The Sunday News
Lungile Tshuma Sunday Leisure Correspondent
SOME say that politics is an old man’s game, wisdom, they say, comes with age and thus who better leads a nation than those that have matured beyond youthful folly.
However, some politicians have proved that age might, after all, just be a number as they juggle the exuberance of youth with the responsibilities of leading their country.
When President Mugabe announced his Cabinet in September last year, some were left with many questions on the appointment of youthful politicians mostly to deputise their more senior colleagues.
For some, faces were not known but surnames were common. Above all, they doubted the young politicians’ capabilities as they believed age was the password to leadership.
Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, a woman with a combination of two surnames that are well known in the political circles of the country, was appointed deputy minister of the new Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture. The three disciplines have always existed as part of the Ministry of Education.
She is one of the youngest ministers at just 31. In Parliament she is joined by Tionei Melody Dziva (29) who is one of the youngest parliamentarians.
Kanengoni-Malinga is the first daughter of the late Deputy Director (Internal) of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Elias Kanengoni. She got married to the son of former Bulawayo mayor, and serving Zanu-PF Politburo member, Cde Joshua Malinga – Mpehlabayo Joshua Malinga.
The youthful political couple resides in the posh low-density suburb of Borrowdale in the capital and owns a fleet of some top of the range vehicles such as Range Rover, Ford Ranger, Toyota and Chrysler Crossfire which they say have a combined value of more than $100 000.
And when on holiday they said they enjoy visiting such countries as China, Thailand, South Africa’s Cape Town while locally they enjoy Victoria Falls. “We also favour Jabulani Safaris in Shangani owned by my father,” said Mpehlabayo Malinga.
And they are not just in politics but in business too where they are growing their empire.
“Besides politics we have some businesses we run. I am into mining. I have a mine in my home area of Filabusi and I employ 30 people. I am also the managing director of Jabulani Safaris. My wife has a farm in Mazowe where she grows soya beans and more than 100 people are employed,” said Mpehlabayo Malinga.
But being one of the senior Government officials means nothing to Tabetha than her husband whom she described as the first and last in the word handsome.
“It’s a great honour to be where I am,” she said. “Women should participate in politics. Perhaps some women face resistance from their husbands but that should not happen because women can as well articulate ideas as much as men.”
The Mazowe Central legislator won the seat in the 2013 watershed elections defeating Shepherd Mushonga (MDC-T) and Zivanayi Chiweshe (MDC). She won resoundingly with 10 823 votes while Mushonga and Chiweshe got 3 998 and 656 respectively.
“I am the luckiest woman on earth to have a supportive husband. When I am down he picks me up and when the going gets tough, he always urges me to keep on going and be strong.
“I am also very proud of my husband’s achievements and thank the people of Bulawayo who moulded him to be what he is today and for supporting him to be in the Youth League National Executive of the party, Zanu-PF,” she said.
Since Tabetha’s father was a highly respected security detail in Government, one would expect the home to be a no-go area especially for young man intending to court his daughters. The story was different though, at least according to the deputy minister.
“It was very easy for us to see each other and it’s not what people think or imagine. There was no tight security. My father was very democratic and he allowed people to express themselves freely,” she said.
On her political ambitions, she said: “I have reached my political ambitions. I represented the country while I was playing basketball and now I am representing the country in sport as the deputy minister. Anything after this will be a bonus.”
She did her O-level and A-level studies at Girls High School in Harare. After finishing her studies, Tabetha, a talented basketball player who once played for Zimbabwe won a basket ball scholarship to America.
After her short stay in America playing basketball, she went on to enrol for a Bachelors degree in Politics and Gender Studies with the University of Cape Town in South Africa. At the moment, she is doing a Masters degree in Strategic Management with Chinhoyi University of Technology.
The ever smiling, calm, composed Tabetha continuously spoke glowingly of her husband who was born on the second of March in 1981 in Bulawayo. Mpehlabayo Malinga hails from Insiza District in Matebeleland South Province.
He did his primary education at Masiyephambili Junior School and later did his secondary education at Mzingwane High School in Esigodini before proceeding to Plumtree High School for A-level.
He is a holder of a diploma in business studies from England’s Dunstable College, which was later renamed Central Bedfordshire College in 2010.
“Before I finished my diploma, a family friend advised my parents that I should do a degree instead, prompting my move to Luton University. I came back to Zimbabwe before I even graduated because it was the time that the land reform programme had started. By then I was 21 and I had to take up residence at my father’s farm in Shangani as was required by the Ministry of Lands.
“The former owners used to come at night harassing me together with my friend (Intelligence Masuku) whom I was staying with. I never looked back or thought of running away, in fact, I enjoyed being a part of that struggle. That was when I joined the district structures in Shangani.”
Malinga is an athletics fan and a Barcelona FC supporter while his wife loves basketball more than any sporting discipline.
“I support all the teams in Zimbabwe and I just wish the best team wins the league,” she said.
He described his wife as “the best wife I could have wished for, very loving, caring, hard working and an ‘artist’ in the kitchen.”
Asked about how he met his wife and their social life as a couple he said:
“I met her at a party conference in Harare. What happened is that I knew one of his relatives and when we met I started getting closer to her day by day until I finally told her about my love for her.
“We love watching DSTV catch up series together on weekends, visit our friends and family, but during the week she has her constituency and ministry and I have the party youths who also need my attention, but to sum it up, our life is just as simple as everyone else’s.
“Our lives balance each other. We are both in politics and I understand her ministerial duties. She is my senior when it comes to Government issues but I am also her senior when it comes to party (Zanu-PF) and home issues (chuckles).”
His words are in line with what one philosopher who said a real man respects the virtues and values of the woman he loves. He believes in everything she gets strength from and loves her mind body and soul.
Malinga was elected the Zanu-PF’s Youth Secretary for External Affairs at the August youth conference, a position which also guarantees him to sit in the central committee. He has already set his eyes on the 2018 general elections where he is set to contest a parliamentary seat.
“I am definitely going to contest for a parliamentary seat in 2018 in Bulawayo. I am sure this time around we will win against the opposition in Bulawayo,” he said.
The couple is blessed with four daughters, Nandipha (5), Unathi (4), Mbali (2) and Thando (1).