The big interview BY VENERANDA LANGA
The MDC led by Nelson Chamisa will hold its elective congress in May, and four of the candidates for the vice presidency are females, Tracy Mutinhiri, Paurina Mpariwa, Lynette Karenyi Kore, and Lillian Timveos.
The female candidates say they are a force to reckon with as they are very experienced politicians, while some have occupied powerful posts as ministers in government.
Mutinhiri (TM), Timveos (LT), and Karenyi Kore (LKK) told our senior parliamentary reporter Veranda Langa (VL) that they are confident of winning because they are powerhouses in their own right.
The three also feel that the party now needs to respect its constitution and ensure gender parity even in the presidium where there are four positions for party president and three VPs. Below are excerpts from the interview.
VL: Can you briefly introduce yourself, what is your background and areas of experience?
TM: Tracy Mutinhiri is a mother of two and a grandmother of one child left by my first daughter who passed on in 2016. Educationally I hold a PhD in International Marketing, having also degrees in Business Administration, diploma in Business Administration, various certificates in fields such as marketing and public relations and others.
I have worked in the corporate world for many years. I worked for the United Nations for many years. I was also a diplomat for many years.
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With all that experience that I have gained over this period of time, I feel it is time to give back to the community, to assist my fellow women to raise their livelihoods and to raise the livelihoods of our children, most of them who are disadvantaged.
I was expelled from Zanu PF where I held two ministerial positions, one deputy minister for Indigenisation and the other one was deputy minister for Social Services — a post that I carried during the government of national unity.
Both these posts gave me exposure on how government business is run and how we network with other governments and other institutions around the world.
LT: Since the formation of the MDC, I climbed the ranks from Zvishavane district treasurer to shadow minister of Home Affairs, and now I am the party secretary for domestic affairs and senator for Midlands province, as well as chairperson of the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on HIV/Aids and chief whip in the Senate.
MDC president Nelson Chamisa appointed me alternative secretary and spokesperson for domestic affairs, a role which I use effectively to articulate the MDC position on crucial issues and to keep government in check.
I work hard to maintain unity and cohesion in the Midlands South province, where I was treasurer for two congressional terms until I was elected into the national executive.
Together with my husband Michael Timveos we have four children and they consistently showed courage, resolve and leadership during the most dangerous times in Zimbabwe’s democratic struggle.
I was born in 1973 in Kwekwe and attended Vainona High School in Harare.
In my academic studies I obtained qualifications in accounting and administration, which was vital to begin a family business.
I am a successful businesswoman and director of Rainbow Early Childhood Development Centre and I provide funeral assistance to the less privileged, as well as embark on cancer awareness programmes.
LKK: I joined the MDC in 1999 and in 2003 I was elected councillor for Mutare ward 16.
In 2007 I was elected MP for Chimanimani West and out of 20 MPs I was the only female from the province.
Out of 100 MDC MPs I was also the only female from a rural constituency.
During the Seventh Parliament I chaired the local government portfolio committee and was a member of the Speaker’s panel.
In 2014 I was elected national chairperson for the Assembly of Women, which position I am currently holding.
During the 2018 elections I got into Parliament through the proportional representation (PR) quota.
I have done a lot of developmental projects for Chimanimani like building clinics, renovating schools, constructing vending sites, and chicken and goat rearing projects.
During my tenure as chairperson of the MDC Women’s Assembly, I encouraged women and families to vote.
VL: We understand there is a tight race for those aspiring to be vice-presidents in the party, why do you think that one of them must be a woman?
TM: It is now international best practice to involve women in decision-making bodies, take it from the United Nations and other countries where they have women leaders in high positions.
It is important to balance power because women’s issues are only understood by women and mostly children’s issues are understood by women.
So when there is a woman in the presidium, it is easier to influence decisions where women issues and others are addressed.
Women’s issues are mostly understood by women. Our situations are the same, be it at grassroots or at the highest level, so it is important that a woman is involved in the decision-making body.
This will help also to balance power, we are talking of companies, institutions and so on, and there must be balance of power. Moreover women love peace and where there is peace, there is progress.
LT: It is obvious we must have gender balance as a government-in-waiting and we need to set an example.
The constitution, which is the supreme law of the country, is clear that we must have 50/50 representation in all decision-making positions.
I know we are not yet there, but this is the beginning towards achieving gender parity.
There is need for implementation of the constitution to achieve gender parity so that we push the agenda for women and youths to participate in politics. There is nothing for us without us.
LKK: I strongly feel that one of the VPs in the MDC must be a woman because we have a party policy of gender equality and that young women and girls and the youth must be promoted. In the MDC presidium we expect to see gender parity, starting from the VPs’ posts going down to the wards.
