‘I am the change Mpopoma/Pelandaba is looking for’

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NHLANHLA Moyo is an aspiring independent legislator for Mpopoma/Pelandaba constituency in Bulawayo. He is an academic who, in the midst of pursuing a PhD in Political Anthropology at Witswatersrand (Wits) quit to participate in the parliamentary race on the Alliance for People’s Agenda (APA) ticket.

By Talent Gumpo

Moyo participated at one of the highly-volatile students’ movement in South Africa #FeesMustFall, which later influenced his decision to become a political activist. Southern Eye Correspondent, Talent Gumpo (SE), caught up with Moyo (NM) who shared his experience, drive and goals.

SE: Why did you venture into politics?

NM: Being part of the #FeeMustFall movement made me aware of the willpower of the youth. Through their mass mobilisation they cut across political, ideological, socio-economic and class differences producing a new generation of post-apartheid activists and a new form of politics and claim-making driven by social justice and the need to address inequality, poverty and unemployment in broader society.

I juxtaposed the situation in SA and Zimbabwe and drew parallels between the two societies this is what drove me to take part in politics in Zimbabwe.

SE: Why Mpopoma/Pelandaba?

NM: I identify with youths in the constituency because I know how it is like to have your dreams shattered, to be structurally excluded from economic participation, leaving home in pursuit of dreams elsewhere in the Diaspora. There are a lot of competent young people in my community who can lead, but have the fear of engaging in politics understandably so because of the violence in the past.

Apart from being born and bred in there. Mpopoma/Phelandaba has been plagued by incompetent leadership at parliamentary level. The biggest mistake is that people use their emotions to vote instead of voting for their candidates on merit.

SE: What have you done so far in the constituency?

NM: I cannot say I have done much because I have been away for a while, but during my campaign my eyes have been open to a lot of things to do pre- and post-the election. The refurbishment of schools is in the pipeline. I am engaging old student associations, looking into their schools because I believe every school has produced a significant number of prominent people in society who can make a difference and it is always a noble idea to give back to where your education first started. One particular school in the community should be getting a computer lab through the generosity of an old student after I highlighted the plight of the school, but that’s still in the pipeline as well. I make regular visits to orphaned children in the community, something I began doing to highlight the work and sacrifice of certain individuals who take their time to raise and nurture them. Apart from this and assisting individuals on a personal level in precarious positions I hope to do things on a much grander scale if afforded the opportunity and the resources.

SE: Have you started campaigning? If yes, when?

NM: My campaign began in February, but on a much subtle tone as a way of introducing myself in certain areas that I wasn’t really known. But I have become a little more overt in my engagements with the public. I have had regular meetings with the people and I am building cell groups in virtually every corner of my constituency.

SE: Which problems have you identified in the constituency and how are you going to solve them?

NM: There are many problems that have always existed; most have been precipitated by the socio-economic climate in the country, particularly the issues of unemployment, dilapidated public infrastructure, and water and electricity debts.

The question of unemployment is a huge one and is way beyond my capacity to deal with; it’s bigger than any one individual. This is where the role of an MP comes in to advocate for policy changes at national level that make it conducive to create employment opportunities.

But at local level, something I’ve observed happening in communities beyond our borders, is the radicalisation of the township economy through platforms such as stokvels (invitation only clubs of 12 or more people serving as rotating credit unions or saving scheme), burial societies as well as existing small-scale businesses and vendors. Money circulating within the same community several times is important in revitalising the existing businesses and boosting emerging ones and maintaining a liquidity flow. I have seen it in Muslim and Jewish communities.

I see a lot of potential in my constituency particularly with the youth. There are a lot of young artists who are not really getting attention from local leadership right now. We have young academics not getting sufficient support as well-talented sports people with no proper infrastructure. All these are problems at local level with the aid of ward councillors can be dealt with.

The biggest issue right now is the electricity and water bills. Some debts accrued since 2008 have not been cleared leaving some residents with their supplies disconnected and those households that are still trying to settle their debts end up with eroded disposable income. I cannot think of anything more violent to our community or even society as a whole than to be deprived of such basic amenities. If an old granny has a debt of $3 000 and has no children looking after her, but has become a guardian for six of her grandchildren even the NSSA funds are not sufficient to take care of her needs. Local authorities should be doing something to protect such vulnerable people.
School fees and unwarranted levies are a little exorbitant for some families, the issue of sending children home because of unpaid fees is another violation of their basic human rights. The burden of paying fees particularly at elementary level should lie with the government and not the poor unemployed parents. All what this does is perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

There is need to also revisit the policies by government with regards to the level of intervention when it comes to donor funding the amount of scrutiny and bureaucracy is a great deterrent to many potential funders which in turn stifles development and growth of government schools. These are but a few of the real problems in our constituencies legislators do not tackle in Parliament.

SE: How has been the response from your constituency?

NM: I have requests on a daily basis to address some groups of people. As much as I am spread very thin I try not to disappoint and attend as many gatherings as possible, some which are not scheduled.

SE: Your parting shot?

NM: If Mpopoma/Pelandaba is looking for someone who will advocate for sound policies that will help the people and who will not only come alive when remuneration packages are being discussed in the House of Assembly, they have found him. I’m the change they’re looking for and I’m ready to represent them in Parliament.