University of Zimbabwe law lecturer and Mt Pleasant constituency independent candidate, Fadzai Mahere has attracted mixed reactions since her announcement that she would stand in next year’s general elections.
THE INTERVIEW: RICHARD CHIDZA
Mahere has been labelled as a Zanu PF mole and in her role in the social movement #ThisFlag clashed with Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo.
NewsDay senior reporter Richard Chidza (ND) caught up with Mahere (FM) on the sidelines of the MDC Alliance rally in Highfield, Harare on Saturday to talk about these and other issues. Below are excerpts of the interview:
ND: How do you take the reaction to your plunge into national politics?
FM: The reaction has been good, a lot of people have welcomed me, offered support and just some introduction into the political terrain which has been extremely useful and we will be tapping into that in the campaign. We are working on voter registration and participation in elections because the greatest enemy we want to fight in 2018 is voter apathy and defeating Zanu PF.
ND: But will you agree with me that there has also been negative reaction, including being labelled a Zanu PF mole. What do you think?
FM: That has to be expected because once you join politics people are bound to begin to ask the tough questions. I take this not in the negative sense, but part of society’s role to interrogate their political leader and know more about them rather than patronising, and we encourage such engagement. I have provided answers and in short I am not Zanu PF. I am standing as an independent in Mt Pleasant constituency.
ND: Do you come from a family with Zanu PF roots?
FM: I do not come from a political family. Neither of my parents has ever been in any of Zanu PF’s organs or taken part in politics. But my father was a civil servant working his way from being a teacher to being permanent secretary in the Education ministry before he retired in 2013.
ND: You think that explains the labelling?
FM: I think it’s a picture some are trying to paint, but we have to be faithful and true to the fact. My father was a top civil servant and not a Zanu PF activist in any way, shape or form. I think that difference is important to make.
ND: As a young woman trying to carve a career in a vicious political terrain how has it been this far?
FM: It has been a satisfying process, character-building. I have had a chance to visit people in homes, engage at different level, and look inside myself and within the people to see how we can fight for hope, accountability and rebuild Mt Pleasant. It is a patriarchal society, but it has been good to work towards rebuilding the community spirit and I really look forward to the future.
ND: You came into the public domain on the back of #ThisFlag and Evan Mawarire’s popularity, is there still a connection?
FM: I will always remain true to the ideals of #ThisFlag, the responsibility that every citizen has to step out, speak against poverty, injustices, corruption and to always make sure that the politics focuses on the issues. That is an ideal that I can never run away from. Mawarire remains my friend, but #ThisFlag and the citizens’ movement should retain its purity. Its responsibility is to check, balance political parties and to hold politicians to account. We always said at the time that #ThisFlag would not become political because that results in a conflation of the roles. We remain accountable to #ThisFlag and to the citizens as a political outfit, to ensure that our politicians remain engaged to fight for people’s issues.
ND: Is there some sort of coordination between yourself and other young people who want to join politics next year like Linda Masarira?
FM: I think the main connection is that we are all young people trying to claim political space in this tough environment. That connection is a strong one and that demographic of young people is quite important. It is a demographic that requires focus and there is a need for us to step out in a very strong way because we have to fight for our future because we have a vested interest in it. I am running the Yellow Campaign as an independent, but I fully support every young person who might want to go into politics under whatever political outfit.
ND: Is there a possibility of you joining mainstream political parties or movements given you have clearly defined yourself colours and all?
FM: I will continue to run as an independent candidate, but I want to emphasise that I fully support the coalition because what is important at the end of the day is the unity of purpose. The responsibility that every opposition politician including myself has to make sure we do not fight sideways, but target a common enemy. However, the Yellow Manifesto is fully underway and will continue. We will form synergies and alliances where possible for a common purpose.
ND: You had a public altercation with Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo when you had him slated to appear on one of #ThisFlag’s platforms. What happened?
FM: We had invited Moyo in line with our drive to hold all politicians from all political parties accountable. He had agreed to come to our programme known as Speak Freedom.
However, he had difficulties with the way our posters had been designed. He argued they had been made in bad faith; he changed his mind at the last minute and decided not to come.
But I think it is important for us to continue to hold all public officials to account and especially the Higher Education ministry, the needs of students that we must make sure they remain mainstreamed. We must continue to ask the tough questions, around poverty, corruption and the lack of jobs.
ND: Do you buy the excuse that he was annoyed by the posters or he just chickened out?
FM: I am more inclined to believe that he chickened out because if it was a question of the posters, as the publicly available emails show we were ready to make good on the posters, to change them to suit whatever he was comfortable with. We were ready to make a public statement to the effect that the platform was not his, but ours, so the conclusion that he chickened out becomes irresistible?
ND: He has indicated that he will not attend your lectures at the University of Zimbabwe where you teach in the Faculty of Law and he is a student. Does he attend your lectures?
FM: He is not yet a third-year or fourth-year student which I teach, so I am not yet his lecturer. I wish him all the best in his studies. There is a need obviously that we all remain professional at the end of the day.
ND: Your dream for Mt Pleasant?
FM: It is to restore hope and community spirit and to ensure that all public officials remain accountable. We want to build a constituency with a strong technology focus. We want to restore all our public facilities. The issues around students’ accommodation and bring in the business community to help with skills development, especially the low income earners so that they become self-sufficient.
We want to make sure there is a maternity clinic in the constituency to ensure that women who want to give birth do not have to travel long distances. We also want to ensure that our constituents are more engaged on all issues.