She drives safely, slowly navigating her way in Chikomba’s rugged and uneven dusty roads that force the occupants of the vehicle to sway sideways in a similar rhythm and hymn.
Upon recognising Dr Sekai Nzenza’s vehicle, villagers lift their clenched fists, chanting “Pamberi na Chihera!”
The smiles on their faces and their bubbling enthusiasm tells an expectant story for the people of Chikomba East.
She reciprocates by raising her clenched fist, too, occasionally stopping to exchange animated greetings with villagers.
A few kilometres away, more supporters wait patiently. Dr Nzenza (59) is Zanu-PF’s aspiring Member of Parliament for Chikomba East in the forthcoming elections.
This is her maiden elections as a candidate.
She is a PhD holder in International Relations and spent two-and-half decades working at organisations such as World Vision, among other developmental organisations in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Politics clearly does not run in her veins.
“I remember in February this year, I was approached by a number villagers from different political parties and they requested me to be a candidate in the forthcoming elections,” she says, as she continues navigating her way.
“I was not prepared for full-time politics.
“Although I had helped in the implementation of so many projects in the constituency such as drilling of boreholes, helping in women’s projects, I was only doing it for the development of the area.
“One of my friends in Harare advised me not to accept the challenge. ‘Campaigning is costly, Sekai,’ he advised me.
“The villagers, however, said all they needed were tennis shoes so that they could do door-to-door campaigns, especially during the primary elections.”
“After a few days, I realised that what these people wanted was development in an area that had been long forgotten. I accepted the challenge, although I am still learning to be a politician.” Dr Nzenza is one of the political newbies that was spawned by Zanu-PF’s effort to open up democracy in the party.
Sloganeering is not her thing and she seems to be a square peg in a round hole.
The abrasive and toxic politics of old, it seems, were an Iron Curtain that kept those who did not have a stomach for its rough and tumble — despite having a consuming passion for development — out of the fold.
But she is slowly finding her feet.
“The other time at a rally in Mutoko, I went donning my casual clothes.
“Mai Muchinguri-Kashiri and Mai (Mabel) Chinomona then pulled me aside and asked me about the regalia,” she says with a chuckle. Despite having been under a number of political bigwigs such as the late General Solomon Mujuru and Chenjerai Hunzvi, as well Edgar Mbwembwe since 1980, villagers claim a road grader was last seen in the area in 1977. The state of roads has resulted in transport operators shunning the area. However, Dr Nzenza believes she is different from her Zanu-PF predecessors. Although her parents were Zanu-PF members, she only became a full Zanu-PF member in 2008. Her involvement with the village gave her an edge against her competitors during Zanu-PF’s recent internal polls.
“I strongly believe that the imposition of candidates during primary elections hindered development in this constituency,” she added.
“Although I was not actively involved in politics all these years, I was in touch with the grassroots. I am the president for a burial society in my constituency; thus, I am obliged to attend funerals. This helps me to keep in touch with the people. This gave me advantage over my competitors during the primary elections.”
As she arrives at Bimha Shopping Centre for her address, elderly women and men ululate and whistle as a sign of welcoming her. Clad in a green skirt emblazoned with President Mnangagwa’s face, including a matching doek, she immediately starts addressing her supporters. With a soft voice, she clearly maps out the areas she has earmarked for development whilst clutching her hands together.
Occasionally, the villagers ululate in approval. “I have professional knowledge, but I know with your help you can help me acquire the knowledge in areas that I do not have,” she said.
“However, I know we have one thing in common, which is development for this area.” She will be battling it with four other candidates who want to represent the constituency after July 30.
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