AS the ZANU-PF December congress draws nigh, if the recent tumultuous events – as well as the unexpected twists and turns – are anything to go by, never before have battle lines along perceived factional leanings been drawn. One source of speculation has been the developments in the party’s Women’s League where outgoing boss, Oppah Muchinguri (OM) has been spearheading the taking over of her position by First Lady Grace Mugabe, herself a novice in politics. Questions have arisen as to why Muchinguri has moved that agenda; and where her heart is in all of this. Financial Gazette News Editor, Maggie Mzumara (MM), had a one-on-one with Muchinguri in efforts to find out whether the veteran politician is coming or going. Below is what came out of that interview.
MM: Now that you have spearheaded the taking over of the leadership of the Women’ League, which was your position, by the First Lady Grace Mugabe, what is next for you?
OM: That was an appointed position so it wasn’t mine per se. In the party we have our leadership who appoint people to be a secretary for any department, we wait to hear from the party leadership. Even to be a committee member without being a head of department is an option. It is up to the President. Hazviicampainwi. Hazvina wekucampaignera. (It is not campaigned for.) I am waiting for whatever comes my way. As it is I am very happy to the Minister of the Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development enforcing the policies that come from our party.
MM: But what party post do you hope for?
OM: Unotopihwa. (It is by appointment not by one’s wishes.) Most positions except the presidium are by appointment. The presidium is where people have to contest and that is full of headaches. I would much rather be where there are no headaches, to be appointed where I qualify. If I can at least be in the Central Committee that would be enough for me.
MM: Central Committee is where you feel you absolutely have to be in? That you should not miss?
OM: Yes, I want to be in the Central Committee. As a person who fought in the liberation struggle, it goes without saying that I want to be in the Central Committee. That I want. Zvekuhondo zvaiva nerufu ka izvi. Semunhu akarwa hondo, it is only fitting that I am in the Central Committee.
MM: What about the presidium? Would you like to be in the presidium?
OM: You are asking me as what? That is scaring me what you are asking. It can’t just arise from nowhere. Why are you asking?
MM: I am asking on my own behalf and just want you to say yes or no?
OM: Handidi. No, I am not interested (in a presidium position).
MM: And if you are nominated and endorsed for vice presidency?
OM: ZANU-PF has got procedures and it informs people of its decisions when the time comes. No one knows until it happens. So anything that is being said now is speculation and you media people quote us out of context and lie and say we have said what we didn’t.
MM: Regarding the nomination and endorsement of the First Lady for the secretary of women’s affairs position, are you leaving that position willingly? You were not forced or manipulated into relinquishing the position, were you?
OM: When you saw me in Mazowe (at the First Lady’s belated birthday celebrations where more than 3000 Women’s League members gathered to endorse the nomination), did I look as if I wasn’t doing it willingly? Did I look unhappy doing it?
MM: To the ordinary eye, you looked cheerful enough, but then again with you people who are veteran politicians, who have fought in the war, one never knows. You politicians have mastered ways of not showing your true colours. I would like to hear directly from you, that’s why I am asking?
OM: Some of us are very genuine and sincere. When I do something like that (spearheading the endorsement of First Lady’s candidature for Women’s League boss) it means I will have a conviction that this is the right thing to do.
MM: The Women’s League was influential in getting Mai Joice Mujuru into the vice-presidency in 2004…
OM: We made a proposal that one in every three positions be given to a woman and we pushed for it. Now we are at 50/50 positions to be shared between men and women.
MM: But so far we have not heard you push for Mai Mujuru to stay in the presidium? Is the Women’s League not as convinced in pushing that agenda this time around?
OM: Why are you pushing that presidium question? What is your interest? Don’t think for us.
MM: I am not thinking for you per se, but I am curious that if you nominated her last time why not now? We don’t hear you pushing for it?
OM: When we make any decisions as the Women’s League and are ready with them, we announce. Do not think for us. You people want to put words in our mouths and say untruths.
MM: Okay what is the truth? What do you feel is not understood and wish to communicate and make it clear to people?
OM: We are at elections in December at our congress and people should just stop fighting. The machinations that is going (in the party) right now, it should all just stop. People should respect each other, not what we are seeing now. We want a Zimbabwe with people that are united. Nyembe dzakawanda, (positions are many). There is enough space for everyone. We need to respect for each other. This issue of kufungirana (to mistrust each other and be suspicious of each other) needs to stop. And it is made worse by you the media, who fuel differences. Let us maintain peace. Let us engage in conflict management. In ZANU-PF leaders come and go. Look at me, I have been at the helm of the Women’s League since 1995. Do you think I still have any new ideas to offer? And yet people are asking why I am making way for a new Women’s League boss. We have discipline in ZANU-PF.
MM: You have been at the helm of the Women’s League since 1995 what can you name as achievements during that time?
OM: We now have more women in Parliament; more women are in jobs; more women are being promoted; we now have 50/50 representation of women in leadership. We now have things like Women in Mining, for example, all those things were not there. We are fighting domestic violence. If women do not celebrate all those things we have achieved, what will they celebrate?
MM: As you go to congress in December, are you going expectantly? With trepidation? Anxiety? With what?
OM: Some of us are students of politics. We go with no expectation. Chabuda, chabuda. Hatitye. (Whatever the outcome. We have nothing to be afraid of.) Whatever the outcome, life goes on.