Advocate and parliamentary candidate for Mount Pleasant, 32 year old Fadzayi Mahere, has shot into the public eye in just one year. Her involvement in the #ThisFlag movement, her arrest, her brief spell as a political interviewer, and her announcement that she will be running for MP for Mount Pleasant in 2018 have caught the public’s imagination, garnered her a huge following and an army of skilled campaign volunteers. There is little doubt that win or lose, her professionalism, qualifications, and high energy campaign are already shaking up the Zimbabwean political scene, especially in Harare.
HD: You are launching a political campaign to take on quite a senior position in government. Why not run for councillor first?
FM: Because my expertise lies in the law. I am a practitioner and a law lecturer. My skills are better used in an area that I have strong technical competence in and that comes naturally to me. I do not think age or council experience are relevant factors to consider when it comes to a person’s ability to competently represent a constituency as a Parliamentarian; being able to connect with people, empathise and hear their concerns and being their voice in the House are. Nowhere is it written that a council seat is a stepping stone to a Parliamentary seat. There is no hierarchy either. Both roles are important, though different. Agency means a person can choose which better suits their circumstances.
HD: Which local politicians do you admire?
FM: Tendai Biti, Trudy Stevenson and of course, Jessie Majome.
HD: If you knew for sure that your campaign would split the vote and install a Zanu candidate into parliament, would you still run?
FM: It depends. I do not generally buy into the splitting votes narrative. Votes must be earned and the best aspirant must win. Politicians must focus on making the people’s daily struggles election issues. We must win the hearts and capture the imagination of the people. Competition can only aid this. This is the essence of the market place of ideas.
HD: Your father is a senior member of Zanu PF. In a country where it is dangerous to be an activist or opposition politician, do you enjoy any protection from him?
FM: The assertion is factually incorrect. My father is not a member, let alone a senior one, of any decision-making organ of Zanu PF. He was a civil servant in the Ministry of Education. He retired in 2013 and now lectures at the University of Zimbabwe. I have a fantastic relationship with him but it doesn’t give me immunity from the realities of Zimbabwean life – politically or otherwise. I don’t get any protection from him as can be shown, among others, by the fact that I got arrested last year. When I got arrested, I first called my lawyer not my father because my biggest weapon against that unlawful arrest was my knowledge of the law not the knowledge of my father. As I continue on the campaign trail, nobody is holding my hand. So I have resolved to inhale courage, exhale fear and focus on the job that needs to be done – i.e. winning the Mt Pleasant seat for the community.
HD: Have you discussed your campaign with your father? What was that conversation like?
FM: I broke the news to him the night I made the announcement, though after the announcement. Like any parent, he is aware of and highlighted the dangers of the decision I had made – “politics is a dirty game”, “wait a bit longer”. He suggested that I focus rather on my blossoming legal career. Nobody ever asks about my mother – but she was equally distressed and they both tried to negotiate a change in mind on my part. I have a fantastic relationship with him but it doesn’t give me immunity from the realities of Zimbabwean life – politically or otherwise.
Now that the campaign is in full swing and there’s no going back on my decision to run, they respect the path I have taken. I am grateful that they raised me to be strong, independent and fierce. It will take a lot more to break me than this unfortunate and untrue narrative that I am another person’s decoy.
HD: As a Cambridge University graduate and mid career advocate, will you be satisfied with the sub $2,000 salary paid to MPs in Zimbabwe?
FM: The hours kept at Parliament and the fact that I practice at the self-employed Bar mean that I have some latitude in terms of my ability to keep going to court. I will do that, mostly because that’s where my passion lies but also to augment my income.
HD: Will you continue your private legal work if you should win the Mount Pleasant seat? Will you be able to push forward your bold manifesto if you are juggling so many balls?
FM: Yes and there are many Members of Parliament who have done the same. There would be nothing unusual there. The roles of legal practice and Parliamentarian are complementary in a number of ways. A skilled lawyer brings a lot to the table in Parliament.
HD: Which parts of your manifesto are closest to your heart?
FM: The section on hope. I love the notion that despite the mess that we find this great nation in, we can build community spirit and a culture of service that will ensure that we one day achieve a transformed Mt Pleasant constituency – hence the tagline “Be The Change”, because the decision to change begins with out participation in the process of change.
HD: What do you expect to be your biggest challenge in achieving them?
FM: I think it may be getting people to step out of their hopelessness, to get them believing in the beauty of the constituency and a common vision for progress will be a big challenge. However, it is not an insurmountable one. I believe in our collective ability to complete the task ahead.