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'I am not from Norton but I won'

by Staff reporter
30 Oct 2016 at 11:35hrs | Views
Former Zanu-PF Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa (TM) is still basking in glory after winning the Norton Constituency by-election against the ruling party's Ronald Chindedza. Last week he spoke to our reporter Blessed Mhlanga (BM) on how he won the election and his future plans for the constituency?

BM: You won a by-election in Norton as an independent candidate against the full might of Zanu-PF. can you tell us the secret behind your victory.

TM: First of all, I think it was a mistake for Zanu-PF to expel me. I think this is a mistake that most parties make; politics is voluntary, you actually join it at your own will and it's quite surprising that they expel you when you join at your own will.

It's a very expensive game because you put your own resources. I was a Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West and that's an area I don't come from; I don't even have relatives [there]. I was a provincial chairman for Zanu-PF although I don't come from Mashonaland West myself.

I come from Shurugwi under chief Banga and headman Mufiri. So, I won elections in areas I don't come from, which is quite interesting. I am a servant of the people and being an MP is about representing the people and standing up for people, and that I did.

I know Zanu-PF in and out, there is nothing that you can tell me about Zanu-PF. I was a district coordinating chairperson in Hurungwe, I was the secretary for lands for Mashonaland West, so I am quite aware of the strategies and tactics of Zanu-PF.

I am equally able to tell you that Zanu-PF does not work, the MPs don't work, it was the war veterans who were the foot soldiers for Zanu-PF. The war veterans did all the dirty work for Zanu-PF. Without the war veterans, Zanu-PF is just an organisation which is useless, so the war veterans' divorce from Zanu-PF gave me an opportunity to take advantage of the gaps and weaknesses in Zanu-PF.

BM: Talking about the war veterans, we hear that you were supported by a faction within Zanu-PF, specifically those behind Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa which enjoys the backing of war veterans, is there any truth in this?

TM: Listen, I am an independent candidate and I don't represent any party. I stood as an independent candidate and if there are differences within Zanu-PF that I can benefit from, so be it. I had Godfrey Tsenengamu; he was working with me, campaigning with me. he is a former Zanu-PF youth chairperson for Mashonaland Central. There was Dick Mafios, who is from Mashonaland Central campaigning in Mashonaland West and also (Saviour) Kasukuwere from Mashonaland Central on the campaign trail, so as a strategy I thought I had to also bring in somebody from Mashonaland Central to counter everything that they were saying. It's all about strategy, he [Tsenengamu] was a very powerful youth chairman at the time.

BM: So you are saying Zanu-PF should have kept the war veterans. Do they belong to Zanu-PF?

TM: I think the war veterans belong to the nation. the mistake Zanu-PF made was to think they owned the war veterans, they had a monopoly over war veterans, and the war veterans equally made a mistake by allowing Zanu-PF to "own" them, yet they are trustees of the country.

Anybody must be free to go to them and ask for help or for guidance in terms of having a good Zimbabwe which upholds values and gains of the liberation struggle. So, it is absolutely wrong to think that the war veterans belong to Zanu-PF.

BM: You talk of knowing Zanu-PF inside out and now you are working with your once sworn enemy, MDC-T, which you campaigned against in Hurungwe West. What has changed?

TM: Yes, I was in Zanu-PF, I voted for (President Robert) Mugabe in 2013. I gave the president a seat which they had lost to MDC-T. I worked hard on it and gave it back to them. I thought they would commend me for that, rather than fire me. They gave away the seat through imposition of candidates.

I had a very successful campaign in Hurungwe West against MDC-T and there was absolutely no violence. I banned all campaign bases and people can testify that it was the most peaceful election, where a Zanu-PF candidate was standing against an MDC-T candidate.

Because I am young, I am modern, I don't believe that violence and intimidation are the best ways to court people. If you want to have people on your side, you must have developmental initiatives that people can have a buy into. I built schools, I did road rehabilitation and drilled boreholes. I secured scholarships for up to
2 000 pupils. I had an inputs scheme where I was giving up to 10 000 households 2kg maize seed before the start of the season.
I had implements schemes where I would give 5 000 households harrows, scotch carts, disc harrows and so forth, that's what people want to associate with in terms of development and that's what an MP is supposed to do.

If you take initiatives, convincing people becomes easy. You say to the electorate, I did this for you and MDC-T did not do this for you. This is what I basically did in Norton; I gave tangible things like harrows to the people.

