His is a journey that many Zimbabweans find amazing. Growing up in the dusty streets of Mabvuku, he became a celebrity in his early 20s back in the 1990s when he joined the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as a radio presenter/producer.
BY CHRISTOPHER MAHOVE
He became an instant hit on the then Radio Three, now Power FM, where he hosted various shows ranging from musicals, talk shows and news interviews.
And now, two decades down the line, the man’s voice is not on radio anymore. It is being heard in Parliament, where colleagues in the August House jokingly refer to him as Mr DJ. Meet James Maridadi, the MDC-T Mabvuku- Tafara member of the National Assembly.
For Maridadi, who has also worked in the corporate world as a public relations manager for a bank, power utility and logistics companies, the fact that he is now an MP is not by accident.
“I have always been a political animal and getting to be a legislator was not by accident. It was bound to happen at some point,” he told The Standard last week.
“I knew that I was going to occupy a political office somehow and now I am a legislator. I closely followed Zimbabwean and African politics during my time as a journalist.”
Maridadi believes journalism in itself is a political job as it associated journalists with politicians from across the divide.
“My job [as a journalist] was very political, it did not mean just playing music and producing news bulletins, I went far beyond that. It got me in touch with a number of political luminaries,” he said.
“To sit in the same room and spend more than 30 minutes with people such as Morgan Tsvangirai, Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika and even President Robert Mugabe was not ordinarily done by a 26-year-old, but I sat next to them because of my work as a radio announcer.”
Maridadi said it was difficult to resist politics as it gave shape to the country’s economic and socio-economic developments.
After working in the office of the former Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, as his spokesperson and later director of protocol, Maridadi said he had gathered enough experience to become his own man politically, the reason why he decided to run for the Mabvuku-Tafara Constituency seat.
MINISTERS’ HYPOCRISY EXPOSED
Maridadi said it is wrong for MPs and ministers to demand luxury cars from outside the country when Zimbabwean firms such as Willowvale Motor Industries manufacture equally good cars.
“I have always laughed at ministers who complain about sanctions yet they wear designer suits by Harrods of England and drive Landrover Discovery vehicles made in England. Why do they give money to British companies yet there are Mazda B50 vehicles which are just as good, that is hypocrisy!” he said.
A PEOPLE’S PERSON
The former broadcaster James Maridadi said, “No job can be more political than being a spokesperson of not just a prime minister, but a prime minister in a coalition government. So I then thought about how else I could participate in politics as a person not under somebody’s wings or as a proxy; and I decided to go to Mabvuku and participate in primary elections where I gave a good account of myself.”
He went into a primary election with 14 other candidates, the highest number of contestants for a single constituency.
“I did not have a huge budget although it is an open secret that I was contesting someone who had the biggest campaign budget, but I still went on to win,” said Maridadi.
But what was the secret behind his victory in Mabvuku? He contested against former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairman, Goodwills Masimirembwa of Zanu PF, who seemed to have more financial muscle in the constituency which encompasses Caledonia Farm where thousands of people linked to the ruling party were recently settled.
“It was because I am a people’s person and I grew up in the constituency. People know me and I know them, I am the boy next door and it was always going to be difficult for someone to contest and win in that constituency,” said Maridadi.
“They could have put their entire budgets and I would still have beaten them, even with money from the sale of all the diamonds at Chiadzwa or from all the diamond fields in Africa, I would still beat them.”
He contested the Mabvuku seat to help develop the area and claimed that he was not interested in the perks and benefits that came along with being an MP.