PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s now famous catchphrase – the voice of the people is the voice of God – is what drives Pelandaba-Mpopoma legislator, Joseph Tshuma, so he said during an interview.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
“We are a constituency that puts God first. When you put God first, you actually put love first. When you put love into the equation, it means people begin to engage in an orderly and loving manner instead of what we have seen where people fight and kill each other over political differences.
“That is why I work through the churches. In a nutshell, we are a constituency first and everything follows,” he said.
Born in 1975, Tshuma, a married father of two, became Pelandaba-Mpopoma MP in June 2015 after a by-election boycotted by the opposition over lack of electoral reforms to guarantee free and fair elections.
He was one of the five Zanu PF members who were elected legislators for the country’s second city, Bulawayo. Zanu PF had not won a seat in Bulawayo since the formation of the opposition MDC in 1999.
Pelandaba-Mpopoma constituency brings together Bulawayo’s five oldest high-density suburbs – Pelandaba, Iminyela, Mabutweni, Mpopoma and Matshobana – and according to Tshuma, “it’s a community where the majority are poor”.
“We are a poor community. When I came in, there were four to five families sharing a single toilet. We came in with a project, where we contracted a company to construct toilets for them.
“That is how poor we are, and imagine what will happen if there is a cholera outbreak. Our basic challenge is unemployment, and if we get our Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation, we will channel that money into income generating projects and not anything else. We won’t be fixing boreholes and painting schools, but projects which will tackle community members’ bread and butter issues,” he said.
Tshuma said it had not been easy filling the shoes of the late Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who died in 2015
Ndlovu was celebrated in Zanu PF as a liberation icon, educationist and a champion of development.
“At least, he was not a corrupt person, his shoes were not smelly. If he had smelly shoes, it was always going to be hard, but otherwise, it is an honour and a privilege to be the one to fill in his shoes,” he said.
Ndlovu initiated several development projects, and Tshuma said he has also been “trying to follow in his footsteps”.
“I have come up with several developmental projects that have assisted people in our constituency. For example, we now have youth, who supply Food Lovers, Pick n Pay and other shops with mushrooms.
“I have also been working with vendors, and seeing that we are coming from festive season where some people would have used up their capital. I am capacitating vendors, where each group of five people is getting $200. It is a revolving fund and is strictly for those that are into vending,” Tshuma said.
He said one of his many successes was to “end polarisation” in the community, where almost everything was politicised.
According to the Pelandaba-Mpopoma MP, he has managed to depoliticise food distribution among other government projects.
“I have been trying to bring about change in our constituency. When, I came in here in 2015, there was a lot of polarisation.
People were politicising almost everything and ever since I came in I have tried to push for a paradigm shift from that kind of thinking to one where we depoliticise everything.
“Mostly, I have been working through churches, I have got a pastoral development committee, bringing together pastors from churches in the community. I have said development should be channelled through the church,” Tshuma said.
He said his biggest challenge has been Parliament’s failure to distribute the CDF to enable him to carry out planned income generating projects. Parliament distributes $50 000 to legislators.
In separate interviews, residents of Pelandaba-Mpopoma constituency said it was going to be a tall order for Tshuma to be re-elected in the 2018 elections because “it is always hard to vote for Zanu PF” as “tradition says we must vote for the opposition”.
The late Pelandaba-Mpopoma MP, Ndlovu was at one point told to join the MDC-T if he entertained any hope of being be re-elected despite the several developmental projects he has implemented in the constituency.