By Grace Kwinjeh
MDC legislator Hon. Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga today speaks out following attacks by her boss Welshman Ncube. This exclusive interview reveals details previously unknown to the world on her relationship with Ncube.
Grace Kwinjeh talks to Women’s Affairs flame Mushonga, an unapologetic, fearless and determined fighter for women’s rights and the less privileged in society. The committed and determined politician, has years of experience in the women’s movement, a vocal member of the opposition, and is currently the MDC legislator for Umzingwane.
Some of Mushonga’s radical stunts that have led to policy reforms debate have included bringing second hand panties to Parliament in protest against their importation and sale.
She has also fought for the rights of breastfeeding female politicians by bringing a baby into Parliament.
In this interview Mushonga, boldly tackles issues surrounding her fall-out with Ncube. In her own words she reveals that their relationship is beyond the workplace. She also confronts notions of patriarchal power and how women in politics have become unwitting accomplices in its entrenchment and sustenance. She also gives an insight on the roles First Lady Grace Mugabe and Dr Joice Mujuru play in the unraveling political developments in Zimbabwe. Mushonga(PM) talks exclusively to Grace Kwinjeh (GK).
GK: Who is Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga?
PM: Priscilla is a girl, by that I mean she loves clothes and shoes, she loves Valentine’s and loves getting roses, she cries and is moody days before her periods.
GK: You have a long track record in political and women’s rights activism, what inspired you to this? Can you tell us about your earlier days?
My inspiration was that I am the only girl in a family of boys, I grew up fighting discrimination, I had the best dad who whilst I was his princess he pushed me and wanted me to excel, so it is that passion that made me into the feminist I am today.
GK: You have held influential political positions over the past decade, for instance you served as Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation, as well as having been one of the key negotiators that led to the establishment of the Government of National Unity (GNU), as well as being your party’s chief representative in COPAC.
– As a female politician what has the experience been for you?
– This is mostly a male dominated world with you often cutting a lone figure there, how did you cope?
PM: Firstly it is very lonely in those spaces, you lose your femininity, the guys treat you like you are one of them, in one of our negotiations I had to ask for my own toilet because I could not understand why they (men) could not put the seat down. We had 15 minutes to debate this during the negotiations as I tried to understand that basic fact. I had to make friends with the women in the facilitation team and those friendships continue today. I survived because I did not disengage from my sisters off the table, in-fact the sisters outside did all the work and all I did was speak at the table, both the Global Political Agreement and the Constitution have the best gender sensitive clauses, which were drafted by women outside the table who used me as a courier.
GK: We have watched your journey from the MDC led by Tsvangirai to later on serving as Secretary General in MDC Green, you have since left if we are not mistaken, what are your thoughts on this journey? Do you think the MDC brand will ever be the same again? Given a second chance should the clock be re-winded to years before the split as a leader what would you suggest be done differently?
PM: The MDC brand will never be the same, it lost its inclusively, the 2005 split was devastating, it’s a pity that the mediation process then failed. I meet many people that speak to the original MDC with a sense of nostalgia, more like children from a broken home. The morale of that MDC was that it had been able to harness women with both substance and activism, women of courage and slowly those women became the targets of attacks, the Grace Kwinjeh’s, the Yvonne Mahlunge’s, the Lucia Matibenga’s, the Sekai Holland’s , all these were taken out systematically, and no convention no center, and that is how that brand died.
I don’t know of a party called MDC green, I know of MDC, and yes I resigned as SG, I saw Prof ‘ s (Welshman Ncube) interview and was livid as usual we argued over it and agreed to disagree on what were the reasons for my resignation. I think the way he put it betrays male thinking on women, he did not patronise the guys who left, but felt he needed the world to know that for all my being good I had this major flaw/more like a man who after the woman walks out because of abuse, refuses to acknowledge the abuse but instead blames her for not being able to deal with the mother in law. He sat in spaces where I was abused; accused of nepotism, where youths even after I had resigned held press conferences and threatened to physically bar me from parliament. He has read through the most vicious articles on my person, where I have been accused of being CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) and yet he sees my resignation in light of my inabilities and lack of capacity to work with people. The reason I was part of the Sibanda group was I saw him as a victim of ethnic attacks and through out my SG tenure I was accused of favouring Ndebele people and unfortunately his article seems to confirm that abuse. It made me very Sad.
I have like a typical woman tried to find explanation to this and have told myself that because he is like a brother to me, I have known him since I was 18, and I was his partner at my brother’s wedding when I was 19, he struggles to see me as a colleague, that way I don’t have to be angry with him. It still remains a very difficult relationship, and he too admits to that fact, I guess we will never agree on why I had to resign.
If I could go back to 1999, I would have pushed for equal representation at the top level of the MDC, without women in the top 6 the project was destined to fail, too much testosterone is not good for anything. I would have pushed for a better, stronger and more supportive sisterhood, we never got time before the split to define our position and took positions in terms of what we saw as our loyalties to men, and ironically when you look how we all gave up on our lives for those men we chose, we all got replaced, men deal with women on the basis of functionality and we deal with men on the basis of loyalty, which is why we wait for them to walk out on us and not vice- versa.
