Following this week’s swearing in of Senator Monica Mutsvangwa as the new Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa at State House, our News Editor, Cletus Mushanawani managed to have a one-on-one interview with the new minister at a local hotel on Wednesday. Tying Cde Mutsvangwa for an interview proved a mammoth task as many people wanted a minute with her.
Cletus Mushanawani (CM): Senator Mutsvangwa, we want to congratulate you on your appointment as the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and we also want to welcome you to your home province. May you outline your plans for the first 100 days in office?
Senator Monica Mutsvangwa (SMM): Thank you. First of all let me say, I am deeply humbled to have been appointed to this very important ministerial post in a province which is very important to this country. It is a province which played a very important role during the liberation struggle by the virtue of its proximity to Mozambique. Manicaland is a very patriotic province. This is the same message I got on my briefing from President Mnangagwa.
The President is aware that Manicaland is a very patriotic province with patriotic citizens. It is only right to put Manicaland on its rightful place as far as development of the economy is concerned. Manicaland has a number of mineral resources. We have diamonds which have put Zimbabwe on the world diamond map. We have gold at Tarka in Chimanimani and many other minerals. These are the minerals which can support Zimbabwe on the international minerals market. These are the minerals which can change lives of the people of this province.
CM: As a follow-up of what you have been talking about, has the President given you specific tasks for Manicaland? If so, what are these tasks?
SMM: The President has already outlined his vision for the whole country and we are taking our visions from there to make sure that we speed up the developmental projects of the province. There is need to show seriousness on this issue.
The events of the past month tell us that as Zimbabweans from across the political divide we expect at least something, at least low hanging fruits. People have been going through a difficult time. You know what has been happening, the liquidity crunch and people are failing to access their own money. These are the issues that the President is very much aware of. I am here in Manicaland to make sure that his vision becomes a reality.
CM: All these years there has been talk of value addition of resources in Manicaland, but nothing has materialised, as the new Minister for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, how are you going to address this?
SMM: President Mnangagwa in his brief to me said it is important to have the people of Manicaland benefit from their resources. It is important to consult all stakeholders so that through me, the President is aware of the concerns of the people of Manicaland. His vision can only be realised if the people of Manicaland come together.
CM: What were the first things that you did upon getting into your new office?
SMM: I had meetings with businesspeople and citizens of Manicaland who are in business. What is critical for me is to tap from their knowledge. I even talked to former Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Arthur Mutambara after I went through his 10-point plan on how to develop Manicaland. I also invited him to contribute his vast knowledge in developing our province.
I also realised that if any of the projects in Manicaland are to succeed, I need input from all people of this province. I also met players in the diamond sector in Manicaland as they have a very important role to play in the development of this province.
I know the bone of contention among the people of Manicaland has been the issue of diamonds. That was my initial entry point to the province. I sat down with them to understand what was happening from the time when all the mining companies were still operating at Chiadzwa. I wanted to find out what happened to the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Trust when the former President was presented with a dummy cheque, yet no money found its way into the coffers of the Trust.
I am glad that from my discussion with the diamond miners they have clearly outlined their vision to me. They told me that they have been mining, but not selling the diamonds. They are planning to sell the diamonds they have been stockpiling in January and from that sale they are not looking at less than $30 million. Once that sale is done, money will be deposited in the Trust account.
CM: Any immediate projects that have been lined up for the Marange and Zimunya villagers since they are the most affected by the mining activities at Chiadzwa?
SMM: We discussed on what we did wrong in the past so that quick solutions to the challenges are found. As a senator of that area I understand the plight of these villagers. I am concerned about the people who were moved from Chiadzwa and resettled in Transau.
We know very well that some of their houses need refurbishment and the situation requires urgent attention. We want to see clinics and Marange Hospital which is a district hospital being refurbished. The situation at the hospital is pathetic. Roads both in Marange and Mutare are bad. The City of Mutare is in a sorry state and has nothing to show that it is the fourth largest city in the country. As we are speaking, it is almost like a ghost city.
Industries are closed. We need to look at ways of using our resources to resuscitate industries in Manicaland. We want to look at what investments we can bring to create employment. We have so many university graduates roaming the streets as airtime vendors. We were so proud when Quest Motors opened its factory, but now it is a shell. It is now a white elephant, so these are the issues that need urgent address.
The potholes on the roads are just an eyesore. Honestly for the fourth largest city in the country, we deserve something better than this. There are no shades at bus stops. Issues of water in Dangamvura are some of the areas we can quickly look into and address them. This starts with us dealing with corruption. The land issues also need to be dealt with. President Mnangagwa has made it clear that there is no going back on the land issue, but we need everything to be done according to the laws of the land.
The liberation struggle was all about land and we cannot afford to disappoint the masses, but what we do not want is haphazard distribution of the land. It is very difficult to encourage investors to come and invest here when things are being done in a hap-hazard manner. We need to maintain the spirit of what happened in the past three weeks. I have just returned from a SADC conference and Zimbabweans are being applauded for the smooth transition of power. People demonstrated peacefully.
