VETERAN nationalist Cde Angeline Masuku has bounced back into Government having been appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Bulawayo taking over from Eunice Sandi Moyo who was expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF. Our senior reporter Robin Muchetu (RM) had a wide ranging interview with Cde Masuku on the state of affairs in the metropolitan province.
RM: Congratulations Mama Masuku on your recent appointment. However, before we start talking about your portfolio, may you please give us an insight into your political history. I think many people are interested in that.
Cde Masuku: Angeline Masuku is a teacher by profession and I have been in politics for a long time starting with the African National Congress, then came National Democratic Party, Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (Zapu) and all these were banned. In 1977 Bulawayo was a district under the North West, I was already in the structures and I was the secretary for Bulawayo district.
Many people at that time had gone out of the country in an effort to liberate the country, and those people included the likes of Aunt Jane Ngwenya.
The situation that was there was no longer conducive and everyone felt burdened and they saw the need to go and help liberate the country. I remember one woman asking me where I had gathered the nerves to go and fight for the country. Then it was a personal choice that I made as I felt I was needed by my fellow countrymen in Zambia.
I then decided to go. I was grown up then, above 40. When I arrived in Zambia it was not difficult for me to navigate the systems as I was also in the structures of the party back home. I remember our late leader Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo saying those that were in the party at home should also assist by getting positions when we were in Zambia. While in Zambia we had to learn how to protect ourselves from the enemy, we were taught the basics in military and we took office jobs.
RM: What was your role in Zambia?
Cde Masuku: I was deployed to the publicity department and I did a course in journalism. I was a sub-editor at the People’s Voice. I worked together with the late Paul Nkala (late Chronicle deputy news editor) and our role was to cover military incidents such as contacts with the enemy. When bridges were bombed we were covering those events in Zambia together with comrades like Paul Nkala. Our leader in the publicity department was the late Dr Kotsho Dube, I was his deputy. Young people would bring the paper to Zimbabwe and when they arrived they had more stories to add on and brought more information back to Zambia about the goings on.
After the war I returned home like everyone else and I was put in the welfare department of Zapu where I was taking care of the injured cadres who
were now disabled from the war, they were based at Ntabazinduna and at Lido. They were then allocated a place and they went to Banockban in Zvishavane. Then from there I was no longer full time in the party. I then stated what is now called Self Help Development Foundation in 1982 in Bulawayo.
In 1981 I had been elected chairwoman in Zapu. In 1984 I was elected to Central Committee and deputised the late firebrand Cde Sydney Malunga who was the national organising secretary. Then there were some disturbances at that time, it was a stage of the revolution and it passed.
Our leaders then said that was not what we have fought for, after some considerations there was talk of uniting the two liberation parties, Zanu and Zapu and they were five from each party. I was the woman from Zapu to assist in the integration of the two parties and the building of the new Zanu- PF. We travelled extensively during this period and it was not easy.
We had to unite people who were on a war path, who were not happy with each other, some had lost children, parents and so on so it was tense. But we made it and formed Zanu-PF. In 1990 there was a joint congress of the newly constituted party. I was elected into the Women’s League which was led by the late First Lady Cde Sally Mugabe. I must say I respect that woman a lot, even today when she is long gone, I was honest enough to say to our former President Robert Mugabe that I served in the executive led by Mama Sally and what was then happening in the party recently I had never seen it before, I have high respect for Sally.
I was in different positions of the party and I was in the Politburo at one point in different capacities until the time when indiscipline seeped through and I vowed that I was never going to be insulted by a child, that is when I left the Politburo, I was suspended and today I am here.
RM: Your comments on the recent events in the party that saw you being suspended.
Cde Masuku: What happened to former President, Cde Mugabe has happened. The party had been going through a painful phase as it had been hijacked by some elements. With Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa now at the helm I believe he will maintain the Unity Accord of 1987, which we will celebrate soon (22 December).
RM: Last week saw you being sworn in as the Minister for Bulawayo, what are your plans for the city?
