ELECTIONS in Zimbabwe have always been violent and many women are deterred from participating. One such woman is chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Labour Magna Mudyiwa (Mudzi West MP, Zanu PF), who experienced a lot of intra-party violence during primary elections in 2013, but she said this did not deter her from fighting for the Mudzi West seat, until she came into Parliament in 2015.
By VENERANDA LANGA
Despite several challenges, Mudyiwa (MM) rose through the ranks and was last year appointed chairperson of the Labour and Social Welfare Portfolio Committee.
The following are excerpts of an interview she had with NewsDay senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) on different issues.
ND: Who is Magna Mudyiwa and how did you join politics?
MM: My political career began in the 1980s when I joined the President’s Office. However, before that I came from Mudzi, where I was born and raised and during the liberation struggle I had an encounter with war veterans, which changed my life. I was still at school doing “O” Levels and the freedom fighters had camped at Dendera assembly point and I went there to see my sister who had joined the war. I was the only female who was then picked up by the comrades among 44 other men and we were taken to Harare to begin training. I was then trained to work for the President’s department in 1980.
ND: What exactly drove you into politics?
MM: As I was growing up, I saw war vets struggling, so at times we would be asked to prepare food, and source clothing for them. I later realised that they were sacrificing for a good cause. I then decided that I will be one of the persons to liberate the country through participating in politics.
My work in the President’s Office did not allow me to be active in politics, but whenever I visited Mudzi, I always met people who persuaded me to join mainstream politics and in 2013, I heeded the call. However, I faced a lot of intra-party violence which was so fierce that I could not make it into Parliament that year.
ND: Who was perpetrating the intra-party violence and what were your experiences?
MM: During the Zanu PF primary elections in 2013, I was competing against the late Mudzi West MP Acquallinah Katsande. When the people of Mudzi West asked me to contest her in the primary elections, I refused because I was financially unstable to fund a campaign. I could not imagine myself addressing political rallies or even joining politics. But, the people of Mudzi persuaded me to campaign for the seat.
Katsande tried to stop my bid to become Mudzi West MP by sending youths to harass me. Whenever I moved around campaigning, youths, who were sent by Katsande would follow me and harass me. I was fortunate because the people of Mudzi had received me, they felt that Katsande, who had been an MP for three years, but had done nothing. There was no development in the constituency, and villagers were tired of terror which she was perpetrating. We went to the primary elections and she hired thugs, of whom some of them even engaged in double-voting and she won the primary elections and the seat in 2013.
ND: So how did you eventually get into Parliament in 2015?
MM: In 2015, Katsande passed away and I contested in the by-election and won the seat. I had to leave my job in the President’s Office and campaigned for only one week and now I am Mudzi West MP.
ND: Do you consider your role as chairperson of the Labour and Social Welfare Parliamentary Portfolio Committee a difficult task?
MM: When I first joined Parliament, I was an ordinary MP. I was in the Women Affairs and Gender Portfolio Committee and also sat in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment and the Information Communication Technology Committee. However, last year, I was appointed chairperson of the Labour and Social Welfare Committee. It is a mammoth task because labour and social welfare issues are very topical, which affect people’s lives. These issues need someone who does a lot of research.
ND: What are the burning labour issues that you are going to deal with as a committee?
MM: So far, we have had three meetings as a committee and have not delivered much, but, our workplan is that we need to deal with issues of salaries which are below the poverty datum line. Recently, the Labour ministry tabled three labour protocols and as a committee, we will push for their domestication (making them into law).
ND: What are the burning social services issues that your committee is going to deal with?
MM: There is hunger throughout the country due to the late rains. For instance, in Mudzi, almost every household is now vulnerable because of the drought spell and late rains which have caused the crops to wilt. The other issue that my committee will deal with urgently is the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) where a number of children, especially orphans used to receive education assistance, but it is now not well-funded to the extent that the arrears are in the tune of $80 000, yet this year Beam was only allocated $20 000 in the budget. It will be impossible to pay for their fees so we need to assist these children.
The committee also needs to look at the plight of the elderly because most homes are struggling. We also need to look at the issue of pensions which are very low, especially National Social Security Authority pensions.
ND: Since you joined Parliament what have been your contributions?
MM: Being an MP is difficult because of the heckling. But I have been a very fast learner and in February 2016 I presented my maiden speech in the National Assembly, and also moved a motion on veld fires, which was widely debated in the House. I have only served for two-and-a-half years and I feel I still have a lot to give to my constituency, and so this year I will contest for MP again.