2nd Republic Profiles with Ruth Butaumocho
Few people have shaped events of the contemporary age in line with their own vision and policy than recently appointed Provincial Minister of Mashonaland East, Cde Apoloniah Munzverengi.
Her decision to join the liberation struggle while still young, her sojourn in various United Nations peacekeeping missions and her commitment to development in her rural home of Hwedza moulded Cde Munzverengi to be the astute leader she is today.
Following years of selfless dedication to the country in various positions, Cde Munzverengi is now part of the national leadership mandated to steer the country away from the economic malaise.
“I am not new to leadership. Leadership has always been part of my life.
“What has changed is just the office and the job description,” Cde Munzverengi proudly declared in an interview in Harare recently.
True to her word, Cde Munzverengi is a born leader who has through her life, traversed the length and breadth of the globe, imparting her skills to rehabilitate and heal the world from a coterie of social ills.
Born and bred in Hwedza, Cde Munzverengi attended St Joseph’s Munzverengi Primary School and later Zimuto Secondary School.
In 1977, together with her peers, among them her close friend Loveness Tsiga, she joined the armed struggle.
The group crossed the border through Mutoko, Mudzi and then went to Tete Province on their way to Tembwe Training Base.
During the same year, the group was attacked at Tembwe and that’s when she lost contact with her friend, Ms Tsiga.
Realising the mission had to be accomplished, albeit under difficult circumstances, in 1978, Cde Munzverengi proceeded to Chimoio in Mavhonde, where the group was also attacked, losing a number of combatants on 27 September in 1979.
When the war ended, Cde Munzverengi returned to Zimbabwe.
Still recovering from the war, she decided to resume her civilian life by enrolling with Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals to train as a dietician.
It was when she was learning the ropes that then Minster of Health Herbert Ushewokunze sent her as part of three women and 14 men to Morris Depot to enrol as patrol officers.
Cde Munzverengi’s initial deployment was in Chimanimani and she was later posted to Mutare, Chiredzi, Masvingo and Midlands before she was redeployed to Masvingo before being promoted to an inspector in 1985.
Cde Munzverengi rose through the ranks and was promoted to chief inspector in 1991 before being posted to Chiredzi as officer-in-charge until in 1997.
She was transferred from Masvingo to Marondera on the same rank.
In 1999, she went for her first UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, where she executed her duties diligently.
When she returned to Zimbabwe, she was posted to the traffic section.
In 2004, Cde Munzverengi went for her second peacekeeping mission in East Timor, Indonesia.
Cde Munzverengi returned home in 2006 and went back to East Timor in 2007, before her return in 2009.
Cde Munzverengi, who was then an assistant commissioner, was redeployed back to traffic.
“I was promoted to senior assistant commissioner. I was then posted to Police General Headquarters as chief staff officer; economic planning and surveillance,” she said.
The following year in 2011, Cde Munzverengi was posted to Masvingo and eventually retired in 2012.
When she hung her boots, she went into politics. Her love for community-based initiatives made her realise that she could still impart the same skills for the betterment of society.
“I had a bias towards working with the community, even when I was still serving. All the missions I went to at the UN, I was working as a community policing officer, as an advisor on community-related issues such as drug and child abuse,” she said.
“When I was still in Masvingo, I did a certificate on child development and family therapy.
“I had a passion for working with women and children.
“I then felt I needed to play my part as a politician within this these areas.”
Cde Munzverengi’s first attempt in politics hit a snag when she lost to sitting National Assembly Member for Hwedza Engineer Musanhi in 2013.
Again in 2014, she took part in the by-election and lost to Cde David Musayabana, who was duly elected Member of Parliament.
During that time, Cde Munzverengi, who was mixing politics and mining, was voted president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF).
“Before I retired from the police, I had a passion for projects.
“During my time in the police, I mostly represented Zimbabwe Republic Police Women’s Network, and I used to interact with the Ministry of Women Affairs, further enhancing my interest in community projects,” said Munzverengi.
Cde Munzverengi, who was already part of the female leadership in mining, took over the leadership of the ZMF when the small-scale miners sector was facing a lot of challenges, among them lack of user friendly policies to boost small-scale miners’ growth, including the formalisation of their mining operations.
During her tenure, she managed to lobby for the reduction of Environmental Management Agency fees, a special purpose vehicle for miners who were into chrome and pushed for the RBZ facility of $150 million, which was distributed to registered small-scale miners to enable them to retool.
She also lobbied for the downsizing for Zimasco and Zim Alloys to ensure that small-scale miners were reasonably paid for their chrome.
“Our chrome miners were mining on tribute to Zimasco and Zim Alloys and they were paid peanuts by those big giants. We wanted to liberate our small-scale miners so that they would also access international markets,” she said.
During the same period, gold production from small-scale miners rose from seven tonnes in 2015 to 13 tonnes in 2017, surpassing even big miners.
“I am happy that the Government started realising that the sector was now a strong player they could not afford to ignore.
“The Government started coming up with a number of structures to support small-scale miners even up to this day,” she said.
Still revelling from her success as the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, Cde Munzverengi already has a blueprint for the development of the province that she will be stewarding.
“We want to create industries, boost farming activities by utilising all the water sources in the province.
“Our vision is big, Mashonaland East Province, will never be the same again,” she said.