INTERVIEW Desmond Chingarande
The late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’a memorial service will be held on Saturday, more than a year after the former Prime Minister succumbed to cancer of the colon in February last year.
Tsvangirai’s younger brother and family spokesperson, Manasa said the family has invited both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu PF party to the memorial service. NewsDay (ND) reporter, Desmond Chingarande hooked up with one of Tsvangirai’s daughters, Vimbai Tsvangirai-Java (VTJ), who is now Member of Parliament for Glen View South (MDC Alliance), to hear her views about the event and other issues regarding her political career.
ND: On Saturday, there is a memorial service for your father. Your uncle, Manasa has said everyone, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party members will be welcome to the memorial; do you share the same view?
VTJ: This is a memorial service, not an MDC rally. Everyone who feels they want to attend, can do so, the church, civil society, political parties, individuals, and all. Although it is a memorial service for the MDC founding leader, we should also remember that he was once a Prime Minister, who served all the people of Zimbabwe, regardless of their political affiliation. When my uncle made the decision, he was possibly basing it on that idea that it is a memorial service and like a funeral, all people are welcome.
ND: As the country remembers him at the weekend, can you kindly share your last days with your father?
VTJ: I was always in and out of his hospital room. We spent most of the time together, talking to him. We laughed, prayed and sang praise and worship songs. He was brave; I would want to believe that he knew that he no longer had time to live, but would always put a brave face like the Morgan full of life. The memorial service would give me time to reflect on his dream and vision.
ND: And how was your relationship with your father?
VJT: My father always wanted the best out of me. He was a father who would encourage me to take up challenges, like he did to any of his children and everyone. It is more than a year after he is gone and I feel empty without his encouragement. I intend to continue to work hard and commit all my achievements as a tribute to him.
ND: You are now MP and a year after your father’s death, what lessons do you think you will borrow from his life to guide your political career?
VJT: First, he had the people at heart. Second, he was forgiving. In politics, people are abused a lot, but he remained focused and interacted with everyone, including those perceived to be his enemies to teach them that having different political views doesn’t necessarily mean being enemies. Thirdly, he had the courage to stand for what he believed in regardless of the tribulations. I also admired his political values which were anchored on democracy, peace and oneness.
ND: What motivated you to join politics? Did your father play a part in the decision?
VTJ: Entering politics was not something I started when I became an MP. Politics has always been my passion. I was driven by the need to fight for the
voiceless. Yes, my father played a part, always debating political issues with him motivated me. In 2002, we (together with other Tsvangirai children), I left
the country into political exile when my father formed the party to challenge Zanu PF. It was a tough time. I would have meetings wherever we were to support my father. I was in Australia and would appear on national television there telling them the plight of Zimbabweans. I came back in 2009 after the death of my mother (Susan). I worked with him since then until his death. We would always share ideas and that is where I got the inspiration of taking a public office and serve the people.
ND: Can you explain what you are doing to the people of Glen View South as MP.
VTJ: When I took up office, cholera soon broke out and I had to run around looking for assistance to manage the epidemic. Currently, I am working to try to have a refuse truck to consistently service my constituency. I am also engaging council for my people to get decent market stalls with proper facilities to ensure they have a livelihood at the same time being safe from diseases. Due to unemployment, I am in the process of introducing self-help projects and currently consulting youths in the constituency on what they would want support on.
DC: What challenges are you facing as an MP?
VTJ: People come to me as an MP with problems such as unemployment, and you don’t have an immediate solution. Companies are closing, those operating are struggling; it’s a challenge to the people. It is a tough job to face people with an array of problems which should best be addressed by central government. Widows and elderly are struggling to survive. Parents are unable to send children to school. Things are bad and as MPs, we are made to interact with hungry people everyday. It pains me as an MP. The problems have nothing to do with gender, an MP is an MP and they all meet similar challenges.