MDC Bulawayo Senator Tholakele Khumalo, one of the four officials from the Welshman Ncube-led party to land a Parliamentary post courtesy of the newly-introduced proportional representation system, says she is on a mission to push for the implementation of devolution of power and women’s emancipation during her stint as a member of the Eighth Parliament.
In an exclusive interview with NewsDay (ND) Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa on Monday, Khumalo (TK) said she would also be an ambassador for all marginalised regions in the country to ensure communities benefit from their natural resources.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
ND: Who is Khumalo and may you please give a brief history of your political career?
TK: I was born 69 years ago and entered politics in the 1970s. I operated as a Zapu cadre and between 1975 and 1980 I operated from England where I contributed to the liberation of this country. My duties were to source for clothing and finances for Zipra freedom fighters who were based in Zambia.
ND: Who initiated you into politics?
TK: My uncle Masotsha Ndlovu was the one who initiated me into politics. I also got married to a very staunch Zapu activist, Jefret Khumalo. He also used to smuggle clothes for freedom fighters from Bulawayo to Zambia during the early 1970s. We were part of the liberation struggle. I came back to Zimbabwe in 1981 after Independence and then after the signing of the Unity Accord by Zapu president Joshua Nkomo in 1987 and Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe all of us automatically became Zanu PF members.
ND: So, when did you join the MDC?
TK: While I was in Zanu PF, I started to note some inequalities in terms of developmental issues. They did not prioritise development of some regions.
That was the main reason why the MDC was formed. When the MDC split, I decided to support the Ncube faction because they were committed to fighting the inequalities and were very vocal about issues of devolution of power.
ND: What is it about devolution of power that you were very passionate about?
TK: I feel each region should benefit from its own resources. Whatever natural resources are within a region, they should first develop that region and then the excess should go to other needy regions.
For instance, Matabeleland North has a lot of gold and proceeds from that natural resource should go towards the building of universities and other infrastructure in that region. There is also timber in Lupane and what we want to see is development of the timber industry in Lupane. People in Shurugwi should benefit from their gold and companies that are extracting natural resources should plough back into the community instead of degrading the environment and taking the resources away. Devolution of power is not a Matabeleland issue, but a national issue.
ND: Apart from politics, what other things do you do?
TK: I am a holder of a Bachelor of Education degree in Home Economics with emphasis on nutrition. That kind of training prepared me to be quite vocal on gender issues as the focus was on breastfeeding. I became very gender-conscious as a nutritionist. I was also lucky to be in England when the Convention on the Elimination of Gender Discrimination was formulated in 1979 and that increased my consciousness.
Since then, I have been involved in grooming girl children and detainees at Hlekweni Training Centre in Bulawayo. I am interested in economic issues, especially property ownership for women.
ND: Now that you have been elected senator, what issues are you going to raise during debate in Senate?
TK: I am going to be outspoken on issues of devolution of power. We want regions to be able to plan for their own development and prioritise issues like access to water, education, infrastructural development and others things.
That is the main reason that has caused cities like Bulawayo to be dilapidated. If decisions were being made in Bulawayo for Matabeleland, there would be a lot of development now.
For example, during the (Ian) Smith regime, companies like Ingwebu developed schools and fed schoolchildren with milk and bread everyday out of their profits.
Now, all profits made by companies are taken to Harare and it is Harare which then decides how they should be distributed. That is why areas like Bulawayo are dead.
I will speak on devolution of power, not only for Bulawayo, but also for the people in Marange (Manicaland province).
ND: And, on issues to do with women — what’s your message?
TK: Women should have access to education and no girl should walk long distances to school. Girls in Binga and Matabeleland North are walking as far as 10 kilometres to school and this exposes them to a lot of dangers.
We also need women to own assets which they can use as collateral so that they can access loans from banks to start businesses. Women are disadvantaged in that even within a marriage, all property is in the name of the husband.
The government must ensure every house, piece of land or property acquired by married couples is owned by both of them and not only by the husband. The wife’s name should also appear on the title deeds. In short, I will fight for the emancipation
ND: Since there are only four of you who managed to get into Parliament from your party MDC, do you think your voices will be heard?
TK: If we get enough media coverage, our voices will be heard. As long as we speak on issues that are developmental there is no reason why even Zanu PF legislators should not support our views.
We will be a mouthpiece of the people and not the political party. It is high time we have political togetherness and real MPs will stand for the truth and not the party.