By Ruth Butaumocho
Growing up in Zimbabwe’s high-density suburb of Warren Park in the early 1980s Gilbert Muponda was an astute and intelligent young kid, who dreamt of fast cars and wanted to be a lawyer.
He was to abandon his youthful dreams after realising that he was good with figures.
His ingenuity and passion for numbers enabled him to live at the high end of life, even affording him the rare opportunity of watching the high-octane Formula One races at different circuits across the globe.
However, despite the grandeur he was exposed to, after migrating to the United States, at the height of the ENG debacle, deep down Muponda longed to develop and plough back into the community of Warren Park, where he spent the better part of his youth.
Seven years after returning home, Muponda has since reconnected with his community and has been active in his childhood suburb implementing various income-generating projects, endearing himself with the people.
The former banker has already set his sights on the Warren Park constituency seat under the ruling Zanu-PF party ticket.
Muponda, who romped to victory in the just ended ZANU-PF primary elections held throughout the country a fortnight ago, said he was ready to serve his community.
“My motivation is purely out of the need to develop my home area, which contributed to who I am today.
“I was born, bred and grew up in Warren Park and I can relate to the challenges faced by the community on a daily basis,” he revealed during an interview in Harare recently.
The 42-year-old banker, who was once specified by the Government on allegations of failing to pay creditors of the now defunct ENG Capital together with co-founder Nyasha Watyoka around 2004, said his decision to enter politics was not motivated by personal gain but a desire to serve his people, whom he said were being shortchanged by the opposition MDC-T, which has been winning elections in the area.
“I want to move away from political rhetoric and focus on developing the constituency. Despite its potential, the constituency, which boasts a diverse and discerning population, has remained in the Dark Ages, with little access to basic services like garbage collection garbage.
“There is so much potential among the youths who have already shown their willingness to earn a living by venturing into different small to medium enterprises in various fields.
“We would need to set up home industries from where they can run their businesses with minimum interruption,” he said.
Muponda added that the majority of the residents were keen to sustain themselves, as attested by the level of commitment they have been putting in ongoing projects in the area.
Projects currently running in the constituency at the behest of Muponda include an LP gas project for the youths, cross-border trading for women, coffin and furniture making.
In bolstering education standards in the constituency, the diminutive politician is also running free weekend and holiday lessons for examination classes at his GMRI Academy Centre, nestled in Belvedere, which is part of the Warren Park constituency. A majority of the pupils who are domiciled in Warren Park and are ferried by a free bus to and from Belvedere every weekend are the major beneficiaries of the initiative.
Asked on the sustainability of the education programme, Muponda was quick to defend it, saying it was not typical of a “hard sell” political project meant to prop up his political profile.
“I am not doing this to get political mileage, but I am driven by passion to serve my community, make a difference, while presenting opportunities for disadvantaged pupils to develop through education.
“Providing education to the kids in my home area has nothing to do with the political season that we are in. Education has been one of the long-term projects which have been part the Gilbert Muponda Foundation, formed seven years ago, long before I entered politics.”
Muponda added that education was a keystone of his campaign, adding that plans were afoot to turn Warren Park constituency into an educational hub in the mould of renowned international educational community hubs like Cambridge.
“We want to set up entrepreneurial and practical skills universities to complement two other institutions that we already have in the constituency,” Muponda enthused.
Like many youths of his age, who are brimming with confidence after winning the ZANU-PF primary elections, Muponda said there was need for the electorate to invest in the young generation in the ruling party.
“We are not fly-by-night politicians as many would want to believe, neither are we planning on benefiting from the so-called rich pickings associated with politics.
“We want to input in the development of the country by bringing in new ideas, new thinking within the party,” he said.
He took a dig at some sections of the society accusing him of being a “fraudster” over allegations of misappropriation of ENG funds, saying attempts to malign him over the case did not hold water, after he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in 2009.