There was no bloodshed. There was no looting of shops. There was no destruction of property and smashing of cars. A motion was moved to support the actions of Zimbabweans. It was a proud moment for us to be Zimbabweans. This is something we should all be proud of. We should build from there and attract more investors.
We have demonstrated to the world that we uphold the rule of law. We have demonstrated to the world that we know what justice is about. We have demonstrated to the world that we know what good governance is all about. During the march, all Zimbabweans from across the political divide marched side by side. We marched peacefully, so this is the kind of behaviour which will perpetuate more foreign direct investment into our country.
CM: You are showing us that you have started your tenure running, but it is common knowledge that there are some civil servants and those in local authorities who have a business as usual approach, what plans are in place to address this?
SMM: I must say I have been appointed by a President who has outlined his vision very clearly and has talked to civil servants. He appealed to them that this culture of business as usual should just stop. Slothfulness and coming to office late should be things of the past. We are calling on all civil servants to do their work professionally.
I am known for hard work. I am prepared to work day and night. I will certainly make sure that whenever and wherever I am supposed to be I will be there on time. We have eight months before we have our elections and my task is to make sure that the 100-days vision of our President is realised. We need to deal with corruption once and for all.
CM: Your have reiterated the importance of dealing with corruption, but Manicaland because of its proximity with Mozambique is notorious for smuggling of goods to and from the neighbouring country, be it minerals, fuel and bales of second-hand clothes, how are you going to deal with this daunting task?
SMM: Certainly I am going to work with security forces in Manicaland. We have to deal with the problem. I will work with security forces closely. Our security forces are strong and if they are given the necessary support, we will address this issue. There is no reason why Mutare should not enjoy its status as the eastern gateway to the sea.
We also want export processing zones because they are easy to operate here. We should use our proximity to Beira to our advantage. We hope together with the Mozambican authorities we will be able to promote businesses between the two countries. We should make sure that we get a win-win situation between the two countries.
CM: You have been in the diplomatic arena for a long time, how are you going to use your experience to benefit the people of Manicaland?
SMM: There is one thing I have learnt in my life, that is, to be modest and humble, to allow other people to talk while you listen. There are a lot of good ideas out there. I am here in this province to work with everyone. We are here to facilitate that the people of Manicaland realise all the energy they have for the benefit of everyone.
CM: Your appointment coincided with your recent elevation to the post of Secretary for Administration in the Women’s League, how will you balance these energy sapping tasks?
SMM: I believe that God is always there to give me the energy. So far in my life I have been handling quite a number of responsibilities. I have been in the Women’s League as the Secretary for Information before I was fired. I was the chairperson of the Women Parliamentary Caucus. I was elected as the vice-president of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, a very prestigious position. I am also a mother of four boys and grandmother of two lovely girls. I am muroora wekwaMutsvangwa and I do that perfectly well.
Balancing my time is what is critical, but to me failure is not an option. If I am given a task I will always try to my level best to accomplish it. In this particular case, the position in the Women’s League requires that I empower women. I am looking forward to see a number of programmes being implemented by the Women’s League, but more-so because of the polarisation within the party, my biggest job at hand is to unite women and to bring back the values and principles of the revolution that led to the independence of this country.
Zanu-PF being the revolutionary party should never shy away from the principles of the revolution because that is what the people fought for. The liberation struggle was not just fought by the war veterans alone, but every Zimbabwean. It was an issue of fish and water because people fed and sheltered us. It was a joint effort.
CM: At one time you once contested for the Manicaland provincial chairmanship against Ambassador John Mvundura and last month you took it upon yourself to move a motion to impeach former President, Cde Mugabe, where does all this courage come from?
SMM: First of all I just want to correct you, I didn’t eye for the position of provincial chairman. In-fact, my name was pushed by all the eight Zanu-PF districts in Manicaland to become the candidate for the chairperson’s post.
I was actually out of the country, but when I came back and was told this, it was a question of going with the people or going away from the people. I had worked with the people of Manicaland during the constitutional outreach programme where I travelled from Nyanga to Musikavanhu meeting people.
Mai vangu vakati vanhu ndivo vanokusimudza, in life usazoti ndinogona ndinogona, vanhu ndivo vanoti unogona, so when that happened, it was a very difficult decision for me to not accept it because it was actually coming from the people. I went through it and people said we do not want imposition of leaders within Manicaland. Unfortunately it did not go well. It was not democratic, in fact, it was a sham of an election. Things went the way they went and what then transpired is clear for everyone to see what the agenda of that election was.
For me, I stand for what is right. I am a very principled person and I am very hard working. I believe in myself, that is why from the age of 14 and half years I have never failed in whatever assignment I am given. During the war, I worked as a secretary in the President’s Office.
I am firm. I worked with the former President, Cde R.G Mugabe, that is why when I moved that motion to impeach him, I did it with a very heavy heart. I was saddened by the fact that the man whom I had worked with as a little girl whom I expected to treat us war veterans with the dignity we deserved had ditched us. The way we were sacked as war veterans pained me. I was fired on the behest of the cabal that had its agenda.
As a cadre, I have never done things that are against the principles and values of the party. I found myself being victimised and that strengthened me. It also made me to remain resolute. When I say I am working for the people, surely I will be working for them. Never underestimate the people’s power. Never think you can achieve something by shouting at the people whom you expect to vote for you into office.
