HARARE – Aspiring Mberengwa North MDC House of Assembly representative and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou sees the unshackling of Zanu PF stranglehold on Mberengwa as key in bringing real development to this forgotten area.
This week he spoke to Daily News sub editor Viniel Deredza on his vision and aspirations for the constituency as well as for Mberengwa in general.
Zhou joined the mainstream MDC in its formative years in 1999 and has been involved in many programmes in the party and is currently a member of the National Education Advisory Board, which is helping schools in accessing key textbooks at both primary and secondary.
To him 33-years of independence have brought nothing positive to the people of Mberengwa in terms of development and resource utilisation.
“Our message is very clear, we want to bring hope but if we remain rooted in cheap politicking and intimidation, it is difficult to move forward and foster community development,” he said.
Mberengwa is very rich in both natural and human resources but there is nothing to show for it resulting in what he calls a “resource curse”. Zhou says this is all because the area has not been accorded dynamic and proactive representation in Parliament since independence, with the exception of the late Byron Hove.
To this end, he says it is very important that people realise it is crucial to elect legislators who are accountable to the people.
“Our main threat in Mberengwa is there is no transparency among our representatives and we want to come up with checks and balances, where we say an MP must be held accountable for every cent that is meant for community development," he said.
“This cannot be done individually. The constituency must have a development committee at constituency and ward level that works together with the MP and is able to account for everything, not to hide behind intimidation and bully tactics.
“The MP must have people on the ground, doing proper ground work, such that when the central government has to chip in, it is only to aid resources and avail additional funds to schemes that are already up and running.”
He also says there is need for engagement of technocrats who can help identify key investment areas and maximize the use of local resources to develop the community.
To him, the main challenge to the MDC making inroads has been the use of violence and intimidation against party supporters by war veterans and known perpetrators of violence like Biggy Chitoro and Nyasha Koke.
According to Zhou, these still go around intimidating people and individuals to the effect that Mberengwa is a Zanu PF territory and voting the MDC will have damaging effects.
“We have people like Chitoro (Biggy), Koke and one Shamu, who go about telling people that this is a no go area and if the MDC wins, we will take away farms and mining claims,” he said.
Zhou sees mining as key to the development of Mberengwa, since the area has gold, chrome and emeralds among other minerals but says it is crucial to woo investors who can inject capital that can be spread towards infrastructure development.
He also says it is critical that people are afforded access to clean and safe drinking water, especially in resettlement areas where they scramble for water with their domestic animals.
To this end, he says it is important to harness the pull of natural resources so as to foster tangible development for the district.
“Mberengwa has the potential to become a mining, agricultural and tourism hub. Our area is very rich in cultural heritage, as you know the Dumbwi Mountains used to house the Lembas’ Ngoma Lungundu," he said.
“We hope it is returned from wherever it is, so that people can come to visit the area. This in turn will help the community in improving roads and other infrastructure like hospitals, growth points as well as schools, using funds generated from our own natural resources and tourism.
“Our area is semi-arid but has potential to become an agricultural hub, through irrigation promotion as shown by the small irrigation schemes like Chimwe, which have helped sustain a lot of lives.”
Zhou is of the opinion that Mberengwa has been left behind due to the calibre of legislators who have been elected on a Zanu PF ticket over the years.
To him, most of them have nothing to offer at a personal level and as such cannot be able to bring about tangible constituency development.
“This area has been unfortunate in terms of parliamentary representation," he said.
“If you look at it right now, Zanu PF has been using the same old tactics of buying people bread and drinks. What we are saying is, yes these are important in as far as satisfying the stomach. But what does it benefit the community? What value does this add to the community and to the future of our children?”
The aspiring MP also says it is critical that instead of intimidating people, parties must come up with solid policies and select candidates with track records.
This according to Zhou, is another factor that has dragged down any meaningful development in the area.
“Last year, through personal links we opened up the constituency to a Jewish Voice Ministry outreach programme which helped in the treatment of more than 7 000 people for free and we were at pains trying to explain that this was neither an MDC nor Zanu PF programme as people feared retribution from war veterans and other Zanu PF members who thought this was an MDC initiative.
“So what we are saying is, people should move over from politicizing just about everything and feel free to elect people who also have the potential to become ministers and can influence policy rather that voting for someone because of fear.”
Whilst the area has remained tense, Zhou says the MDC has been able to reach out to people and make them see that politics of intimidation will leave them exposed.
He says it is encouraging to see that some war veterans have managed to buy into their policies and have stopped scaring away people from attending MDC rallies.
“We have laid bare our vision of promoting participatory democracy, through accountability and flexibility. To this end we want the local technocrats who can advise, mobilise resources and draft strategic plans as well as formulate development policies, working with development committees at ward and branch levels to spearhead development with the MP merely playing a supervisory role,” he said.
The aspiring MP also reiterated the need for people of Mberengwa to be wary of Zanu PF’s 33 years of broken promises saying it was time people realise they have the duty to bring about change and transformation within their communities.
Zhou, who has also worked as a teachers’ representative since 1999, says he is aware of the shortcomings of his predecessors and will be leaving his post as president of PTUZ to concentrate on other things including leading his Mberengwa North constituency.
He says he has an informed and sound vision aimed at taking the constituency to another level as well as to bring real transformation in Mberengwa.