Hailing from humble beginnings and rising to fame as a politician of note, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) is a man of iron will.
By Brenna Matendere
His life story is full of theatrics.
Chikwinya was born on November 29, 1961, in the countryside of Zhombe, Kwekwe district, where he completed his primary education. He did his high school at Dadaya in Zvishavane and is now a holder of a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. The outspoken legislator also has another feather on his hat as a qualified fitter machinist.
In 1999, he started working for Zimasco (Pvt) Ltd, hitting the ground running as an artisan fitter and scaling up the heights to become the assistant mechanical engineer, a position he held up until he parted ways with the chrome production giant in 2015.
“I also had a stint as a firebrand trade unionist and in that tricky field, I rose to become the secretary-general of Zimbawe Ferro Alloys Workers’ Union between 2003 and 2005,” Chikwinya said.
This period was marked with the heavy-handedness of former President Robert Mugabe’s regime, which crashed any dissent that came from workers.
It is in the political arena that Chikwinya has an interesting tale.
He was MDC ward 12 secretary in 2000 and became district chairperson in 2005. The following year, he was to become provincial secretary until 2011. In the national executive council of MDC chaired by the late party president Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Chikwinya held the portfolio of secretary for information and technology. He was at the helm of that portfolio from 2006 up until 2014.
In a turn in his political career in 2014, Chikwinya broke away from the mainstream MDC, together with now party deputy president Tendai Biti, who at that time had formed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He was already an MP under the MDC ticket and had to be recalled from Parliament.
He was to become the PDP’s secretary for elections between 2014 and 2016. In that short stint, he was elevated by Biti to the powerful position of secretary-general ofthe PDP in 2016, a position he held until the formation of the MDC Alliance, that merged opposition parties into one in order to fight Zanu PF at the crunch 2018 elections.
In the 2018 elections, Chikwinya beat all his opponents to clinch the Mbizo constituency seat at a time when scores of the party supporters backed an independent candidate, while trying to block his comeback.
Soon after this year’s congress, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa cast faith in Chikwinya by appointing him in the party’s national executive committee. He is the MDC secretary for Transport and Logistics.
“I am confident that MP Chikwinya has the pedigree to change the direction of politics, which is currently marred with violence in Mbizo. His campaign was peaceful and he exercised restraint during times of extreme provocation,” said Hardlife Maravanyika, a proprietor at Mbizo 4 shopping centre.
Marwei Mbembe, who operates a flea market at Msimbe business centre, said the politics of brains over violence exhibited by Chikwinya in his political career is plausible.
MP Chikwinya has been a member of Media, Informational and Broadcasting Committee in Parliament. He was chairperson of the Media Committee from 2011-2013. He is currently in the Mines and Minerals Development committee.
The MP, when he looks back, sees successes that he is proud of.
“An MP has three functions. Executive oversight, largely through committee work; Legislative formulation, that is to make laws and representative, that is to articulate constituency and national issues in Parliament,” Mbembe said.
“From an oversight perspective, I managed to champion the establishment of the two national radio stations in 2011 as chair of Media Committee, thus establishing media diversity and plurality. I was part of this committee since 2008 and have now managed to push for the repeal of Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and replace it with laws that I believe respond largely to the expectations of media stakeholders.”
In the Mines Committee, he says he has been part of a team that has exposed much corruption in the mining sector, especially at Hwange.
“From a legislative formulation side, I am proud to be part of the actual drafters of the Freedom to Information Bill, the ZMC Bill and the Data Protection Bill. I have equally made immense contributions to the Education Amendment Bill, which puts focus on respect of the rights of the girl child,” he added.
“From a representative aspect, I have been one of the leading voices to question ministers on Wednesdays during question time. I have flagged constituency issues, especially the machete violence menace and the illegal invasion of Gaika Mine by Zanu PF politicians to an extent that the illegal operation was stopped.
“While I would have expected more positive response from the ministers, it must be understood that as a member of the opposition, the terrain remains uneven. However, sadly but realistically, our constituent members have other expectations borne from immediate challenges they face like the state of roads, water and power issues. The solutions to these issues, however, are not directly linked to the duties of an MP, but we still strive to push the responsible authorities to deliver,” Chikwinya said.
But what does the MP think made him known by the public?
“I was thrown into the public eye by my desire and interest to represent the views and voices of the oppressed people of Zimbabwe.
“This desire was nurtured and cultured first by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions during my days as a trade unionist and perfected by the policies and leadership of the democratic icon, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.
I remain indebted to him. The opportunity to realise this desire has always come from the beautiful people of Mbizo and to them, I am forever grateful,” he said.
During the 2018/19 budget, MP Chikwinya lobbied for $2,4 million to be allocated to the Kwekwe City Council for roads rehabilitation and this was approved, but the challenge is, the money is yet to be released and worse still, its value has now been eroded.
The roads in Mbizo remain in a sorry state and are causing damage to the vehicles which ply the constituency.
Responding to this menace, Chikwinya said: “I am equally frustrated by the lack of co-operation by some council officials on Constituency Development Fund (CDF) projects. Despite the agreement at senior management level and at policy level with the mayor and councillors, the work culture at the local authority is just pathetic and hampering on progress of CDF projects, while the money value continues to erode. At Parliament, the challenge has been the failure by Treasury to release funds for MPs to secure offices which would house our researchers and personal assistants. What this means is that people are now accessing MPs from their homes and MPs have to work from the back of their cars, which is not sustainable.”
Matchet violence has always been a thorn in the flesh of Mbizo residence. Many lives and by the admission of Minister of Home Affairs, Kwekwe has lost more than 20 people since January 2018 due to matchet violence. The figure of those Injured surpasses hundreds.
Chikwinya bemoaned this occurrence.
“The unfortunate thing is that these violent incidences are sponsored by known individuals who then seek refuge in Zanu PF, and they get away with murder and impunity. I must admit that the whole community is concerned and I have tried to engage police who equally seem to be powerless as they fear retribution from senior Zanu PF officials,” he said.