Thokozani Khupe, a force to be reckoned with


Can Thokozani Khupe take us to Canaan
Thokozani Khupe addressing a rally, pic credit Bulawayo24 

One thing that I learnt when I was covering the United States of America's 2012 election which was won by Barack Obama was that it is possible for politics to be about issues and not about individuals.

This experience also taught me that as the media we also play a pertinent role in the democratic process of election by speaking truth to power and by covering all electoral candidates without fear, favour and prejudice. Our role is that of informing the masses about the candidates so that they can make an informed decision come 30 July in the case of Zimbabwe.

This week my focus is on a presidential candidate who will be running on the MDC- T ticket. Born on November 18, 1963, in Bulawayo, Thokozani Khupe is not a novice to the world of politics.

Profile

Having represented her party at both Parliament and Presidium, she comes in with a wealth of experience and one cannot deny the fact that she is emotionally stable too if the manner in which she has handled attacks on her person because of the factional fights in the MDC are anything to go by. Khupe has not only made it in the male-dominated world of politics but has always brought in results for her party. Since 2000 when she bagged the Makokova Member of Parliament seat, she has been able to retain the seat up until her expulsion from parliament after the Nelson Chamisa led MDC wrote to the speaker of Parliament informing him of her expulsion from the party.

Achievements
In October 2012, the level-headed politician who is also a cancer survivor, opened the Thokozani Khupe Cancer Foundation which helps cancer patients to access affordable cancer treatment in Zimbabwe. Many cancer patients in Zimbabwe do not stand a fighting case because of the prohibitive costs. For instance, once one is diagnosed with cancer one has to pay about $200 to determine the stage of cancer and thereafter part with between $3000-$4000 for a radiotherapy session. For chemotherapy one need between $100-$1000 per cycle depending on the stage the cancer is at. As if that is not enough, cancer patients may also require a blood transfusion and a pint of blood costs around $214. Khupe was also involved in advocating the government to introduce a cancer levy to cushion patients against the costs of treatment.

Being a strong women's rights activist also resulted in Khupe becoming the president of the Global Power Women's Network Africa, a forum which promotes gender equality in Africa.
Her commitment to women's' empowerment is clearly visible in even the appointment of key positions to other women like Linda Masarira and Lynnet Mudehwe who are formidable activists to key positions. She also has Priscilla Misihairambwi who was the only woman in the team that negotiated the Government of National Unity between Zanu PF and MDC

Before getting into politics, the strong-willed president of one of the factions of the MDC-T was a labour rights activist who served in the worker's committee of the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

She is a founder member of the MDC and was elected into the executive in 1999 at the party's formation. In 2005 she was elected Vice President of the MDC, taking over from the late Gibson   Sibanda. However, most notable of her political profile is the fact that   Khupe was  Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe during the time of the Inclusive Government from 11 February 2009 to 13 August 2013.
Strengths
Her commitment to women's' empowerment is clearly visible in even the appointment to key positions of other women like Linda Masarira and Lynnet Mudehwe who are formidable activists. She is emotionally stable, she made it not just in the men's world. She stood by Morgan Tsvangirai truthfully and honestly. Khupe always brought for the party the results as MDC never lost in Matabeleland.
She has also proven to be a shrewd and calculating politician. For example, her problem with Tsvangirai was that she never felt there was a need for alliance partners in constituencies the party could win on its own.  And she was right! What has the alliance partners brought to the MDC-T other than to throw a lifeline to some of these sinking politicians? Khupe is level-headed. and has taken abuse with incredible coolness and stoicism, Her arguments have always been about constitutionalism and doing things the right way. Unfortunately, she is thrown with wolves and hyenas.

Weaknesses
It is not a secret that Khupes support base at the moment is nothing to write home about especially outside the Matabeleland region. Even within that region she also faces competition from the MDC Alliance and other parties like Zapu.  However, that notwithstanding, she is a politician rooted in the power of her convictions. In a mature stable democracy, these qualities would be sought after, even by a government run by another party.
Playing Hard Ball
 If nobody knew who Khupe was, they do now. Since the death of Tsvangirai, the full force of negative energy from within MDC-T, orchestrated by the ambitious Nelson Chamisa was unleashed on Khupe. At the burial of Tsvangirai in Buhera, Khupe almost lost her life when MDC-T youths who supported Chamisa to take over as President almost burnt her in a hut. She was firm that the anointing of  Chamisa as President was unconstitutional as the MDC constitution has a Vice President ( her) elected at Congress in 2014. The establishment of two Vice-Presidents by Tsvangirai, she argued, was done outside the constitution, and never ratified by any relevant statutory bodies of the party. Chamisa and his new instrument of power within MDC tried all manner of force, including disrupting her meetings in Bulawayo and damaging her car, to unsuccessful attempts at dialogue. Eventually, they were forced to dismiss her from the party.

Khupe ignored the dismissal as a nullity and went on to hold her party Congress in April 2018 at which she was elected President, unopposed, claiming it under the banner of MDC-T. It is no small matter of observation that she has on her corner some sober-minded high ranking MDT-party officials and legal minds such as Obert Gutu.

For the party name and ownership, she took the matter to court, and despite being heckled by party supporters she remained steadfast. As we speak, the Chamisa group have backed down from a court fight over the use of the name, and, it is quite telling that Nelson Chamisa, who is supposed to be the President of MDC-T,  will go on the ballot papers as President of the MDC-T Alliance, technically speaking party-less. A big victory for Thokozani Khupe. You cannot win such as fight if you do not have fire in your belly, and the moral fortitude to fight for what is right.

Thokozani Khupe is a fighter, and in the Parliamentary elections she has won in her constituency, she has floored giants the likes of Welshman Ncube and  Sithembiso Nyoni of Zanu PF, in her Makokoba constituency. If the margins with which she floored her opponents in the past are anything to go by, Khupe would be assured of Makokoba seat if she was not running for President.

 Elections are a game of numbers, and on that basis alone, Khupe does not and probably will not have the numbers that Zanu PF has, and even the ones that Chamisa has acquired. However,  tenets such as the ones she has, of tenacity, and determination and standing for what you believe is right, are what we need in Zimbabwe. As that age-old most famous quotation of modern times attributed to Edmund Burke says,  "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". 

I believe that MDC-T would have had a wonderful, level-headed, sober and down to earth President in Thokozani Khupe if other forces had not come into play. Zimbabwe needs women such as these. She may not have the colourful historical pedigree that the likes of Joyce Mujuru may have in terms of  history of the liberation struggle, but she was in the trenches with Tsvangirai and knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of the stick.

And everyone knows that You dont mess around with Thokozani Khupe. Ask Nelson Chamisa.

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