I put medical equipment in the hospitals that Zanu-PF built, but did not equip. These were small things like a glucometer, a BP machine, a weighing machine for the babies. These things do not cost much.

Zanu-PF was donating maize, rice and housing stands but there is no employment. How do you back those things up, if you don't have money to buy meat? so you basically have mealie-meal but you don't have the relish to eat it with. What they did not do was also give people meat, salt and cooking oil; it has to be a total package.

BM: My question is why are you working with the MDC-T now?

TM: I am working with any progressive movement. I have been part of the MDC-T marches for the 2,2 million jobs promised by Zanu-PF, but are not there and for the $15 billion which went missing.

I don't have to be MDC-T to associate with anything good which the MDC-T is doing. I am a progressive Zimbabwean and equally, if MDC believes my standing in Norton is progressive for them as Zimbabweans, they must support me, so should all progressive parties.

I question the motives of other parties who call for a coalition or say that they are progressive movements but did not support me when I was standing as an independent candidate. My question is how are they going to support other political parties in coming up with a coalition?

I saw that it's not going to happen, I wanted to test the entire political system in this country from a coalition point of view, from a progressive point of view and from many other issues which were happening - the demonstrations happening in Harare, the protests; #This Flag, #Tajamuka, and so forth that had to result in something. They did very well. I also used that to be able to stand in Norton. I went to the people with that message and it resonated with them. I used the Zanu-PF manifesto against them and it worked.

BM: What are some of the challenges facing opposition parties in Zimbabwe?

TM: The problem with political parties in this country is that they don't go to the people. I can contest in any constituency in the country and win. I am in Borrowdale right now, I believe I can stand and win, but I chose to go out in the rural areas because I believe we need to go out and send the message.

At least 72% of the electorate is out in the rural areas and who is going there with the message, the message of the 2,2 million jobs which are not there, that Professor (Jonathan) Moyo is allegedly stealing money but Zanu-PF is not arresting him?

That Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko came to a rural constituency to defend a corrupt minister and a corrupt government, was the icing on the cake for me. I had told people that this is a corrupt regime and that we don't need a corrupt regime. They are even admitting that we must steal money from government and give it to the party.

Every political party is entitled to an amount of money from government. If you are given that, you cannot touch any more money as that would be taxpayers' money that you must account for.

So Zanu-PF's policies and the failure to deal with corruption is what I used as my campaign message. I was able to penetrate Zanu-PF strongholds through the war veterans and the MDC-T structures. You have to understand that Norton is different from other constituencies; nine of the wards belong to MDC-T, they are in the urban area, seven of the wards belong to Zanu-PF and they are rural. Zanu-PF only won two wards and I won all the MDC-T wards so it will be stupid for anybody not to think that I must not engage the MDC-T.

I had to engage (MDC-T) president [Morgan] Tsvangirai and his party to say if we are fighting a common enemy, why can't we work together?

BM: Given your experience in Norton, do you think the opposition is ready to form a coalition?

TM: The question that I have with other political parties is that when the objective is to dislodge Zanu-PF and I am standing against Zanu-PF, why not back me? I don't have to invite you to the table, you come to the table because the enemy is one. when we defeat the enemy we then negotiate on what we need to do.

That's my approach on coalitions and on who should lead the coalition; it's about rank and file, who is the biggest opposition party in this country. I have never voted for Tsvangirai, I have never voted for the MDC-T but I am on record saying MDC-T is the biggest opposition. So why don't we rally behind the biggest opposition?

I am about seeing Zimbabwe change, I am not about seeing Temba in power. We should rally behind the biggest opposition party and in 2023 we can then talk about who should be the next president.

We are looking for a transitional president under whose leadership the rule of law will return, investment will come and a lot of things will come into place. So those who have been fighting Zanu-PF must be given a chance. They were there before and they suffered while we were in Zanu-PF and so forth.

People in Zanu-PF cannot just come out and say we are ready to lead, support us, there is a lot that happened. Zanu-PF was very violent, we cannot say we were not associated with it, there was so much corruption happening, what were they saying when they were in government?

People are not stupid, let us respect people. I believe that even Joice Mujuru, if she is really for Zimbabwe, she should humble herself and work under Tsvangirai. After that, let people then say we want you to lead. You have to be inside first and not talk from outside.