GK: How do you see the politics of the country evolving given the state of the ruling Zanu PF party?
PM: Sadly am not optimistic, I don’t see a change in the way the so called progressive forces are doing business, people seem to think the next election will be the same as 2013.Whilst Zanu PF will have the same presidential candidate, the Zanu PF of today has changed the power dynamics have changed, a grand coalition in the framework and structure of 2013 election won’t work for 2018. In fact electoral pacts discussion at this stage are not only misplaced but naive, what we should be talking to is the kind of Zanu PF we have, and what it will bring in 2018 if we even have an election in 2018. How do you organise an army when you don’t know the nature of the beast we are to face? So again my analysis is we are still not well strategized but if I am to be brutal very very naive.
GK: More women have joined front line politics, in Zanu PF we have First Lady Grace Mugabe who is now the Women’s League chair and in the opposition we have Dr Joice Mujuru leading People First, as a politician yourself who has spent the greater part of her life on the front-line how do you view their entrance?
PM: One cannot deny that the entrance of Joyce and Grace has changed the face of politics, except that in both cases, they will always been seen in the context of the males in their personal spaces. I still don’t see how Grace will continue politically outside her husband (President Robert Mugabe). Given that Solomon is no longer there, perhaps Joyce can set out a brand of her own, but she will have to get out of those who were Solomon’s crowd and set a Joyce group that are with her because they believe in her as a person outside her husband, that includes a new way of leadership and new structures. Without that she will only be a woman in male garments.
GK: Do you think spaces are now more open for women to participate in politics? For instance is there a chance after 2018 Zimbabwe will have a first female president?
PM: I don’t think the question is about a whether a female president in 2018, the question is whether Zimbabwe has a chance for any other president who is not Mugabe in 2018?
GK: Would you consider going back into mainstream politics? Do you have any plans to mentor younger women and encourage them to join politics, as it seems at the moment there is such a generational gap, not many younger women have an interest?
PM: I resigned from being SG but believe am still in the mainstream politics, I will probably stay in politics but I am positive that at the next congress I will not stand for a leadership position, I was too wounded and have no energy for the toxicity of party leadership, I have found I enjoy the work of being a back bencher, it has given me the space and latitude to fund the activist in me. I think that is where my passion is best suited. My biggest regret is not having had a properly organised way to mentor those that think I can do that, sadly a mentorship program that had been set up by the UN WOMEN also fell into the toxicity of resignation, am sure the women who had chosen me as a mentor, couldn’t continue with me after the Women Assembly of my party had publicly
written a statement calling me a traitor and a heroine turned victim, again that has demoralised me.
GK: While campaigning for Senator Hilary Clinton, Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright said there is a special place in hell for women who do not support other women. Your thoughts on this.
PM: I don’t know whether there is hell for women that don’t support other women what I know is that there will be a lot of crying and regret for a lot of women who sacrificed other women on the alter of expediency, when it dawns on us what difference supporting another woman would have meant to our lives to the lives of our children.
GK: Do you think feminists have failed Zimbabwean women given the inability to rise above the patriarchal rhetoric and chart a new path for women and for Zimbabwe, in all spheres of life? Why are Zimbabweans stuck in male centred politics?
PM: You are making an assumption that a vagina equals feminism. The irony of Zimbabwe is feminists are under attack both from patriarchy and from females clothed in patriarchy, in fact patriarchy has realised that the best weapon against feminists are females themselves, they now used the Sea our scouts method, you naively think you have a friend in war when you have an enemy dressed up as yourself. I have had to learn the harsh reality that I am more a danger of female patriarchy than I am of real patriarchy, at least for a man I know the nature of the beast but a woman slowly creeps into you, for years I hated hearing this but with experience I know it’s a fact.
GK: Tell us more about life in Parliament, it seems most politics is taking place at Executive level and a lot of drama in Zanu PF but the legislature seems to be just a place Hon. MP’s meet with no real debate or policy impact, what is going on there in terms of the legislative agenda? Do you see yourselves making an impact in terms of policy direction in the country’s politics things are getting worse for the average Zimbabwean?
PM: One will have to decide what their party and individual focus is, and define success? The legacy I want to leave in parliament is that of a fighter for justice and fairness, in two area s in the area of ethnicity and that of women. I celebrate every little step, the fact that MPS are now proud to debate in parly is a success, that we have a place to breastfeed is a success, today we got concessions against child marriages, we are likely to get age of consent to 18, which we had been denied in December, so I don’t accept that there has been no successes, perhaps not as much but some things are changing albeit slowly
GK: What message do you have for your supporters?
PM: My message to those that support me is that I value their words of encouragement more importantly their prayers. Each day I hear one person speaking about me is like a gallon of fuel to my body, when I am feeling discouraged and a tweet, a smile, a whatsapp comes my way, I get up and take on the fight, Rome was not built in a day. One day we will get there. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.
This interview is previously published by Zimeye.com