Mashonaland West Bureau Chief
Very few women have dared to challenge men in their areas of dominance and succeeded. Some of these, including chessmaster Irina Krush and Washington DC police chief Cathy Lanier, have had to go the extra mile to break the barriers and match their male counterparts.
Krush argues that chess requires masculine characteristics that most women don’t naturally have and this can be equated to the male-dominated world of politics.
With only one percent being the total percentage of female police chiefs in the United States, Chief Lanier has an 80 percent approval rating influenced by a sharp drop in the homicide rate to its lowest level in 45 years.
One can argue that the same spirit to dig deeper and challenge the stereotyping associated with Zimbabwean politics inspired Zanu-PF’s Mhangura National Assembly candidate Cde Mary Chinhamo Masango.
The Zanu-PF Women’s League provincial secretary for health “took the bull by the horns” in dismissing seven male competitors in the primary elections to stand as a candidate for the constituency.
Cde Chinhamo Masango calls herself a “no-nonsense” woman, but that was not the charm that led her to such an impressive victory in the primary elections.
“Over the years, I have noticed that women were not being appreciated, so there was a serious need to tackle the problem head on. What can one do but to challenge for the highest office so that these issues can be tackled,” she said in an interview recently.
“There is so much potential for women in Mhangura through a variety of projects including gardening, poultry and piggery, but these can only be spearheaded by someone who understands women.”
Facing the challenge of former Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora, a Zanu-PF Politburo member and sitting MP, Cde Chinhamo Masango emerged victorious, garnering 2 155 votes to the former’s 2 097 votes in a tightly contested race.
Zanu-PF provincial executive committee member Cde Misheck Nyarubero added to the heat, getting 1 267 votes in the primaries that also had Cde Usher B. Cakana, Cde Darvet Muzvidzwa, Cde Berean Mukwende, Cde Ally Kureya and Cde Cornelious Muvembi.
At least 7 000 Zanu-PF supporters who were in the cell structures of the party participated in the primary elections.
“The challenge is to mobilise more of our supporters ahead of the elections so that we can give the party and its candidate, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, at least 30 000 votes in the harmonised elections,” said Cde Chinhamo Masango.
She believes her work as the Women’s League provincial secretary for health helped her appreciate the challenges faced by people in the constituency.
“There are a number of projects that were launched in the constituency but have not been followed up and that is where I would want to put much effort to change the fortunes of our people in this constituency,” she said.
The trained registered general nurse believes more health centres and schools are needed in Mhangura to serve the people.
“People still travel long distances to the nearest clinic while there are children still having lessons under trees and this is not ideal in this era,” she said.
The level of unemployment is also critical in Cde Chinhamo Masango’s mind as she tries to build a strong base for her possible victory in the forthcoming elections.
“We cannot keep on crying over the closure of the Mhangura Copper Mines. The solution is to establish a vocational training centre so that our youths are equipped with the necessary skills for a productive life,” she said.
Mhangura Copper Mines closed its operations nearly two decades ago, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of workers who turned to subsistence agriculture to earn a living.
The agricultural activities were severely affected by years of drought while the farmers struggled to buy the necessary inputs for effective and productive farming.
“Government has introduced Command Agriculture, which has been highly successful, so we want to ride on these successes to improve on productivity on the farms,” she said.
Cde Chinhamo Masango also declares that there is no way Zimbabweans can let down President Mnangagwa after his efforts of transforming the country’s economy are starting to bear fruit.
“We have derived a lot of positives from the new dispensation and for the sake of continuity, we have to retain President Mnangagwa so that he continues with his good work,” she said.
“President Mnangagwa has led a capable Government that continues to score positive results and these projects should be given a chance to reach fruition.”
In the Zanu-PF manifesto for the 2018 harmonised elections, the party is targeting uplifting the status and role of women in Zimbabwe.
The Zanu-PF Government aims at stepping up its efforts to achieve these goals through achievement of gender equality in all spheres of political and economic development.
The party would also facilitate women ownership and control of productive resources, including land and mineral claims, ensuring that they own land as individuals or jointly with their spouses.
The party also seeks to increase participation of women in the value chains in key economic sectors, while increasing women’s access to finance and implementing targeted community programmes to improve community livelihoods.
Cde Chinhamo Masango’s rich history in Zanu-PF structures dates back to 1985 when she joined the party at Shackleton Mine where she was the vice secretary for legal affairs in the Youth League.
She also held various portfolios at different branches in Murombedzi, Chirau, Chinhoyi and Mhangura from 1987 to 2006.
The mother of three rose to become the secretary for health in the Mhangura district in 2012 before becoming the chairwoman in the same district.
In 2013, Cde Chinhamo Masango became the provincial secretary for health in the Women’s League, a position she has effectively held while working with women in various health programmes.
“I have supported the party programme in various ways through my family’s support,” she said. “I have trained a number supporters who can assist when we are holding conferences and congresses for our party.
“As the secretary for health, I have initiated, motivated and supported various clean-up campaigns in the constituency.
“I have also taken it upon myself to encourage HIV testing and counselling for youths and women in the constituency. This has been well received in the constituency.”
Married to Mhangura businessman Cde James Masango, Cde Chinhamo Masango is an approachable woman who has been embraced by the Mhangura community.
She is always inundated by people from the community seeking her attention, thanks to her reputation as a “woman of the people”.
From the ordinary fruit vendor at the market place, touts, drivers, civil servants, farmers and the youths in Mhangura constituency, Cde Chinhamo Masango represents a breath of fresh air.
The people of Mhangura have invested their confidence and future in the woman who has been declared the mother of all in the constituency.