You are one of the prominent independent campaigners this season. First of all, how did you get to join politics and decide to run as independent?
FM: The decision to join politics as an independent arose from my frustration at the political system, the failure by our politicians across the divide to (address) the daily struggle that the (ordinary) Zimbabwean faces.
Politics is not just about decisions and much less about delivering a service to the people, making laws that serve the people and upholding the Constitution. My decision to run was inspired by the desire to inspire a value-based style of politics that focuses on hope, accountability and development.
Starting at the local level in Mount Pleasant where I live and where I had not seen the MP. I was very frustrated at the service delivery by the council and I said instead of complaining all the time why don’t I step up and be an example of what I expect an MP to act like.
TZ: Your campaign has been identified as the “yellow campaign”, what is the symbolism in that and how do you view yourself as representing that paradigm?
FM: Yellow because, for a long time election time has been seen as a time where people get scared and are afraid of violence, we wanted to flip the script on that narrative and inspire hope and a thirst for change. Yellow is a colour that represents energy, that represents sunshine, hope, inspiration. It is a happy colour and that is what really informed our decision to take the colour yellow. Together with the colour yellow, we chose the tagline “be the change” because we do feel that the people have to be active if the political system is going to work and we want people to participate in our drive to inspire an energetic, youthful, technically competent style of politics.
That’s the paradigm we chose, we want to be a campaign that is technically competent, knows the law, knows how to make the law, understands the Constitution, understands the legal and political issues, understands the society that the law and society are meant to serve and also have a connection with the community.
TZ: You mentioned earlier about value-based politics, which is quite novel to our body politic. Do you have any inspiration and where do you draw your examples from?
FM: That’s a very good question. Firstly, I want to point out that locally we want to innovate. A lot of what we draw our inspiration from are our own experiences as to what has frustrated us about the political system and whatever we identify as the problem we are inspired to be the solution. If it’s lack of transparency we try to be transparent, if the politicians are disconnected from the people we are choosing to be the politicians who campaign and connect directly to the people. If we view gross incompetence as a problem with the politicians not showing up in Parliament, not knowing how to run a debate we want to be an example of politics just going. Regionally, there are a number of people who inspired me and for different reasons.
There is Winnie Mandela, because she stood up against a very tough system and she was a lone voice and the fact that I am a lone voice is something that I draw inspiration from the likes of Winnie Mandela. Going further even beyond that the fact that I am a woman in politics obviously I am going to draw inspiration on how to handle that aspect of being a politician from the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton on how to deal with failure. On how to connect with the people, how to try and drive a completely new idea in an environment where the ideas are used. You look at people like Dali Mpofu in South Africa, who is a very strong advocate at the bar but he is pioneering all sorts of new thoughts with the EFF.
TZ: What is your feeling regarding the treatment of women as political entities across the board?
FM: Although the political environment can be tough for a woman, I choose not be a victim about it. I try to focus on my competence, my message and what I aim to deliver to the people I aspire to serve as opposed to identity politics. For example, the fact that I am a woman and the fact that I am young, I don’t think that sort of identity is what qualifies anyone. You can’t say I am a woman vote for me, you can’t say I am a young person vote for me. You have to show competence beyond that. That said, I think the fact that you are a woman shouldn’t disqualify you. It’s counter-cultural to have a woman, especially a young one, to speak out against the establishment. It’s something that we are not used to, to having women speak the truth to all sorts of power going all the way to the top. I think our society is trained to get used to that. I think some treatment of female politicians is a matter of regret. I also think that sometimes the culture in political parties is not the culture that is welcoming to women. And also the fact that oftentimes men call each other up and women tend to be dropped for the boys.
TZ: Practically, how do you deal with the kind of wretchedness within politics? We particularly know that independents are being accused of trying to split votes and they are the subject of abuse online and other platforms. How do you deal with that?