BM: Some people would say you are just power-hungry, that you left Hurungwe West for Norton in search for power, this is after you caused problems at the Affirmative Action Group and Zimbabwe Cricket.

TM: You are wrong. I think people don't know me. I am an advocate for change, I was supposed to be the first vice-president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union and I turned it down.

I put Brain Kagoro there as I was fighting the white system. I am the one who fought what was in rugby. In cricket I went and created structures, did I ever get a position in cricket, did you ever see me standing for office? When you talk about standing against Zanu-PF, it's a risk. I have children. Listen, if there is anyone who believes that they are prepared to do it [stand against Zanu-PF] I am prepared to stand down and let them run.

I will go and support them, it's as simple as that. Zimbabweans like to talk from the comfort of Facebook and Twitter.

I am not a social media person, I am not an armchair critic, I am practical. I go to the ground and that's how I won. The majority is petrified, there is so much fear in people, but I am not driven by fear. I am a person who faces challenges. Who can dare stand against Zanu-PF right now? it's the biggest risk.

I have a farm in Hurungwe which I got through the land reform programme, it can be taken away. I have a lot of things to lose, I have my life to lose and I dare whoever says I am power-hungry.

What's there for an MP, how much money do you get? $2 500 and a car. Is that worth the risk? I have spent more money in this election and I will never get the money back because I am about fighting for my generation, fighting for the future of my kids.

BM: Does Zanu-PF rig elections and did you see this happening in Norton?

TM: We don't have to talk about rigging; the rigging was in the aspect of violence, intimidation, vote-buying, not ballot stuffing, it does not work.

BM: You faced that rigging, tell us how you managed to beat it?

TM: I faced that and I was strategic, planning beyond the ground and working with people. When Zanu-PF was buying votes, I created flyers where I educated people that it's your right to have land, it's your right to have food and it's the job of government to give you all that. I also had 30 000 flyers, immediately after they gave stands and food. I had an extremely effective social media team monitoring every polling station. The problem is that people don't plan, they don't educate and they don't spend enough time on campaigns. This [election] was not a walk in the park.

BM: Given the chance, will you go back to Zanu-PF?

TM: I wouldn't go back to Zanu-PF. why would I go back to Zanu-PF? I am too young to go back there. there is no teacher who doesn't want to become a headmaster. You have to understand there is no bank teller who doesn't want to become a bank manager.

BM: So you want to be called the president at some point?

TM: it's not about being called the president, that's to do with God. If God says Mliswa will be president, so be it.

BM: But after your election victory you were quoted saying you are now going for the big bull in Zanu-PF. How are you going after the presidential throne?

TM: I am going for him in terms of him not being the president of this country. Why did he send Kasukuwere, [Ignatius] Chombo, Mphoko and Mnangagwa to come and campaign against me? Why did he send people with credibility issues to the people of Zimbabwe?

BM: What are your plans come 2018 elections?

TM: I can stand in Hurungwe. They never won there because there was violence.

I want to see the young people coming in. I am about making sure that a generation represents itself.

I am not standing in Norton 2018. I want to stand where Zanu-PF thinks its strong. I want to go for Zanu-PF, that's my point. I know how to take a Zanu-PF constituency. They don't like me in Zanu-PF. The reason they don't like me is because Mugabe likes me and they saw me as a threat to their ambitions.

BM: Do you believe Mujuru's claims that she was not part of the many bad things that happened in Zanu-PF?

TM: No, no, no, she is not being honest. The former Zanu-PF leadership that now wants to work with the masses of Zimbabwe must first apologise for their mistakes. Mujuru must understand that her rise to power was through Mugabe, it was not through the people; there was never a congress where the people elected her.

So to me, she was not even popular in Zanu-PF. She failed to stand in a by-election in Dotito when she was expelled.

BM: You were fired for supporting Mujuru, but you are not in her party. Why is it so?

TM: Mujuru is running another Zanu-PF; already [Bright] Matonga has been expelled for stupid things.

I mean what's the difference between People First and Zanu-PF? She now has a group of people who feed her with gossip and she acts on that. I was expelled because of her, yet she has never come to say let's meet.

She never stood up to Mugabe to say, "stop expelling people in my name, I don't want to be president and these people are not working for me. Can you fire me and not these people"; that's what I expect of a leader. Didymus Mutasa is ready to see any leader emerge, he is no longer power hungry, he doesn't want to be a minister but he is being treated badly.

Source - the standrad