MUTARE – While Mutare North is rich in minerals and farming land, its communities still live in poverty as only a few politically connected individuals are benefitting, an aspiring legislator has said.
Irimai Mukwishu, an aspiring Mutare North parliamentary candidate for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, is adamant that if elected during the coming elections, he will ensure that everyone in the constituency benefits.
At 36, Mukwishu, a former Sakubva High School student is one of Tsvangirai’s youngest parliamentary candidates and has set his eyes on taking the rural Mutare North constituency.
“Rural transformation is going to be my key motto,” he says, taking from the MDC’s policy document which places emphasis on creating economic zones in rural areas to ensure communities profit from resources within their localities.
“If one looks at my constituency, it is easy to notice why Mugabe and Zanu PF have become unpopular. People living in resource-rich areas are often the poorest. People in Mutare North struggle with everything — from food to healthcare — yet the area is rich in resources.
“It tells you of an uncaring government which, for decades, has taken rural people for granted. They have been stealing rural resources to build war chests and personal riches,” says Mukwishu, who was part of the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) before gunning for the seat last held by the late Charles Pemhenayi of Zanu PF.
Pemhenayi’s son, Batsirai, will battle for the seat with Mukwishu.
“Time has come to put a stop to such looting and insensitivity.”
A gold-rich area, Mutare North is a stone’s throw from Marange diamond fields.
The constituency is also a “rich” farming area where several high-level Zanu PF, war veterans and military officials own farms which they grabbed from whites under the land reform programme.
Yet, the place reeks of poverty, unemployment and dilapidated infrastructure.
“Government is not visible in this constituency,” says Mukwishu, who graduated from the University of Zimbabwe in 2002 with a BSc honours degree in Economics.
He says support for agriculture is confined to the bigwigs who often grab State-funded inputs at the expense of villagers and small-scale resettled farmers.
“The same Zanu PF chefs grabbing the inputs are pathetic farmers. Their farms are lying desolate. Otherwise, we should not be suffering from hunger and unemployment in Mutare North. Gold mining in areas such as Singwizi and Gayi/Kushinga have not benefitted local people,” he says.
The discovery of diamonds in Marange has become a curse more than a blessing — at least for ordinary folk here.
Thousands of families have been forced out of Marange to make way for “commercial” diamond mining firms.
Dumped at Arda Transau, a State-owned farm in Mutare North, the families epitomise how rural people are desperate for a government which ensures the discovery of resources in their areas transforms their lives for the better.
“We could be talking of zero unemployment if the concept of rural transformation had been applied effectively. Roads, schools, clinics and all other social services should have been world class if Marange is indeed the biggest diamond find in the world.
“But, no. All we have to show for it are people relocated to Arda Transau who have been reduced to charity cases. With no economic activity to support them, they have to wait for the diamond mines to donate food and soap as and when someone at head office remembers them. That is pathetic governance if you ask me,” Mukwishu says.
The tenacious politician says people in the constituency feel abandoned.
“People have been underrepresented for a long time and need change. Schools and clinics are in a bad state while road infrastructure is treacherous. The quality of education has gone down.
“At some schools, there are only three teachers who teach all subjects from maths, science to shona, accounts and divinity. This is affecting the quality of education in the constituency. As a result, most schools are recording zero percent pass rates,” he says.
Top guns such as Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Manicaland provincial governor Chris Mushowe, retired army general and Zanu PF Manicaland deputy chairperson Mike Nyambuya, ousted provincial chairperson Mike Madiro, transport mogul Esau Mupfumi and war veterans’ leader Robert Gumbo own farms in the constituency.
Small scale resettlement schemes in Nyamajura which were initiated way before the violent land reforms also are part of the constituency.
This, Mukwishu said, had resulted in intimidation and cases of political violence in resettlement areas like Nyamajura and Clare areas in Ward 1, Mt Zonwe and Mt Zuma in Ward 2, Mapor, Lorne and Chikundu in Ward 3 and Nyagundi, Chiwere and Kushinga areas in ward 34.
“Most people in these areas get threats from Zanu PF militia that they will be chased away from their pieces of land if they vote for the MDC. Unfortunately for Zanu PF, the tide is unbreakable,” he says.
Asked how he expected to win in such a constituency, Mukwishu says: “Zizi harina nyanga. Zanu PF is finished here. All we need is unity of purpose as the MDC and we are on the way to completing the change”
He says he is inspired by Tsvangirai’s resilience. “If you look at him since his days at ZCTU, he has dedicated his life to serving Zimbabwe, often making personal sacrifices to make sure Zimbabweans are free from the kleptocracy which has governed since 1980. He has meticulously driven the MDC roadmap to democracy crafted in 2006 and today we are on the final lap.”