By Dr. Maji-Marefu Tapiwa Mashakada
In recent days, there has been a barrage of attacks on my person after I came out in the open differing with my fellow colleagues in the MDC Alliance. Because I expressed my views which differed from others, my detractors were quick to throw missiles at me, condemning and labelling me as Zanu PF or CIO.
This game is very familiar. I would not be a politician if I am moved by such political antics. As a politician, my skin is rough and I have strong shock absorbers. It’s refreshing to know that such maligning games are normally played by Students.
I remember, during SRC elections at the UZ, a competing student would just wake up splashed on the notice board. Pinned on the notice board would be a fake letter on a letterhead from the President’s Office addressed to that particular student. This would finish you straight away. Everyone would say “wasviba” meaning you are dirty.
Pedzisayi Ruhanya was good in those games. It took him quite a while to outgrow that stupid character. He still has got remnants of such student behaviour. In 2002 I had some differences with Learnmore Jongwe and Ruhanya and his former student colleagues who I shall not name generated a CIO letter addressed to me and splashed it all over in the MDC.
Fortunately, no one bought into that cheap trick. That is the nature of student politics. Ruhanya went to Harare Polytechnic where he started his student activism. But unlike his colleagues who participated in the formation of MDC, Ruhanya was a coward.
In his figment of imagination, Ruhanya tweeted that I was a Chairman of Zanu PF UZ branch at some stage. Of course, I am not Zanu PF and have never been a member of Zanu PF. Not that it is a crime to join Zanu PF. It is a choice. In fact, Zanu PF brought independence after a protracted liberation struggle. It is a revolutionary party that has regrettably failed to transform from a guerilla movement to a modern democratic party, in my view, but I have great respect for some of my friends who belong to that party and it is their right to do so.
If I wish to join Zanu PF today, it will be my personal choice. Zanu PF and Zipra produced luminaries like Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Leopold Takawira, Samuel Parirenyatwa, Jason Moyo, Nikita Mangena, Joshua Nkomo, Justin Chauke, Mayor Urimbo, Ernest Kadungure, Josiah Tungamirai, Dhauramanzi, Sheba Tavarirwa, Rex Nhongo, the Chinhoyi 7 just to mention a few.
Having said that, I now lay bare my political history in brief.
1. I joined the ZCTU as a junior Economic Advisor in 1991. My boss was Dr. Godfrey Kanyenze. I later took over as Chief Economist while Dr. Kanyenze was on study leave doing his doctorate at the Institute of Development Studies, the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. I also followed in his footsteps and did my Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Stellenbosch, Western Cape in South Africa.
At ZCTU Economics Dept, our evidence-based economic research and macroeconomic analysis helped unravel the political economy of the day. Our flagship project was the “Beyond Esap Book Project” of 1996. It is now a reference book for policymakers, academics, development practitioners, and University students alike. Being close to Morgan Tsvangirai, the then ZCTU Secretary-General, we started maneuvers to form the MDC as way back in 1995.
2. In 1998, we commissioned a study to map out the views of the people regarding the future political direction of the country which was reeling from the effects of the economic structural adjustment program (ESAP). The survey was done by Timothy Kondo, Nomore Sibanda, Denis Murira, Ghandi Mudzingwa, David Muzhuzhu, James Makore, Zvavamwe Shambare and others. The views gathered we called “raw data”.
3. In February 1999, ZCTU organized the National Working People’s Convention, held at the Women’s Bureau in Hillside, Harare where we invited students, academics, churches, rural women led by Orapo, NCA, and other organizations. I presented a concept paper on ” labour and the economy.”
One of the resolutions from the Convention was that the “ZCTU must facilitate the formation of a broad-based movement for democratic change”. But as the ZCTU, we could not just form a political party without getting a green light from our General Council so we organized a ZCTU extra-ordinary Congress at the Zesa Training Centre in Belvedere in Harare in Sept 1998. The motion to allow the ZCTU to form a political party was moved by one Mlambo from Gweru.
