A ‘fire brand politician’ is how some of her fellow councillors describe Paula Macharangwanda. And Paula certainly gets the council chambers all fired up when discussing the challenges faced by the residents of her ward.
In 2000, while working as an activist, she got dismissed from her secretarial job. “I know how it feels to be discriminated against, to feel powerless, to have landlords who threaten to kick you out and to not have a place to go or to lose your job because of political affiliations. So equality and fairness are driving principles for me.”
In council, Macharangwanda is the vice-chairperson of the Environment Committee and a member of the audit committee of the Harare City Council.
What is your background?
I was born in the high-density suburb of Glen Norah in 1966. For my primary schooling, I was enrolled at Ruveneko Primary School in Glen Norah and I later attended Chimhawo Secondary School in Murehwa. My mother had recurring health problems so after finishing my O-levels, I helped look after her shop in Machipisa, Highfields. Afterwards, I landed a secretarial job with a local company but could not keep it because of my political career. I was married but unfortunately I lost my husband in 2000. He left me in charge of three children, two girls and one boy.
Why did you choose to be a politician?
I always had the idea that if a woman can manage her own home she is good enough to be a civic leader. That is not to say men are not good leaders but there are many issues that men have failed to articulate on behalf of women.
Have you held a political office before?
I first came into office in 2008 and was re-elected in 2013.
What development are you planning for your constituency?
My plans are to have a District Office at a convenient place in the ward. The district office is essential as this is going to provide services like a bills payment office, a library and a small hall. I also intend to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Bishop Gaul and Samora Machel Avenues. We have lost many lives there. We have found a sponsor and we are waiting for the City Planning Office to give us the go ahead.
The City of Harare’s public health care is in shambles. What plans do have to improve it in your constituency?
There is a pressing need to provide essential services such as clean water and the adequate collection of waste. The construction of more Polyclinics should be prioritised. For instance, in my ward there is one clinic which was meant for post natal care but it has recently been upgraded to clinic status after demands for health services increased. Medical equipment has to be sourced and the hiring of more health personnel is essential.
Politicians are renowned for making promises they do not intend to keep. How can you be held accountable?
My ward is relatively affluent and to promise things that you don’t do is suicidal. I realise that I can accomplish a lot if I ask my constituents what they want done. Recently we had several residents who expressed their intention to partner with the City to solve the issue of road lighting. In addition I promise to always be available to my constituents.
Harare used to be the Sunshine City, can it attain that status again?
It can attain this status if residents, policy makers and business come together. Our greatest challenge has been corruption and partisan politics. You will find that certain projects or services are not provided and implemented because of who you are and where you come from politically. Unless we change this attitude the situation is going to deteriorate and the likelihood that the city will once again achieve the status of the Sunshine City will remain a pipe dream.
You can reach Paula on 0772 554 871.