We feel that amongst the three VP posts one of the positions must be reserved for a woman.
In all fairness, I would say that there should be at least two females in the presidium.
We cannot have four males only in the presidium — it does not make sense at all. We must have 50/50 gender parity, or at least one should be a female.
VL: Specifically, what are you bringing on the table that can help the party in the event that you win?
TM: I am a seasoned politician with lots of experience so I am bringing my experience having worked with women in Zanu PF where I was the national commissar.
I understand the problems of the grassroots woman and having been a diplomat and a worker of the UN, I can also understand how other organisations are progressing on issues to do with programmes for women.
Basically my experience will enrich the MDC party, my exposure will also help market the MDC party and economic policies. I will be able to reach out to the international community.
LT: I have a great vision for Zimbabwe to ensure it achieves the status of democratic states.
I will work hard to ensure that the government is accountable to the people.
I am a very outspoken person on issues such as human trafficking, corruption within the police force and political violence, and I can bring that experience to the party as a leader.
My cancer awareness campaigns have led to the setting-up of a state-of-the-art cancer testing centre.
I have also initiated several housing projects in Zvishavane, which is testimony to my hard work.
That is the wealth of experience that I bring to the table. I am going to be a selfless leader who represents women and youth well.
I will do my best to enhance and surround myself with women. I will have an open-door policy whereby I will be available to party members, including women.
LKK: I strongly feel that a female with the experience I have in politics will ensure there is gender mainstreaming within the party.
I will be more like a unifier in the party and ensure that I rebrand the party so that there is more respect for females.
I will participate more in policy formulation to ensure all party policies are gender-sensitive and that our party is able to woo middle class Zimbabweans that are afraid to join politics.
I am currently studying for a Bachelor of Science in Development Studies and I will use that to promote democracy within the party.
Part of my 10-point plan includes respect for others, effective communication within the party, humility, leading by example, uniting the party, and solidarity with party members in jail.
VL: Are you happy with the status of the ordinary woman in Zimbabwe? What are you going to do to uplift fellow women in the country and the party?
TM: Being a woman first is so important in any society and putting a woman in a position of leadership brings peace and stability in a nation or political organisation.
I was born in a rural set-up and I understand the needs of a rural woman.
Also look at it this way: women constitute the majority of our population in the country and if I was to be voted with my background as someone raised in a rural set-up who knows what they went through from morning to evening and also having graduated from many institutions and the exposure that I have, I feel I am the best candidate.
There are problems with child- headed families as well and the burden of single women who are failing to fend for their families.
Our economy is so challenging, but women have to work for their families.
The whole burden of the economy falls on women. If I am elected, this is one of the issues that I will seriously look into.
Women need to be empowered. The issue of unemployment is close to my heart.
We have women who tirelessly work for their children to go to school and those same women continue to work for their graduate children because there is no employment. That must change.
We will rise as women to push for an agenda that will push our country forward, which will emancipate the whole country to the satisfaction of everybody.
LT: Women must be in the presidium. I am not happy with the state of women in the country.
The economy has affected the majority of our women and there is a lot of poverty in the country.
Women need to be empowered from grassroots up to the national level, through projects and capacity building.
The 50/50 gender parity can only be achieved through capacitation.
LKK: The issue is that women do not have the resources to compete with men during the elections, however, once I am in the MDC presidium I will make sure that the voices of women are heard.
There is need for capacity building of women so that they perform better in politics.
Right now most women are affected by fear of violence and it hinders them from participating in politics.
I will certainly uplift women, even those in jails because I have been imprisoned before and I know the terrible conditions of female prisoners.
I will ensure that our political female prisoners in jails are well catered for and their children, together with other female prisoners.
VL: Do you think it is possible for MDC to win over Zanu PF and remove them from power with women in the levers of power and why?
TM: It is very possible to defeat Zanu PF. As I said before, women have the biggest number in this country and they are the same people who feel the heat of economic meltdown.
If necessary reforms that MDC is asking for are implemented and the ground is made even for all political parties with freedom of expression being observed, then the next election is for president Chamisa.
LT: Oh yes, we have always won elections and you should know that women voters are more than male voters. We need serious electoral reforms and these are what I will push for their implementation when I am VP.
LKK: I strongly feel that it is possible to win with females at the helm of power within the MDC.
What is needed first is to deal with electoral reforms and make sure that the playing field is level.
If political violence, the issue of assisted voters — most of whom are women — rigging, a clean voters roll and other electoral reforms are addressed, then change will certainly come. Women are genuine and honest, and with more females in power the nation will surely develop.