MDC founding member Grace Kwinjeh stands among the most loyal and dedicated members of the party, which has just concluded its primary elections in which some of the bigwigs have fallen by the wayside while others were protected from facing possible defeat at the hands of structures miffed by poor performance in Parliament.
Kwinjeh was a fortnight ago declared winner of the MDC Makoni Central constituency but strangely, she has been told she was defeated — raising fears of rigging and double standards by her party.
Our Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki sought her views on the latest storm and below are the excerpts of the interview.
Q: What is the official position regarding the MDC Makoni Central primary elections in which you were announced as winner two weeks ago but now you are said to have lost?
A: At the moment there are two conflicting positions, one claims that the election has been concluded and the other is that counting is still being done.
Q: Why are we having the change of results now yet primary elections were held two weeks ago?
A: That is what I do not
understand, it discredits the whole process, I do hope the party leadership can resolve that quickly.
Q: How are you dealing with this new development which suggests manipulation of results?
A: I have lodged a complaint with the party leadership. I am waiting to hear from them, in particular our party president, Morgan Tsvangirai as he is the highest authority. I think in the case of a dispute he has the authority to decide.
Q: Is there a reason why you are being subjected to this situation?
A: I think that being female and also being exiled, meant some people thought I had lost grassroots support. And so when hundreds of villagers from Makoni Central voted for me, they went into shock.
Inspite of the fact that the people of Makoni Central approached me to be their candidate, they knew I am based here in Belgium.
This was not a major issue for them. Zimbabweans have a long memory and have not forgotten my work within the party and sacrifice.
Manicaland is a province I was assigned to by the party a lot of times, and so strong bonds with our structures were established.
Being in exile does not weaken those bonds.
Q: Did you see it coming especially in the wake of having to be subjected to a rigorous process at a time people like Tracy Mutinhiri got a “safe landing” in the party?
A: I believed I was going through a transparent and democratic process; I had faith in the system. I think the party by accommodating Tracy Mutinhiri set a good precedence that not only can we manage to lure those from the opposition into our ranks, but we can also promote them to influential places in leadership.
However, I also feel that tried and tested cadres also deserve the honour and respect.
Q: Are you being targeted because you are out of the country?
A: That would be an area that people would choose to exploit.
Q: Why have you remained domiciled in Belgium?
A: My family is here in Belgium, the party is aware that I am here; fully understand my circumstance that led me to be here. I have been in constant touch with the leadership, they also rang me before the primary election wanting assurance that I will be back home soon to campaign.
I explained to them the processes I was going through in order to get home as soon as possible.
They accepted my explanation which is why I proceeded with the election while still here. Had they voiced concern I would not have bothered at all.
Q: What options are available for you since you are not accepting “robbery” of your victory?
A: The only option is waiting to hear what the party president says, then I take it from there.
Q: How do you feel in light of this situation?
A: I feel let down. That the women of Zimbabwe have been let down.
Q: For the benefit of people who might not know you and your profile in the MDC, how long have you been involved in the party?
A: I am a founding member of the party, been actively involved with it since formation. I was honoured last year for coming up with the party name.
Q: What are some of the moments you have endured during your association with the MDC?
A: I have endured arrests, torture and lost my freedom while I was in the country and could not travel after I moved back in 2005.
The Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede refused me a passport. I took him to court.
The records are there at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. I was separated from my children for three years.
The torture I suffered in 2007 left me badly scarred, the healing process has been long, but God has been faithful.
His Grace has been sufficient for me. I am still suffering from the injuries of the torture. My lower back for instance is still not fully healed. I am in constant pain, cannot do gym or run as much as I did before.
Q: How significant has been your role in fighting for human rights and advancing your party’s cause in Europe?
A: I feel that I have had a voice and the space to stand up for those under persecution, take for instance the Cynthia Manjoro issue, Jestina Mukoko; Beatrice Mtetwa, Solomon Madzore among others.
I was able to highlight their plight and bring to the attention of those matters in the international community; what they were going through.
I believe I have represented my party well in Brussels which is the headquarters of the European Union (EU).
Have also been the face of the party; have passionately defended our cause and our quest to see a democratic Zimbabwe — ensuring that issues concerning Zimbabwe are put on the spotlight.
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: Well I am a very principled person. I will continue to stand for what is right for my country.
My mission is to make a positive contribution to the needs of Zimbabwe; important processes which include healing and reconciliation and the whole reconstruction process.
The last 13 years have been really bad. I look forward to being part of a process and future in which Zimbabwe reclaims her lost glory. I believe with men and women of integrity in leadership this is possible.