FM: From a practical perspective, I think it is very important as a politician wherever you are and whichever the medium you engage in to stay on message. There will be people who insult you and people who focus on things like marital status to try and distract you from your core message; it is important to remain focused at all times. Even more, I think sometimes you must use other devices that are available to you like wit, like humour to try and show the fluid nature of some of these approaches, to spotlight some of these insults. Wherever I do have a platform to encourage other women or I do have a platform to say to the electorate we want Zimbabwe to work. The way we can get Zimbabwe to work is to ensure that we have competent people managing and running Zimbabwe especially in the professional space. The way you attract those sorts of people is when you see competence, when you see professionalism you nurture it, you don’t insult it, you don’t fight against it because that is the way that people and politicians of quality will be attracted to politics. If you are always insulting people that is when you start to believe that politics is dirty and I believe that it does not need to be.
TZ: Have you felt threatened or that the security of your person is not guaranteed out of this choice of becoming a politician and getting into the public arena?
FM: Since entering the public arena I have been arrested twice. Those threats are always there, especially prior to November 12 and 17 when the environment was particularly charged, just getting out on the streets with yellow T-shirts was certainly a risk.
While that’s improved I think, the threat to your person or security always remains especially with the history of politics in Zimbabwe, especially that you are a woman and you are young there will always be a threat. But I will not live a life with paranoia, I am not going to be held back by fear, if a bullet has my name on it it’s got my name on it, reciprocally if a bullet does not have my name on it, there is nothing that will happen.
TZ: Let us go to Mount Pleasant, what are the issues and how do you intend to tackle them?
FM: I will highlight three of the main ones, the first problem that we have in Mount Pleasant is poor service delivery, especially by the council. In our own outreaches that has been one of the main things. Obviously, it is the responsibility of the council to sort that out – the water, street lights not functioning, poor waste management, the absence of a comprehensive clinic at Bond Street, for example, that will provide maternity services. Our council is not up to scratch and the way we wish to address that is by holding the councillor or council to account specifically within our area to ensure that councillors are doing their jobs.
The second thing is safety or crime, we have a growing crime problem in Mount Pleasant and you see that the rate of armed robberies and robberies in general is increasing. Security has become a big problem. This is worsened by the fact that there is inadequate street lighting and we do not have a police station especially in Ward 17 to service Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Although it is better in Avondale where we formed a good relationship with the police there. What we want to do is, firstly, we need to improve the community’s relationship with the police service to ensure that the police have adequate capacity to respond to robberies, traffic accidents and that all those sorts of things. Also to try and come up with a more structural neighbourhood watch system where the community can become more involved in with matters of crime control.
The third thing that is of concern to Mount Pleasant is the environment and our surroundings. We have got a huge waste management problem, starting obviously from the micro-level where waste collection has become so erratic.
Second, of all things like the Pomona dumpsite, where we are failing to come up as a constituency, with waste management systems and then worsened, of course, by the fact we do not have the culture of recycling. People are burning waste which is polluting the environment. If you look at Mount Pleasant, there are so many problems in Strathaven, Avondale West where waste management has become a problem and attention to the environment is something I also wish to champion.
In the manifesto we have spoken about trying to make Mount Pleasant cleaner, greener and safer. I think those are the three areas that I wish to spotlight as being problems and there are very specific solutions in our manifestos which involve both accountability from public officials and also community involvement. At the end of the day it goes down to hope, accountability and development which are the core pillars of our manifesto.
TZ: When it comes to service delivery there is a lot of costs, how now do you seek to balance what you promise and the obtaining economic situation in the country?
FM: I will just speak to service delivery as it relates to council. Obviously, I am not trying to run for council but as someone who is trying to be a public official within the area I am quite familiar with the issues. Council mismanages its budget and I think the most recent audit report at the City of Harare shows all the maladministration, the poor corporate governance within council, the corruption and the fact that whatever rates they collect are not properly managed. That is something that needs to be dealt with strongly and I think citizens need to participate more thoughtfully in ensuring that council does its job.
On to broader issues, it is not the responsibility of a single MP to develop an area, that is the responsibility of the central government. Where the MP comes in, is when Government is driving projects is to ensure that there is appropriate accountability from the executive. The MP has to ask the right questions both inside and outside Parliament.