Cde Masuku: It’s not an easy task at all as Bulawayo was known as kontuthu ziyathunqa that was the home of everybody, we see a home by smoke, intuthu ethunqayo. We see smoke as a sign to show that there is activity, it cannot be smoke without activity and in Bulawayo it was happening because the industries were functioning, but that is no longer the case. The industries are gone, so are other sectors such as transport. The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has not been functioning up to capacity for a while and these industries that we are talking about such as the steel industry needs to transport the raw and final products to various places and NRZ is the anchor for this. So we need to work on this.
RM: The industrial sites and factories have been literally invaded by churches, what is your take on this trend?
Cde Masuku: Churches that have taken factories to be their place of worship need to relocate. I have nothing against churches because I am a Christian who also attends church. I believe that the council allocates land and sites for churches but for factories to be turned into churches is not right. These people who have occupied the factories, where is their bread and butter coming from? Where are they working if they are now worshipping in the same factories that should be producing goods? Are the church leaders concerned about the welfare of their congregants? These industries should start functioning and they will as the new Government is serious about reviving the economy of Bulawayo because some of the buildings are intact and some just need to be assisted to get new equipment.
RM: Service delivery in the city is questionable, what will you do to ensure there is a shift in the manner that the local authority have been handling things?
Cde Masuku: As the Government we now have to come in full force. As for the service delivery from the Bulawayo City Council I do not think it is 100 percent acceptable, look at our roads, sewer system and all, it is not in a good state at all. I have been discussing with the Mayor and the Town Clerk, I invited them so that they know that I am here to work with the council and they have also expressed their willingness to work with my office.
Regardless of which jacket you are wearing we need to work together, if you are one of the people who has a responsibility to look at the growth of Bulawayo you have to forget about your political jacket and think about the people of Bulawayo that you have to work for. Because as it is I have my own jacket but as I am here I am looking at the people of Bulawayo no matter their political affiliation.
RM: We cannot talk about resuscitating Bulawayo without mentioning the textile and clothing industry. We have vendors who are selling second hand clothes at the City Hall and other areas popularly known as koKhothama. What are your views on that clothing market?
Cde Masuku: I think it was not a good idea to allow second hand clothing to be sold in the city. It is killing our clothing industry because if they can sell clothes for as little as $1 for four clothing items, how then will our industry grow with such prices? People are flocking there to buy the used clothes but what assurance does one have that what you are buying is safe? There are many diseases that are in the world and we are contracting via these second hand clothes that we are fond of buying. It is not healthy to buy those used clothes as some people are even buying underwear from that place. You are putting yourself at risk of contracting foreign diseases.
Our textile and clothing industry has been crippled by Khothama, we have been made to be a dumping ground for used goods. All these bales, some are donated and some are smuggled into the country. I think Bulawayo will agree with me that we cannot encourage the existence of Khothama at the same time cry that there are no jobs. We would rather forget about Khothama and cry for the reopening of factories so that people go and work and produce good quality clothing for the country and beyond.
RM: What about the health section of the city?
Cde Masuku: Health delivery is also top priority and what I want is to have Ekusileni Private Hospital opened. People have to go to South Africa and as far as India to seek medical attention yet they could get the same kind of assistance had the institution been functional. That is the first one. I would not really say what is stopping the hospital from opening but there are a lot of people that are involved in the activities of that hospital. As we know it’s the brain child of ubaba uNkomo and many people have something to do with it. I believe that the people who have been blocking the opening of that institution should feel guilty about it because it is an institution that could have saved many lives as I said before some go to South Africa and India and some even fail to go due to lack of funds yet they could have been saved locally. Whoever has been blocking this development should know that they are an enemy of development and the people.
RM: Corruption is a cancer that has affected many developmental projects, what in your view is the best way to deal with it?
Cde Masuku: Corruption is a stumbling block to development. If you deprive your own Government and people for your personal and selfish interests, what does your conscience say? Having said that corruption is looked upon at people in high office but it is a disease that has come down to a lot more people. I am happy that President Mnangagwa said he will deal with corruption and I am positive it will stop.