabweans are mature enough to be able to distinguish between Supa Mandiwanzira as an individual and ZiFM Stereo as a radio station because these are separate legal entities that can be sued independent of each other, so I think there is no confusion whatsoever that I own a radio station and I have decided to be in politics. What I am very clear about is the fact that my political views must not dominate the radio station, and from its inception on August 15, 2012 up to now, my radio station has not been influenced by my own political affiliation. In fact, it has stood on the principles of good ethical and balanced journalism, the principles that define what journalism is all about. So I am clear about the two separate entities.
ND: And reports that your station is being funded by Zanu PF and that you got the licence because of your political inclination, what’s your take on that?
SM: You are the ones in your newspaper who have written numerous stories that Zanu PF is broke and I am not suggesting that it is actually broke. If you write and are convinced that Zanu PF is broke why would you expect it to be funding a radio station when it is broke as an institution? To be very direct in my response, Zanu PF doesn’t fund private business. Zanu PF has no time and resources to fund private businesses. This project is funded by loans from banks, by stakeholders including advertisers, listeners and shareholders and operates on business principles.
ND: What inspired you to get into politics having been successful as a journalist and businessperson?
SM: I never intended to get into politics, because I never thought it was my path, but I come from Nyanga and grew up there and I am considered as one of its leading lights in terms of people who came out and have done something remarkable and recognisable nationally and sometimes internationally. I was invited by the community leaders there who said “we think you can come in and use the influence you managed to garner to uplift the community”. I felt that was a very important call that I had to respond to positively. I am glad I responded because I can see the hope and expectations that have risen and I am very confident that I will meet the expectations to a very great extent.
ND: Why did you choose Zanu PF in responding to the call?
SM: I have always believed in Zanu PF and I have never believed in any other political party. I have great admiration for Zanu PF leaders who, when they did not have any penny, decided to wage a struggle to win back our independence and decided to take on a regime armed to the teeth and dependent on support of the West.
I admire that kind of vision and in fact they waged a struggle and gave us the independence we enjoy today. I admire that legacy and I wanted to be part of the community or generation that sustains that legacy and that’s why I decided that I must stand for Zanu PF because I believe in it. I believe in its ideology to be a people’s institution to make sure people benefit from their resources.
I have no doubt that you as Moses Matenga if you go to South Africa and relate to all races you can see how Zimbabweans are confident, believe in themselves, and don’t allow anybody to stand in their way and that’s what I am proud of, that’s why I am Zanu PF.
ND: Do you think you have the capacity to retain the seat that is currently in the hands of the MDC-T considering that Zanu PF lost dismally in Manicaland in the last election in 2008?
SM: The capacity comes from the people who invited me. I was invited by the community, I did not just go there and say I want to be your MP so if I was invited by the community it’s absolutely guaranteed that the people will give me that support for me to be in Parliament and to deliver their expectations.
I have absolutely no doubt that Zanu PF is going to win and that the MP for Nyanga post 31 July will be none-other than Supa Collins Mandiwanzira and the President of the country will be President Mugabe and that Nyanga is going to deliver the most significant vote for the President and a massive vote for the local MP and massive vote for the councillors.
ND: You sound so confident of victory, where are you drawing that confidence from knowing for a fact that your party lost in 2008, first losing virtually all seats in Manicaland and your Presidential candidate losing to Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of voting?
SM: The last election was won by President Robert Mugabe and that’s why he is President today. It’s a lie that anyone else won because if anyone won, he would be President.
President Mugabe won the run-off with a convincing margin. In the first election in March 2008, there was no winner; there was just a leader in the race. You can’t get a prize for number one when you are still in the race. President Mugabe was behind in the relay, he then overtook and at the finishing line he was number one, that’s why he is President today.
ND: There are factional fights in Manicaland, what exactly is going on and do you see the party rising from the dust in time to win the elections?
SM: I absolutely don’t know of factional fighting in Manicaland. There are only differences and those differences are healthy because that reflects that there is democracy in the party. There are no differences of a factional nature in Manicaland. We are aware of the hierarchy in Manicaland and we know who is the most senior leader, who is next, and we know which people are in which positions within the party.
You must know that Zanu PF is a disciplined party and has survived many years since its formation in the 60s. You cannot find factionalism in that kind of organisation, and there is healthy democracy.
ND: And who is the most senior in the province?
SM: I think that you need to go and take the Zanu PF constitution as journalists for you to know some of these things. The most senior politician in Manicaland is Cde Didymus Mutasa.
ND: So if the constitution is clear that Mutasa is the most senior politician, why are there others not showing respect and fighting him?
SM: I am not aware of that.
ND: A lot has been said and written about Supa Mandiwanzira, but little has been written about you, do you have a family?
SM: I think my family is not in the public fray, I don’t like them to be in the public fray. They would prefer not to be in the public domain because it is very important to separate family and business and politics so I should protect my family and part of that is to make sure they are not in the limelight and thankfully my wife doesn’t like to be in the limelight, my kids don’t like to be in the limelight. They want to be in the limelight for their own abilities and I work hard to make sure they achieve that.
I am definitely married to one wife since 1998 and I have three kids; two girls and one boy and I never lost a wife to (DRC President Joseph) Kabila.ND: So where did the issue of you having lost a wife to Kabila come from?
SM: The same quarters that suggest my station is funded by Zanu PF and I think these kinds of stories come from the nature of our society that at some point as a country we had become intolerant of each other to the extent that we could create stories just to tarnish or bring down people for no apparent reason. It’s a result of the political polarisation that existed and to some extent still exists today, but I think post this election, there will be tolerance and people would have found each other again.
ND: There are reports that Zanu PF wants to use the army and violence to rig elections and reports in your constituency and other nearby areas are that members of the army are always seen there raising fears of intimidation, what’s your response to that?
SM: We know that it is very clear that opposition parties are going to lose the forthcoming elections to Zanu PF so in order to prepare their own epitaphs, they have started making all these kind of baseless allegations which have no fact, no evidence to try and have a soft landing when the results of the July 31 elections are announced.
I would challenge you to show me anyone who has been raped, killed and kidnapped by Zanu PF. I would challenge you to show me a soldier that you have seen trying to rig an election, to show me the Zanu PF hand or influence in Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) whose leadership was chosen by all parties in the inclusive government. I think Zimbabweans must begin to dismiss that as nonsense and focus on the main business at hand which is to identify a political party that is going to deliver on their expectations.
ND. If you don’t make it in the forthcoming polls, will you continue with your projects that you started 10 years ago?
SM: Zanu PF is not a loser; Supa Mandiwanzira is not a loser.
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