CONTROVERSIAL Norton independent MP Temba Mliswa has caused a political storm in his Midlands home province by commissioning various development projects in his village amid growing speculation and fear that he wants to seize a constituency in the area during the 2023 general elections.
Mliswa, arrested yesterday but granted bail today for convening a press conference at his Borrowdale home in Harare in alleged violation of Covid-19 lockdown regulations, is former Hurungwe West MP and now independent Norton legislator.
He was previously Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chair during the late former president Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Zanu PF insiders say the party’s Midlands provincial leadership is closely watching Mliswa’s political manoeuvres as he has in recent months been frequenting his village and pushing a series of development activities which are seen as a precursor to his launch of an assault on Shurugwi South constituency currently held by Zanu PF MP Edmond Mukaratigwa.
“The Zanu PF Midlands leadership is panicking over Mliswa’s political moves and development activities, which are community-based yet clearly electoral at the same time,” a senior Midlands ruling party leader said.
“Mukaratigwa is obviously the most affected, but even some national leaders from our province, including the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa)’s allies like July Moyo and Owen Ncube are panicking. They don’t want Mliswa here. They say he will cause divisions and chaos – the sort of problems associated with him when he was Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman. So his political manoeuvres and development activities in Shurugwi South are not welcome by some political heavyweights here, although the community and villagers are happy.”
Mliswa this week lambasted Moyo, who is Local Government minister, and Ncube, State Security minister, over toxic politics and petty controversies triggered by public spats with his ex-girlfriend Susan Mutami.
Mliswa said Mutami was a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) “project” run by Ncube to discredit him for political reasons.
He also attacked Moyo, saying he is now disloyal to Mnangagwa and in fact has presidential ambitions as shown by his alleged mobilisation of Rozvi chiefs to back his ambitious bid.
Moyos are mostly of Rozvi descent, tracing their roots to Changamire Dombo’s Rozvi Empire and Great Zimbabwe.
They historically consider themselves the autochthonous tribe, like many other clans, although the Khoisan really are.
Mliswa originally comes from Shurugwi South under Gamwa Section, Shamba Circuit, Ward 5 in an area called Mliswa Village. That is where his rural home is. He says his late father wanted to go back and develop the area, and now it is the time for him to fulfil his wishes.
In recent months, Mliswa has massively invested in the rural area by developing his own homestead. He has also sunk up to 10 solar-powered boreholes, bringing huge water relief to the village.
While the current rains have helped with water supplies, the boreholes come in handy during the dry season.
Mliswa is also completing the construction of Chabvakure Methodist Church in his home village. Last August, he attended service there and told congregants the church will be completed.
“The church is in my village and I volunteered to complete its construction. I was touched when I attended Chabvakure Methodist Church last week. I am also drilling more than five boreholes in the Ward so that the community can access safe water,” Mliswa told local community journalists at the time.
Church members and Shurugwi villagers have expressed gratitude to Mliswa for his development initiatives. But no sooner had Mliswa arrived back home than controversy immediately erupted.
In a series of tweets on 17 August last year, Mliswa said:
“I continue with the development of Mliswa Village in Shurugwi under the stewardship of the Development Committee working with the chief, village heads and councillors.
“It would appear Honourable (Edmond) Mukaratigwa is panicking and as a result threatening members of the team. This is however not the way to go about it and it will work against him. His bid for 2023 is likely to be scuppered if he tries to stop development. Not that I intend to stand. No!
“I have made it abundantly clear my intentions are solely to reinvest where I come from. I can’t call myself successful when my roots remain undeveloped. Furthermore, my desire to develop the village stems from my late father’s wishes to uplift our people; it’s personal.”
Despite Mliswa’s strategic denials that he wants to take over Shurugwi South, he has quickly drawn political battle lines with Mukaratigwa.
“Hon. Mukaratigwa was invited to participate in the borehole drilling programme, but unfortunately declined… this will not deter us as the project will come to fruition regardless,” Mliswa tweeted.
“His methods of attempting to abuse the CIO won’t work. All he needs to do is to be on the ground and be effective in his role. As village head myself, development to empower and assist villagers, war veterans, schools, the disabled and others is key. Mliswa Village will prosper.”
Mliswa and his allies are said to have seized on corruption allegations against Mukaratigwa who is accused of misappropriating the 2019 Constituency Development Fund money to push back against the MP who is hostile to them.
Tongogara Rural District Council chairperson and Shurugwi South ward 3 councillor Tamiswa Njovani has been reported confirming the problem.
“In my ward to be specific, I did not get a single bag of cement from CDF. I have made several follow-ups with the MP, but it has yielded nothing. The people are not happy with that issue because they feel corruption is at play,” he said in one news report.
Apart from his broadsides against Mukaratigwa, Mliswa’s attacks on Moyo and Ncube sent the clearest signal yet that he has entered the Midlands political fray where he is reportedly being supported by Mnangagwa and some senior party officials who want to galvanise the province’s grassroots politics and social base ahead of 2023, which is even more critical for the President.