Prominent lawyer Fadzayi Mahere saw her stock rise in the run-up to last year’s harmonised elections after launching an audacious campaign as an independent candidate for Mt Pleasant constituency.
Mahere used social media such as Twitter and Facebook to reach out to potential voters and also had a team of volunteers that spread her campaign message on the ground.
Although she lost to MDC Alliance’s Samuel Banda, the outspoken lawyer had announced her arrival. Last week MDC leader Nelson Chamisa pulled a surprise when he
co-opted her into the party’s national executive as secretary for education, sport and culture.
Mahere (FM) told our senior reporter Veneranda Langa (VL) in an exclusive interview that her decision to join the MDC was influenced by the need for a united
front in challenging Zanu PF’s hegemony.
She pledged to use her position to shape the MDC’s policy position on education. Below is the full interview.
VL: What persuaded you to join the MDC after running a vibrant although unsuccessful campaign to be the MP for Mt Pleasant in the last elections?
FM: I have consistently stated my belief in a strong, united position: this is our best shot at fighting tyranny and building a nation that we can be proud of.
From the start, I made it very clear that I was opposed to Zanu PF because the current government does not have what it takes to make Zimbabwe free and
The model upon which the ruling party is built — where patronage and ageism are rife — would never appeal to me.
The lesson we learnt during the last election is that the electorate places a high premium on a candidate’s ability to collaborate with a team that can answer
the national question.
There is a strong sentiment that the opposition must speak with one voice in opposing government and I am happy to take that sentiment on board.
The country, not individuals or personalities, must always come first.
Political involvement, in my view, boils down to values and an ability to place the people, democracy and competence back into our politics.
The MDC offers a model that aligns most closely to this and what I wish to see in Zimbabwe’s future, hence my decision to join the party.
Important conversations happened after the election and it was decided that teamwork is the only way to make the dream work.
VL: Is it the first time you are joining a political party?
VL: Your father was a senior bureaucrat in the Robert Mugabe era and most senior civil servants that have served Zanu PF governments were members or were
sympathetic to the ruling party. Has your family background influenced your political choices in any way?
FM: Family experiences shape us all. However, it is a little insincere to infer that my political views would have been solely shaped by my father. It is problematic to suggest that I am unable to shape my own political position based on my individual lived experiences.
It undermines my individuality and reinforces negative stereotypes that women lack political autonomy.
VL: Your father was the permanent secretary for education, sport and culture and you have been given a similar portfolio in the MDC. Was it by design or it’s a
FM: Again, you are making this about my father, which is a matter for regret.
To answer your question simply, president Chamisa has made it clear that the game has changed.
We are championing the issues that affect people directly and meritocracy as we look to the future.
The president has seen it fit to appoint me to this portfolio, which I will spearhead sincerely to shape the MDC’s policy position on education through
thoughtful collaboration and a clear, strategic vision.
Education is the bedrock upon which our future shall be built. I take that seriously.
VL: Do you think Zimbabwe has space for independent political representatives from municipal level to the presidency?
FM: Nothing is impossible. However as mentioned above, the data and the lessons from the last election all point to an electorate that prefers candidates who
can answer the national question.
VL: What should MDC supporters expect from you in your new portfolio?
FM: As a party, the MDC is designing policies that will have an impact on the entire nation, not only affecting its supporters.
We are a government in waiting.
Therefore, the nation can expect alternative policy formulation and the crafting of a detailed White Paper from the education, sport and culture portfolio,
which I head.
One of the urgent issues to be addressed from a technical perspective is debate on the Education Bill.
The party is reaching out to key stakeholders in the education sector and consulting widely so that we raise the level of the discourse around the Education Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
Further areas of focus will include curriculum reform, rural education, grassroots sport, technology and development in the arts sector.
This portfolio is bipartisan in that the issues it will interrogate and address affect all Zimbabweans regardless of their political persuasion.
This will inform our engagement on these issues.
VL: What is your reaction to observers who say you joined MDC so that you can easily secure a parliamentary seat, which you could not achieve as an independent candidate?
FM: This is not true and if it were, I would have done the opportunistic thing of waiting until the eve of the election to join the party.
Equally, if all that I wanted to achieve was a parliamentary seat, I would have opportunistically joined the party just before the election when I ran.
However, my track record shows that my desire to serve goes beyond a mere political post.
There is a need to inspire hope and a thirst for change in Zimbabwe. We all have to act and not merely complain.
We have to be the change we wish to see in the manner our politics works. Service and competence are at the fore.
These are the values and principles that guide me as a politician and explain why I have joined the MDC.
VL: What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a female politician, which you would say are common in Zimbabwe and how could they be overcome?
FM: One thing I am careful not to do is to make my gender define my politics. However, given our cultural context, the issue tends to come up.
I have trained myself to ignore the misogyny and to pay no attention to the abuse.
The main thing has to remain the main thing. What surprises me most is the simplistic idea that my father is responsible for my political views. The notion that I cannot have agency, convictions and political opinions of my own can be frustrating. I take comfort in the knowledge that time will confirm my authenticity. I find it funny how nobody asks what my mother’s political inclinations are and how nobody ascribes those to me.
The solution is to focus on competency-based politics.
We must all contribute to broadening the narrative on the role of women in politics, not as a quota that needs to be filled but as equally competent stakeholders in the national discourse.
My advice to women with political aspirations would be to show, rather than tell when it comes to competence.
When people believe you to have substance, they will soon get over the fact that you so happen to be a woman.
Additionally, the political journey thus far has shown me that it is a myth that women do not support other women.
I have received tremendous support from many women from all walks of life.
I am extremely grateful to them all and a continuation of this culture will improve our politics overall.
VL: Do you think the opposition has the capacity to dislodge Zanu PF given that the ruling party has the state security apparatus and access to resources?
FM: Yes, otherwise I would not have joined the team.
VL: What would you want to see being done differently by the opposition?
FM: Most of the reform is already underway.
I am fully inspired by president Chamisa’s vision to take the party on a new path where constitutionalism, internal democracy and the will of the people are
front and centre.
I look forward to playing my part to ensure that vision becomes a reality.