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‘Journalism kindled my interest in politics’

GEOFF Nyarota made a name as a journalist having worked for both the public and private media. After a stint in the United States, Nyarota returned home in 2010 and threw his hat into the political arena.

GEOFF Nyarota made a name as a journalist having worked for both the public and private media. After a stint in the United States, Nyarota returned home in 2010 and threw his hat into the political arena. He lost to MDC-T’s Pishai Muchauraya in the party primary election in Makoni South and decided to stand as an independent candidate. NewsDay reporter Moses Matenga (ND) interviewed Nyarota (GN). Below are excerpts:

Report by Moses Matenga

ND: What motivated your entry into politics, having achieved a lot as a journalist?

GN: My work as a journalist and an editor kindled my interest in politics. Journalism opened the door for me into the world of politics, as I hobnobbed with and got to know powerful politicians personally over the years. As you advise and criticise politicians and governments as an editor, you behave as a politician yourself. ND: Why did you initially choose to represent the MDC-T party in the elections? GN: Going back to the formation of the party in 1999, I have been associated with the MDC-T. It was formed seven months after we launched the original Daily News. The editorial policy embodied the very democratic principles espoused by the MDC. The newspaper and the new party became like two sides of the same coin. The newspaper’s motto “Telling it like it is”, provided the emerging party with the very platform it needed as it was launched into a hostile media environment, dominated by The Herald and ZBC.

As the MDC grew in popularity, the circulation of The Daily News escalated. The growths were in inverse proportion to the decline in the popularity of Zanu PF and the circulation of the government-supporting Herald newspaper. I became associated with the MDC in sections of the public mind. I was labelled as an enemy of the State. It was inevitable that I would ultimately become an MDC politician.

Long before the launch of The Daily News and the formation of the MDC in 1993, Morgan Tsvangirai, the party’s founding president, and I became, working together with others, associated in Publishing Ventures, a company that we formed for the purpose of launching an independent weekly newspaper. The project died in its infancy because of inadequate funding. Tsvangirai later engineered the launch of The Worker newspaper by the ZCTU, while I became involved in the launch of The Daily News.In 2010, on my return from the United States I was approached by the MDC-T structures in Makoni South to stand as a candidate for the constituency in Parliament.

ND: Why are you standing as an independent in defiance of your party, MDC-T?

GN: No, I am not standing for election as an independent in defiance of my party, the MDC-T, as asserted, especially in the Press. The MDC-T confirmed the sitting MP for the constituency, Pishai Muchauraya, as the official candidate in defiance of the reality of Muchauraya’s failure to secure victory without resort to rigging.

The rigging by the presiding officer was done in full view of the people. The people protested, but they were ignored. A high-powered delegation visited Harvest House to protest. They too were ignored. They had nowhere else to turn to. In desperation, they turned to me to stand as an independent.

Eleven of the protesters signed my nomination papers. The people say they want to vote for the president (Tsvangirai) and they want to vote for me as MP. Those who are baying for my withdrawal are out of sync with the sentiments on the ground. The independent candidates are not rebels at all. The real rebel of Makoni South has only recently emerged.

ND: Do you see Tsvangirai winning this time and do you think President Robert Mugabe will hand over power?

GN: I would not have chosen to align myself with the MDC-T if I did not see its leader Morgan Tsvangirai scoring a resounding victory over President Robert Mugabe. On the campaign trail, people tell us that they are attending Zanu PF rallies for their personal safety. But come July 31, they are going to spring a major surprise on the nation.

ND: Have you done enough to mobilise the grassroots to ensure your victory come Election Day?

GN: As we approach July 31, it is inevitable that I feel that I could have done more to mobilise grassroots support. But I am not panicking, I did the best I could with the resources at my disposal. Supporters have been very understanding. They appreciate that I am campaigning on a shoestring budget. Were it not for extraneous factors at Mutungagore on June 9, my campaign for the harmonised elections would have been funded by the MDC-T. Instead, that funding is now supporting the Muchauraya campaign.

ND: What is your promise to the people of your constituency if you win the elections?

GN: Makoni South is a sprawling constituency with a total of 10 wards. The constituency, which straddles a rich farming area, generally lags behind in terms of development. The road network is very poor. Many schools are in a state of disrepair, while health facilities are not always easily accessible. Ward 26, the largest in the area, is served by only one clinic at Chimbondi, near Gwangwadza. If elected to Parliament, I will embark on an extensive road construction programme to target.

As MP, I will set up a powerful committee to monitor the disbursement and application of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). There has been gross abuse of the CDF in the past.