Secondly, an MP has to use his or her convening power to ensure that the community comes together to play its part as well. Community development can also come from the grassroots going up the community itself, for example Mount Pleasant in a dilapidated state it can require the community to come together obviously with the MP spearheading that approach. Our recreational areas, our pools, our parks, making sure our library is well stocked all of that can have the community come together. Also, inspiring the culture within constituents of keeping the area clean, doing your part even if it means coming together once a month and painting a community school. Or even trying to make sure that our council clinics are well stocked, so far we have had a number of doctors who are saying they would be happy coming once a month to assist at the council clinic.
The MP can also be a convener between people with special needs in the constituency and the people who can offer them and just need the right platform to serve the community.
TZ: Prospectively, when you become Member of Parliament, what do you intend to tackle from a lawmaking perspective?
FM: One of the key things that I can say as a practitioner that is missing in our legislation is an alignment of our laws to the Constitution. So you find that we have very good constitutional rights in terms of chapters of the Constitution but the legislation that is meant to be implemented to see the realisation of those rights is not matched to the Constitution itself.
Part of that is the fact that there is no technical competence to actually update all the law to meet the constitutional standards. I do think that some of our corporate legislation is outdated. I am talking about your Companies Act, Labour Act, Banking Act, they need to make sure that those laws which were copied and pasted from the United Kingdom in the 1960s are brought up to date with the current needs of our society, for example on the question of technologies like cryptocurrencies which have come in to completely disrupt the banking system.
There is also something that is close to my heart, and that is the question of property rights. We do need to ensure that our laws are conducive to freedom of property, especially if we are going to get the engines of the economy going. Here I am talking about trying to come with a more sophisticated land tenure system an appropriate legislation to take that forward. A legislative system that takes into account the rights of beneficiaries of the land reform but also make our agriculture more commercial, favourable to investors, both domestic and international investment.
TZ: An election campaign costs quite a lot, where do you get the money?
FM: We crowdsource, we literally seek donations from the community we aspire to serve and from people. It was really a leap of faith when we started because we had absolutely nothing. But based on the vision and idea, that we are following we have had such a warm response from the constituency, from the cyber-constituency, from the business community and a number of well-wishers who put their money, their time and professional services into the campaign. That is what kept us going. We still need more especially now that we are in the final leg, we implore anyone who is willing to support this campaign in cash or in kind, we cannot do anything that we do without your support.
TZ: Are you seeking any alliances possibly a cohort of independents or as a matter of fact do you have a preferred Presidential candidate?
FM: I will deal with the “Do you intend to join a political formation” question first, I think I want to make it very clear that I believe in a strong united opposition but that does not mean that we have to necessarily come under the same tent. Sometimes, for example, as an independent there are innovations that you want to drive is completely new and parties or formations might not be willing to take the risk that we have appeared to take.
For example, having a volunteer-driven campaign, having a campaign that uses innovations like robots, door-to-door messaging, grassroots projects, community engagement, it is all new, than to try and persuade people sometimes you have to do. You can be alliances of ideas as opposed to alliances of personalities, where principle requires us to align with a political cause we do that but we are not seeking any formal political affiliation. I undertook when I started in June 2017 to run as an independent candidate, independence means independence we approach people, we are issues-driven and our campaign is value based. It is going to remain that way until the election.
On to the Presidential candidate, we are a parliamentary campaign. We are not pushing anybody’s presidential campaign, we are completely independent, meaning you can support any party you want for the presidency and still be able to vote Fadzayi Mahere to be MP because you want delivery and you are inspired by the value-based political culture we are trying to put forward.
Personally, I am yet to decide and I will say my vote is my secret.
TZ: For me you sound pretty confident. In general what do you think are the prospects of an independent, be it at local level or presidential level?
FM: Prospects of independent candidates like the prospects of political party candidates will depend on how much work the respective candidates have put into his or her campaign and how far he or she has gone to build a relationship and foster trust with the constituency. Independents who have put in a lot of work are likely to reap the dividends and those who haven’t might fall by the wayside. I do think that we are starting to progress in society to start asking for ideas, for policy, looking for quality and competence in candidates and I think that will be more the deciding factor in this election as opposed to your identity.
When I say that I include the ability to connect with the people, the ability to mobilise, the ability to speak to the community, to have a voice that people can respect. All of these things together make a winning candidate, so an independent candidate or party candidate who manages to do all this is the candidate who is more likely to win.