HARARE – The Daily News will from today up until elections bring you interviews and profiles of those contesting the legislative elections.
Through interviews, it will be up to voters to choose their preferred candidates.
Today we talk to Grace Kwinjeh, a veteran MDC activist who was last year honoured for coming up with the name Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Kwinjeh who wanted to contest the parliamentary elections in Makoni Central Constituency controversially failed in the primaries but will be contesting using the ticket given in 60 constituencies that are reserved for women.
A fierce critic of Robert Mugabe’s governance Kwinjeh has lived in exile in Brussels, Belgium for the past three years.
While in Zimbabwe, she was arrested several times on various trumped-up charges and held in solitary confinement. She was also one of the high profile civic and political leaders brutally tortured on March 11, 2007 in Harare.
Kwinjeh, 39, is a journalist by profession and a founder member of the MDC who served as deputy secretary for international affairs.
MS: Now that you have been nominated to stand in parliamentary elections, what do you promise the people in the constituency you will contest?
GK: I am promising servant leadership and to work with the people to advance their interests. A bottom-up approach on a daily basis, not what we have seen in the past where elected officials only come back to the people during election time.
MS: What are the strengths of MDC against opponents?
GK: MDC’s major strength is its democratic credentials. The MDC offers hope, and is not tainted by the history of violence. It is managing to deal with corruption in its ranks though this has been a major challenge, but it stands out because as a party, it is dealing with this vice.
MS: Any hope soon for a woman president in the party or government?
GK: I think the dream of a woman president is carried by many of us, but our society sadly does not seem to have reached that stage yet. There are good sisters on the frontline, but they still feel secure under male leadership.
I am yet to see a real robust challenge to patriarchal dominance in any of the political formations. So our attitudes towards power and leadership even as women has to change, then maybe society will open up the top job for us.
MS: How has MDC dealt with internal party violence — what can be the motive?
GK: I think internal violence can either be a result of frustration at the never ending crisis, so people will vent out. Not that it is good to do it that way, but in a way it just shows some stress levels among Zimbabweans.
MS: Where are you based at the moment and when will be on the ground in Zimbabwe?
GK: I am in Brussels and will soon be in Zimbabwe for the campaigns.
MS: What will you bring home from your international attachments?
GK: I think more discernment and wisdom, because of the exposure I have gone through in the last six years. Also experience of how other nations are governed and the challenges they face; the obstacles they overcome and some of their success stories.
MS: How is the MDC as a party viewed in European countries; especially by the countries you dealt with?
GK: The MDC is largely viewed as a long overdue alternative to Zanu PF. The party has much respect, also because it has remained resolute in the face of some of the most insurmountable challenges.
The party is young, offers realistic policies that will rescue Zimbabwe from the current mess. As you would have read, the ART policy document received thumbs up from key donors, because it is well thought out, articulated in order to rescue Zimbabwe from the current mess.
MS: Your journey with the MDC is long; just give us in brief; when you joined and in which capacities you have operated and worked.
GK: I am a founder member of the party, was only 25 years old then. There was much hope and anticipation then, that change would be a quick and sweet process. Little did we know of the horror to be unleashed on a nation that would haunt us for years to come? Now as we gear up for another election, with no security sector reform in place, it is with much trepidation once again.
I have served in the National Executive, been the party’s first diplomat as EU representative, then as deputy secretary for International Affairs.
MS: I remember you being arrested and you were once tortured by the police; did that give you the zeal to join politics and fight from that end?
GK: In a way yes, but I was tortured after joining politics. It did however, strengthen my resolve, and it is sad to say that after 2007, more cases of the brutal torture of others were reported.
Now in this season it has moved from torture, arbitrary arrests to assassinations. How can a person sleep with such horrors unfolding in our country? Election time equals a process of punishing Zimbabweans for wanting change. So indeed at each historical turn my resolve is strengthened to fight for a better Zimbabwe.
MS: Any parting shot?
GK: This is the time that Zimbabweans should unite and say no to violence, time to overcome fear and say enough is enough!!