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Tshabangu inflicted damage but can’t defeat the masses



“WHEN I saw the recall letter circulating on social media I thought it was a hoax. I showed it to my colleagues and we laughed it off,” says Evidence Zana, the recalled Bulawayo youth quota member of Parliament.


This shows how the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) self-imposed interim secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu’s recalls came as a shock, not only to the nation but to the affected legislators and councillors.

A letter dated 3 October 2023 circulated on social media, in which Tshabangu purported to be the interim secretary-general and sought to recall 15 members of Parliament.

 That is how the chaos erupted. For many Zimbabweans, it was the first time to hear about Tshabangu, yet his letter was bizarrely accepted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda.

The effects were especially felt by young women, who had overcome the cultural and structural barriers standing between them and political posts to not only get elected into public office but also occupy influential spaces.

“I never knew about Tshabangu until the recalls saga,” Zana emphatically said, in an X (formerly Twitter) Space discussion on the impact of recalls on the political careers of young women. The X Space, organised by The NewsHawks in partnership with the Canadian Embassy, provided a platform to three young politicians who were unexpectedly recalled by Tshabangu.

The three panellists were Zana, the recalled Masvingo mayoress Shantiel Chiwara and the recalled chairperson of Epworth Local Board Anna Sande.

 Chiwara had become the city’s first female mayor up until her recall. The Tshabangu recalls, which came barely three months after the 2023 August general elections, caused, or rather exposed, the intra-party conflicts within the CCC.

While political analysts claimed Tshabangu was just a tortoise placed on a lamppost by the ruling Zanu PF to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which it achieved, the self-imposed secretary-general said he was not captured by the ruling party but was addressing the grievances that some had towards opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who has since resigned from the CCC.

“Within our party structures no one occupied the SG [secretary-general] post so I was equally surprised when Tshabangu announced himself as the SG and started recalling CCC MPs and councillors,” Sande agreed with Zana.

 The election of young women like Zana, Chiwara and Sande during the August 2023 polls was met with a lot of criticism, as they were called inexperienced and too young. The criticism thickened when Chiwara and Sande became the leaders of Masvingo and Epworth local authorities respectively, but they remained resilient.

“I was ready to bring change to Masvingo. I was commited to working with fellow councillors and the public to improve service delivery and make Masvingo a better place. As a young woman, it was my chance to prove that we are equally capable of leading,” Chiwara said.

Sande echoed the same sentiments: “Everyone knows the state Epworth is in. There are a lot of developmental issues such as housing, water provision and sanitation which needed and still need attention. There are issues of drug abuse and child prostitution. As the board chair, I was ready to tackle these challenges head-on.”

The gendered effects of the recalls weighed heavily on the young women as it reversed the political gains they had achieved from the pre-election, polling day and post-election periods.

“It was a lot to take in. I mean I had invested a lot emotionally, physically and even financially during the campaign period. What was even heart-breaking is how even the media was covering the whole issue, they made it seem like Tshabangu was really the party’s SG and this somehow validated his actions. It was difficult to come to terms with what was going on, but eventually we have to move on and remain committed to the struggle and to the people,” Sande said.

 Chiwara, who previously worked as a banker, says she had even dropped her job to focus fully on politics. “I knew it was going to be difficult balancing my mayoral duties with my other job, so I quit just after elections. It is a sacrifice I had to make,” Chiwara said, indicating how serious she took her responsibilities as mayoress. When asked how this affected her, Chiwara said professionally she can always get another job.

“My heart only aches for the people I was representing in council, those were the most affected by this whole thing. As for my career, I can always get another job and start working again,” she said. As the CCC splits continue, with the leader having resigned already, the young women said there is no way they will rejoin the CCC train.

 “I definitely stand with Chamisa. Tshabangu was just an imposter,” Sande said.

Zana and Chiwara also openly pledged their allegiance to the former CCC leader Chamisa and all three expressed interest in contesting again before or during the next election.

Asked on the way forward, Zana said she will continue engaging her community until the next election.

“I was already involved in a lot of community initiatives and in the meantime I will continue with that. I will definitely run for office again whenever there is a chance for me to do so,” Zana said.

*This article was supported by the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Centre for Public Interest Journalism (The NewsHawks)

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