The untold story of three youths who changed the course of Zimbabwe’s history


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Nyathi was confirming what I had been told, out of the blue, by Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, that the talks, which are largely credited to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, were actually started by three young politicians-Paurina Mpariwa, then 39, Saviour Kasukuwere, 33, and Misihairabwi-Mushonga, 37.

She was not bragging. It was more of a by-way, sort-of thing but I was skeptical about this revelation because my research had told me that Misihairabwi-Mushonga could do anything to get attention.

She had performed stunts in Parliament like bringing in dirty used underwear to force the government to remove duty on sanitary wear and bringing a four-month-old baby into the House to persuade Parliament to allow breast-feeding women legislators to bring their babies to Parliament.

And she had been open about it.

“Any politician that says they do not want to get attention is lying because the essence of representation is to make sure that people notice you,” she told The Standard newspaper in 2016. “I do seek to make people notice me and to shock them out of their comfort zones because mere talk does not get people to look up……. This is why I have said to people, when they say I am an attention seeker, I say yes I am, I want somebody to listen to what I’m talking about and I will go out of my way to do so, because I have realised the traditional way of doing business doesn’t work.”

I therefore wondered whether she was playing the same prank with me or not. After all, that was not the story I was after. I had been chasing her for three months but for a totally different story.  I wanted to interview her about how she had managed to represent three different opposition political parties in Parliament in 18 years.

As she narrated her story, she said that it was not as if she planned that now she is moving from this party to that party so that she could remain in Parliament because if that had been her aim, she would have joined Tsvangirai’s MDC in 2008 as this would have ensured her victory. But she lost the elections because she stood under the MDC led by Mutambara.

When I asked her how then she was appointed a minister in the inclusive government if she was not a Member of Parliament, Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she and others who had lost in 2008 were accommodated as part of the Global Political Agreement under Constitutional Amendment number 19 but in her case she thought her involvement in the unity talks also played a key role.

Her party won only 10 of the 210 elected seats in Parliament in the 2008 elections but it had four key cabinet posts in the inclusive government.  Party leader Arthur Mutambara became Deputy Prime Minister; secretary-general Welshman Ncube was appointed Minister of Industry and Commerce; Legal secretary David Coltart got the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture; while Misihairabwi-Mushonga landed the post of Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation.

“I was one of those who actually initiated the talks, way back in 2003 but typical of men they always want to get credit,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga, an avowed feminist, said.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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