By Wellington Zimbowa
BORN in 1948 – the year of the historic black general strike led by late nationalist and hero Benjamin Burombo – it was no surprise that the name christening became largely political, as is the case with the Plumtree born politician, Strike Mkandhla.
Currently, the Zimbabwe Patriotic African Union (ZAPU) secretary-general is bidding to succeed the late Dumiso Dabengwa as the party’s president of one of Zimbabwe’s revolutionary parties at the elective Bulawayo congress set for April.
Mkandhla is adamant that being one of the few remaining party elders who has had extensive global exposure as he went through the mill, hence, feels naturally equipped to steer the party’s agenda forward.
Significant events surrounding Mkandhla’s birth such as the ‘tumultuous and racial displacement of indigenous Zimbabweans through the Land Husbandry Act naturally triggered a political sense of duty in him.
“Supporting ZAPU and its unfinished agenda has been part of my life even while I could not professionally indulge in politics,” he reckoned in an interview.
He said, he has been upon retiring from the United Nations, he had been preoccupied with his party’s development in the last 10 years especially after the death of Dabengwa, a former home affairs minister before ZAPU ‘broke’ the unity accord.
“I hope the majority are looking for steady, competent, informed, and consistent leadership with a good understanding of the various strands in the party and how their aspirations can be piloted in national and regional politics. My chances are good but nothing can be taken for granted in genuine elections,” said the former UN official, who was once posted to the African Union as the former’s representative.
Although he didn’t join the trenches against the Ian Smith minority rule, Mkandhla is satisfied with the natinationalistic and party efforts for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
Often being the youngest person at ZAPU meetings, brushing shoulders with the party’s stalwarts such as the late hero and Zimbabwe Vice President Stephen Nkomo.
As a ZAPU youth, Mkandhla was popular in undertaking party logistical arrangements such as mounting public address systems at both the National Democratic Party and later ZAPU party meetings in the early 1960s.
He also accompanied the party’s luminaries such as late Steven Nkomo, Amos Todd Msongelwa, Booysen Mguni, and Albert Nxele on sensitive missions that could have risked his life.
The former was to become the military instructor of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army – ZAPU’s military wing during the liberation struggle.
The 2013 Mpompoma-Pelandaba constituency parliamentary candidate who also participated in the 2015 harmonised elections says he became politically active right from primary school.
His active role in the August 1966 student riots led to his expulsion, says Mkandla, from Emaphandeni Secondary School with a government gazette promulgated barring him from educating in Southern Rhodesia.
The former ZAPU think-tank member later won an academic scholarship to Britain where he later finished his education.
I have been closely involved longer than most in keeping systems going and built both public and informal institutional memory that may be useful in the transition to new leadership.
The politician-cum–farmer expressed hope in ZAPU’s capacity to turn Zimbabwe’s fortunes back.
He said the party’s roots are rooted in non-tribalism and democracy with the essence of safeguarding the people livelihoods.
He bemoaned rife “food insecurity, unprecedented corruption, unemployment and the massive immigration of the youthful force and skilled labour.”
“Dr Joshua Nkomo even advocated for land redistribution on a clear criteria that would have ensured productivity alongside equity. Now, 40-years after independence, we have food insecurity, marginalization of parts of the country, unemployment and massive emigration including that of the youthful force and skilled personnel, unprecedented corruption that can go without recoveries (but figures of the loot being given!), a climate of fear and unresolved genocidal massacres like Gukurahundi, and also no currency of our own.
ZAPU will build stability by dealing with the above wrongs, shortcomings and distortions which ZANU PF and its apologists have signally failed to rectify. Being in the bush at the same time and facing the same enemy has proven insufficient ground for tackling post-independence challenges in the same way.
What’s your philosophy on the issue of Zimbabwe re-engagement with the international community?
There is a correlation of some sort between respect for the rule of law and civil liberties at home and respect for international law and norms, widely accepted in the international community. Our regime has benefited from Africa’s protection of the continent from bullying by non-Africans.
But this protection under the skirts of the African Union and regional bodies is slowly coming to an end as the scope of the country’s misgovernance is becoming apparently bothering. Our country’s potential is grossly affected by corruption and other aspects of bad governance, which cannot and should not be ignored in our re-engagement with the international community.
How do you view the role of youths and women in the socio-economic development of the country?
Youth and women are the overwhelming majority of our population, hence, any society where its majority are is not involved in decision-making and access to resources cannot benefit from the energy and creativity of that under-utilized population. Gender and inter-generational inequity need to be consciously tackled. Unfortunately, youths and women end up fighting on their own for their cause, whereas the traditionally privileged (men) at the helm of various institutions are yet to appreciate that the full potential of these institutions is evasive because they would be only operating with a fraction of available intellect and abilities. I hope that as we go, the country will not only give equal opportunity to all ages and genders, but will do so without perpetuating impunity and greed.