Armed with a Congress Resolution we started to form the party in earnest. That is when we invited students like Nelson Chamisa, Job Sikhaka, Learnmore Jongwe, and others to join us form the MDC party. Job Sikhala was vocal and fearless. The slogan, “chinja maitiro” was coined by one Ernest Mudavanhu from Bikita who was asked by the Masvingo outreach team on what was to be done to which he replied ” kana zvakadaro hatichinje maitiro”
4. We then divided the rest of the country into political zones following the ZCTU structures and divided people to go out and establish party structures. Pioneers of this program included Thokozani Khupe, Tendai Biti, Gift Chimanikire, Wellington Chibhebhe, Nicholas Mudzengerere, Remus Makuvaza, Paurina Mpariwa, Morgan Komichi, Mhlambeni, Grace Kwinje, Sekai Holland, Nelson Chamisa, Jon Sikhala and many others. You may notice that Charlton Hwende was not involved in this process. He only emerged at the Inaugural Congress where he lost to Chamisa as Youth Chair. After that loss, Hwende went to Namibia and we never saw him in the MDC until 2014 when he came back loaded and bought Mashonaland West party structures to become Deputy Treasurer General. Ruhanya was not even an MDC member and still, he is not.
Back to the formation, We tasked Professor Welshman Ncube, David Coltart, Douglas Mwonzora, and others to draft the first MDC Constitution. I was tasked to work with the Harare team to set up MDC structures in Norton, Chitungwiza, Epworth and Ruwa. My team was composed of Morgan Femai, Jairos Karimatsenga, Cephas Makuyana, Villika, Mbuya Mazani, Tichaona Chiminya, Last Maengehama, Gombera, Kwilinje, Muguti, Mutambu, Nyika, and a few others I may not remember. Our assembly point was the old Mashonaland Turf Club along Rezende Street. Our code name was “pamabhiza”. This process of structure formation was in preparation for the inaugural launch of the party.
5. In September 1999 we launched the MDC at Rufaro Stadium with Cephas Makuyana as the Master of Ceremony. Makuyana hosted us as the Chairman of the ZCTU Harare region. He was a shop floor steward at the United Bottlers together with mudhara Kaondera Shava.
The launch was very successful5. In January 2000 we held our inaugural Congress at the aquatic center in Chitungwiza. Just before the Congress, Makuyana fell sick and could not show up at the congress. I took it upon myself to drive to his house in Zengeza to pick him up. He was wearing sleepers because his feet were swollen. After our Congress we then campaigned for the NO vote in the February 2000 Constitutional Referendum.
6. Positions held in MDC:
6.1. Vice-Chairman Harare Province (2001-2005); 6.2-. MP for Hatfield (2000-) and Shadow Minister for Finance (2000 to 2008) 6.3. 2006, Deputy Secretary-General and member of the National Standing Committee(2006 to 2014)
6.4. Member of the National Executive and Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs (2015 to 2018)5.5. Secretary for Policy and Research and Member of the National Standing Committee (2019 to 2020)5.6. Appointed Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, 2010 to 2013).
1. Arrested and detained in 2001 for political violence in Epworth 2. 2002, Arrested and detained with Alex Musundure for allegedly bombing radio VOP in Milton Park ( I think this was instigated by Pedzisayi Ruhanya and others)3. 2006, Arrested and detained at Mubaira Growth point in Mhondoro for violating POSA.4. 2018, arrested for an alleged campaign offence.
1. Wrote MDC Economic Blueprints such as The Bridge; Restart; Art; Juice and all campaign Manifestos2. Outclassed David Chapfika of Zanu PF in a televised debate hosted on a program called “Face The Nation” run my Mutumwa Mawere and Kindness Paradza. The program was immediately banned by Jonathan Moyo, the then Minister of Information and Publicity3. Led the first campaign to wrestle Hatfield and Epworth from Zanu PF. Epworth was a no go area in 2000.
1. Released my motor-vehicle to Nelson Chamisa for him to go to the UZ for a courtship of his current wife Thoko.
2. Saved Morgan Tsvangirai from arrest after he had called for South Africa to cut fuel and electricity supplies to Zimbabwe. We then arranged that Morgan Tsvangirai should avoid Harare International Airport. Instead him and Roy Bennet hired a private jet via Buffalo Range Airport and finally landed at the Airstrip at Crest Breeders, Harare South. That way he escaped arrest at the Harare International Airport.
This is just a very abridged version of my political history in the MDC. Iam writing a book on the formation of the MDC in which my role will be fully revealed. Because of my composed character, most people do not know the critical role I have played in the MDC. Some do not even know that I was a jailbird as far back as 2001. Of course being arrested is not a sign of heroism. I had committed alleged offences otherwise, a law abiding person escapes arrests and detention. Most of the arrests of MDC activists are politically motivated and are of course not backed by evidence hence most MDC leaders have been acquitted on Treason Trial Charges. Being arrested is a brush with law and not necessarily a sign of political contribution.