By: Alex T Magaisa
ON Sunday, I asked fellow Zimbabweans on a social networking site to name figures they consider to be the most influential politicians in Zimbabwe since 1980…
I received a fairly large number of responses, some public, some private through inbox messages, the latter perhaps for privacy, but also probably an indication that for some, expressing political views publicly is regarded as a hazard.
I deliberately chose not to reveal my own list beforehand, to avoid it becoming the subject of debate and analysis. The responses were all very interesting and revealing. There are a few names that appeared on most lists. Unsurprisingly, President Robert Mugabe and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai appear on the majority of lists. Joshua Nkomo as well was a common name on most lists. However, there were some surprises for me and certainly some lists were quite different, but I could understand why people thought their choices were influential.
Margaret Dongo, the trailblazer
Younger Zimbabweans might not know this woman and the impact that she made on Zimbabwe’s political terrain but she left a permanent footprint in the history of the country. Dongo, then a young war veteran, and a former intelligence officer, won a seat in Parliament in 1990.
But after showing a critical side to government, she was ruled to have lost the Zanu PF primary elections for the 1995 elections. She disagreed and ran as an independent candidate. She lost again and challenged the result in court. That was an historic challenge citing vote rigging. In a landmark decision, the court ruled in her favour and she went on to win the by-election. This was a remarkable victory which meant many things. She had fought the electoral system and for the first time, exposed vote rigging in a court of law, paving the way for future challenges. She had fought against unfairness and cheating.
And as a woman, her victory meant a lot from a gender perspective — here was a young woman who had fought against patriarchy and succeeded against the odds. Her success showed that if you fight for what you stand for, and if you have the determination, you can overcome the highest hurdles.
Read the article on the Zimbabwe Independent website here.