CM: How were you feeling during the interface rallies when you together with your husband were being subjected to denigration and denouncement through slogans, with some saying Pasi naMutsvangwa?
SMM: The events of the past two and half years affected us emotionally. We did not understand from the beginning what was happening. We were subjected to a lot of victimisation, back biting and ill-treatment to the point that you ask yourself why me. Later we discovered that there was an agenda, an agenda to derail the revolution.
It was an agenda to take away the constitutional powers of our then President using his wife. When we thought we could explain ourselves, no-one was there to listen to us because our then President with liberation credentials had been surrounded by a cabal that wanted to do away with anybody who had come a long way with him. Some people suggested that we should leave the country as our lives were in danger, but because we loved this country there was no way we could skip it.
They went further to attack our children. It is in this country where my children were not able to move around freely. My first son was arrested on cooked up stories of rape, thank God the judiciary was so professional and acquitted him. There are many times we did not sleep at home because we were not sure whether we were safe or not. We are grateful to the constituency of war veterans for their unwavering support. This also goes to the security forces.
When I moved the impeachment motion no-one was prepared to stand up. I did it because I believed that there was usurping of the President’s executive powers by his wife who was going around denigrating the leadership with a long history of the war of the liberation struggle. She was denigrating the revolutionary army which has brought us to where we are today.
Our security forces are very loyal in maintaining peace and harmony and we are very grateful to them. We are grateful to General Chiwenga for what he did to avoid bloodshed in the country. The security forces made sure that the final transition of power was peaceful, so the motion clearly articulated what had gone wrong in this country. It is a pity that the person we looked up to for guidance had been captured.
I am my own person. I contested in the 2008 elections as a senator here in Manicaland. I have never banked on my husband for support because if I wanted that I would have contested in his home province of Mashonaland West. I am so happy that I met my husband during the liberation struggle after he had abandoned his studies at university to take up arms against the colonial government.
In the war I made my name as a competent secretary. I kept all the records of the struggle. I kept all the secrets of the struggle and that was my responsibility. What I am trying to say here is that when one woman makes a mistake, all women are blamed. I think it is important to say when one woman makes a mistake, it is one rotten apple in a big basket. Let us pick that bad apple and throw it away.
This thing of saying women havaiiti is not fair. Because of Cde Mugabe’s policy of educating the girl child, we have very good examples of females who can take up leadership positions and do it well. So the wife of the former President, to all of us was a disgrace.
The way she would go to churches and denigrate the national leadership was a disgrace. The way she would shout at leaders is something we would never expect a person at that level to do. We are saying to the people of this country that not every woman is a bad apple. That woman was one bad apple.
CM: The people of Manicaland might want to know the level of education of their new Minister, as some may think you are mere Form Two drop-out?
SMM: During the struggle as a secretary in the President’s Office I got an opportunity to go to school and I did my secretarial studies. I did my work very well and Cde Mugabe as well as President Mnangagwa can be witnesses to that. I took it upon myself from independence to further my studies. After independence, we were the first diplomats to go and represent Zimbabwe in Europe by virtue of the fact that Christopher my husband had been seconded as the First Secretary in Brussels. As soon as we got there, the first thing I did was to go to school.
I never looked back from that time. I finished my high school and went to university in New York where I did my degree. My first degree was a Bachelor in Administration. I also did French as a language and I have a Diploma in French. I can also speak Chinese. I went back to school and graduated with an Executive Masters in Business Administration.
Thanks to my mother and father who gave me good brains I always found myself passing with very high marks. I have done many other courses. I enjoy working under pressure and I like challenges. I still intend to go and do my PHD. This will make me feel good.
CM: Lastly, some people call you the power couple, meaning you have ambitions for a higher office together with your husband, what is your take on that?
SMM: When you talk of women politicians, you should be very careful of discriminating other women. We should also be very careful not to make women feel like that if they have to succeed in politics they have to be single. What I have always told people is that I am a self made politician. I am Monica in my own right and all what I have been telling you attest to that. I love my country so much and I like my party, Zanu-PF too much.
I believe in the values and principles of the party. I gave my life to the revolution and I would like to leave the right legacy to the future generations of this country. I do not want my grandchildren to go and pee on my grave saying is this what you fought for? No-one should think they can actually take the good intentions of the liberation struggle and replace it with their own wishes. Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.
We should never allow the people of Zimbabwe to be governed undemocratically. I can work in any position I am given and I can do it to the best of my knowledge. For the past two years, I have just been an ordinary card carrying member, but that didn’t stop me from working for my party. I don’t know whether somebody wants me to sit back and think that I made a mistake to marry an equally powerful politician.
I am a very good wife and a very good mother as well as a very good politician. I think I can prove that I am a very good leader in whatever position I assume. My ambition is to see Zimbabwe being governed well. My ambition is to see the people of Zimbabwe leading prosperous lives, that is the legacy that I want to leave for Zimbabwe.
CM: Thank you very much Minister for the interview.
SMM: It was a pleasure talking to you and I look forward to work with everyone well.