HARARE – Our Staff Writer Tendayi Madhomu sits down for a wide-ranging interview with MDC-T president Thokozani Khupe. Find below excerpts of the interview.
Q: Who is Thokozani Khupe; where and when was she born?
A: Thokozani Khupe was born on November 18, 1963 at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo.
Q: How many are you in your family?
A: We were seven and two of my brothers, the first and second born passed on. We are now five — three girls and two boys.
Q: What do you cherish the most about your childhood?
A: My parents loved us so much, but my mother was a serious disciplinarian and l am very grateful to my parents for bringing me to the woman that I am today especially my mother. May their souls rest in eternal peace. I was a very smart girl and at school I got prizes almost every year for being the smartest pupil.
Q: Please tell us about your education, from primary school up to the highest qualification you hold?
A: I did my primary education at Mpumelelo and Gampu primary schools in Bulawayo. I then proceeded to St Bernard’s Secondary School in Pumula, Bulawayo where l did my “O” Level from 1979 to 1982. I did a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from 2000 to 2004 with the Zimbabwe Open University (Zou); l then did an MBA with the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) in 2009.
I furthered my studies and did a Phd with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) from 2011 to 2017, my thesis was: The Informal Sector and Empowerment of Women, a Study of Women Informal retail traders in flea markets in Bulawayo.
Q: Are you married, are you a family woman; how many children do you have?
A: I am a proud single mother of three children, twin boys and a girl. Two lawyers and an accountant.
Q: How do you balance work and family?
A: Having dual roles has never been easy. Our children have grown up without enjoying being with us because we spend most of our time doing political work than attending to our families. This is so because as a leader you automatically seize to be a mother of your children and you become a mother to everyone.
Q: While growing up which profession did you wish to pursue and why?
A: I wanted to be a soldier because I wanted to defend my country from enemies. I then became a politician where I have spent almost half of my life fighting for equal opportunities for all, and I will continue to fight for equal opportunities until every Zimbabwean has a better life.
Q: Who is your source of inspiration?
A: My mother is my source of inspiration, she wanted a better life for us, and I am who I am today because of my mother.
Q: Your battle with breast cancer, what life lessons did you learn from the experience?
A: I learnt that early detection of cancer saves lives, and that it is important to go for cancer screening every year because once cancer is diagnosed early it can be treated. I also learnt that prevention is better than cure.
Q: As a woman in politics, what challenges have you met? Is there a place for women in Zimbabwean politics?
A: l have faced enormous challenges, l have been beaten, l have been called names, l have been discriminated against based on my gender and tribe, l have been told that a woman cannot be president which l vehemently rejected, hence why l stood as a presidential candidate and l am very proud for coming third out of 23 candidates against all odds.
In terms of a place for women in Zimbabwean politics, the ball is in women’s hands, they are the ones who must create that space because women are the majority voters, but the sad reality is that they are not voting for other women.
Q: There are sentiments that MDC will never be the same without the late leader Morgan Tsvangirai; what do you think about such views? Do you wish Tsvangirai was still alive; do you miss working with him?
A: Leaders come and go, we must all understand that we will have this leader now and tomorrow it will be another leader. The problem that we have is that we have power hungry people who don’t want to respect their own constitution, people who want to usurp power through violence, through unconstitutional means, through discrimination.
This is the poison that we have with other political leaders. In life you must learn to wait for your time to come and stop fast tracking yourself into a leadership position through unprocedural means. This bad behaviour must not be allowed to continue.
Dr Morgan Tsvangirai played his part very well and he will always be remembered. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Q: Zimbabwe is going through a crisis; as a leader what do you think can be done to turn around the situation?
A: The Zimbabwean economy has been on the decline for more than three decades now and honestly speaking there will not be a quick fix to this economy. Zimbabwe is not producing and exporting, therefore there is no new money coming into the country.
The manufacturing sector, the agricultural sector and the mining sector must start to produce and export finished goods for that matter in order for this country to get the much-needed foreign currency. Therefore, government must be aggressive on macroeconomic fundamentals so that they build this economy on a strong economic foundation.
Zimbabwe must get back to its former glory that of being the Jewel of Africa, that of being the bread basket of Africa, that of being the Sunshine City, that of being the envy of the whole world. I pray that one day we will get there.
Q: Away from work what do you enjoy doing?
A: These days I spend most of my time in the village. My passion is rural transformation. l have a dream where every Zimbabwean will get equal opportunities in terms of food, shelter, electricity, water amongst others.
I am working on a biogas project which l will use for cooking and lighting. I want to show my neighbours that cow dung can produce energy for cooking, lighting and cooling.
Q: What are your words of inspiration to young women out there?
A: As women we are leaders in our own right and young women must believe in themselves, they must have confidence in themselves, they must have dreams and follow them through.
Come 2023 we want to see change in that we want to see more women occupying leadership positions and the power lies in women’s hands.
In the previous elections 54 percent women voted but they failed to place more women in spaces where they could influence policy for the good of women and their families.
Our numbers as women must also reflect in the number of women in parliament, women in local authorities, and women in cabinet.
The 50-50 concept’s achievement lies in women’s hands. Let’s use our vote wisely and vote for other women in order for us to be part of the leaders in the Zimbabwean.