MDC-T legislator recounts Buhera violence

LWAZI Sibanda, MDC-T’s Matabeleland North National Assembly representative (proportional representation) was among the four top MDC-T officials, who were recently allegedly assaulted by party youth at the burial of the late party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera. Lazwi Sibanda at the weekend opened up to NewsDay about her ordeal, which resulted in her sustaining injuries on the face.

By Veneranda Langa

Sibanda, said despite the violent scenes during the funeral in Buhera, she was still very loyal to the opposition MDC-T and would submit her name for the Tsholotsho North seat, if the party leadership approves her candidature for this year’s elections. Below are excerpts of an interview between Sibanda (LS) and NewsDay Parliamentary Reporter (ND) Veneranda Langa.

ND: What exactly happened in Buhera during the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial, which resulted in you being beaten up?

LS: The fracas in Buhera was aimed at MDC-T co-vice-president, Thokozani Khupe, who was being victimised by some party youth over internecine fights pertaining to who will succeed Tsvangirai between his vice-presidents Nelson Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri and Khupe. I am a person from Matabeleland, and I will not stand and just watch as another person from Matabeleland is being victimised. So, what happened in Buhera was that I travelled there with Khupe, but when we got there, we separated and during the course of events, I then heard that she had been victimised, was captured by some rowdy youth and shut in a hut where they shouted insults to her, labelling her a Ndebele and they threatened to torch the hut.

I rushed to defend her, and the youths in question shouted at me also calling me a Matabele person. I stood my ground, but when I turned my back on them trying to walk away, one of the youth, a lady, hit me. I then lost my temper and fought back, while the rest of the youth beat me up with stones and bottles. I was not scared of fights and I could not watch while Khupe’s life was at threat. She was crying inside the hut and was very scared. She was also beaten up and one of the youths lit a fire to try to burn her inside the hut, but luckily the rains doused it.

ND: After the fracas do you think your safety is guaranteed?

LS: The party leadership has discussed the issue, but I was severely injured on the face and I really do not think that my security as an MP and member of the MDC-T is guaranteed. However, I am committed to the MDC-T, and I am prepared to stand as a party candidate during the elections, or to be considered as a PR legislator representing Tsholotsho. MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa apologised and I accepted the apology, but I am not convinced that my safety is guaranteed. I will submit my name
during the party primaries, and we will see then if they will take my application. But I will continue fighting for the rights of the people of Matabeleland.

ND: Why all the passion in defending the people from Matabeleland within the MDC-T?

LS: Being nominated to get a seat as a PR legislator was never a stroll in the park for me. I was actually supposed to be Tsholotsho North MP since 2000, but the party leadership kept giving the seat to other candidates and I was very understanding to their reasons. I am married to a retired police officer and he had to retire because I wanted to contest in 2005 under an MDC-T ticket. He feared that he would be victimised. I am the person who introduced the MDC-T to people in Tsholotsho in 1999, and since then have fought hard for the party. In 2009 I was elected party provincial chairperson up to 2014.

In 2008, I was supposed to contest the Tsholotsho North seat, but the MDC-T leaders said I should step down for Jonathan Moyo because he had promised them that if he wins he will join MDC-T. After he won, it did not happen. During the 2013 elections I was again asked to give a chance to Roseline Nkomo, the wife of the former Water minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo. They said she was better placed to campaign as her husband supported her. I did not contest the seat and Nkomo became MP for the area. But, Tsvangirai nominated me for a PR seat and that is how I then got into the National Assembly as MP.

ND: As a woman in politics are you not scared of violence?

LS: Violence will never deter me from participating in politics because as a young girl I witnessed very violent scenes during the Gukurahundi era. I saw family members and neighbours being beaten up in Tsholotsho. Some had their houses burnt while they were inside and killed. Others were tied to trees, beaten up and left hanging for dead. As a person, who has witnessed the worst forms of violence when I was a teenager, I do not think I am afraid of anything. No form of violence will deter me from participating in politics.

ND: There was an incident when the police raided a kitchen tea party in Lupane. What happened?

LS: We had these kitchen tea parties, where we gathered as women and discussed political issues while having tea. This particular party was in Gomoza, Lupane West. These parties do not necessarily need police clearance. The police got wind about the party and so they pounced on us as we were eating at a homestead and teargassed us. The teargas was too strong and we had to run away. It was not fair for the police to teargas women.

ND: In Parliament, you were also involved in a fracas in 2016 when police fought with MDC-T legislators and you claimed that your underwear had been torn in the process. What exactly happened?

LS: What happened was that when the police came into Parliament, there was too much pushing and shoving and in the process my skirt was torn by the zip. A female police officer, who was pushing me away, tore my underwear by mistake. It was a genuine mistake and I have forgiven her for the unfortunate incident.

ND: You are also a fierce interjector in the National Assembly. Why?

LS: During debate, I get cross when MPs begin to defend things that affect people on partisan lines. I do not want serious issues to be trivialised and that is why I interject fiercely. I think the PR quota has been very helpful to women, and had given confidence to rural women that they can also represent constituencies as MPs.

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