By Clemence Manyukwe
HARARE – The Joseph Chinotimba one finds in Parliament today is worlds apart from the boisterous war veteran who straddled the country in a straw hat more than a decade ago, violently repossessing land from whites to give to landless blacks.
His maiden Parliamentary speech, which was delivered in the National Assembly on September 24 sounded a lot like the Biblical Saul to Paul conversion from the day he led land invasions to his current time as Buhera South Member of Parliament.
In that speech, Chinotimba urged the Zimbabwe National Road Authority to ensure that funds it distributes are spread out equitably to benefit all parts of the country.
He also highlighted the hunger stalking many of the country’s districts; decried widespread underdevelopment and condemned corruption saying the scourge emanates from those holding positions of power.
“Even the people that we appoint as ministers, they are the ones who are corrupt. People who have been appointed to higher positions, they are the ones who are corrupt,” said Chinotimba.
Subsequent contributions in the National Assembly showed political maturity through bi-partisan support for a cancer motion.
After Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader in the House, Thokozani Khupe moved a motion imploring the National Assembly to push government to introduce a cancer levy, Chinotimba sprang to her support saying local MPs should learn to support progressive ideas even if they are coming from their political rivals.
In equal measure, he added MPs should not just toe the party line on matters that are not in the national interest.
Chinotimba also suggested that diamond proceeds be used in the effort to fight cancer and implored MPs to find common ground on issues that are meant to make Zimbabwe a better country.
A common and consistent thread runs through Chinotimba’s contributions and standpoint thus far: a seemingly genuine concern for the welfare of the ordinary person.
This is a departure from what many may have expected of Chinotimba given his history of violent farm invasions and also his lack of considerable education.
Chinotimba’s performance so far pokes holes in the notion that one has to be educated to go to Parliament as the war veteran has been showing an understanding of his duties as a legislator. Though not well educated, Chinotimba is proving not to be unwise or stupid as many thought.
His actions and ideas, though in some cases unclear, are showing that he understands his role as a parliamentarian. He is showing the versatility needed in balancing party interests on one side and national interests on the other.
Some from Buhera district have already come to the conclusion that Chinotimba could be the political messiah they have been waiting for. Chinotimba has renovated schools, donated computers and championed income generating projects.
When some villagers were attacked by jackals in his area, he went to one of the diamond companies operating in Chiadzwa for assistance which saw them getting medical attention. When the patients were discharged from hospital last week, he personally drove them back to their rural homes.
Chinotimba has also requested the District Development Fund to provide materials needed to rehabilitate bridges.Upon receiving the material, he has gone a step further to summon them to do the work.
Taurai Machaka who comes from Nechavava village in Buhera district told the Financial Gazette over the weekend that Chinotimba was doing more for villagers than what MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who also hails from the district and was prime minister for more than four years, had done for them during his time in the inclusive government.
“Electricity is now reaching our rural area. I think Chinotimba will win again in 2018. People like him, he won without using any violence,” said Machaka.
“When Tsvangirai was prime minister it was only promises and nothing was delivered to people of Buhera. Even the road that goes to Tsvangirai’s rural home, you can’t say it’s a road for vehicles, it’s for scotch carts.”
In his maiden speech last month, Chinotimba joked over the thought that some were now comparing him with Tsvangirai. As a result, he jokingly said roads in Bikita were now being named after him.
“At first they said Kangai, when Kangai went out; the roads were now named Tsvangirai after the prime minister. Now we are there, they are saying they are now called Chinotimba,” said the war veteran in the National Assembly.
But such did not come on its own.
MDC99 leader, Job Sikhala, who campaigned against Chinotimba during a 2001 by election in Bikita West, an area near the opposition member’s home area, said the war veteran was proving to be popular in the district as he understood the needs of the people.
Sikhala described Chinotimba as a simple African person who takes things as we understand them in a traditional way.
“He does simple things people understand and with them he is moving forward,” said Sikhala.
On Monday, Chinotimba said he combines his own money and donations to carry out projects in his constituency.
“At the moment we are building a bridge at Nerushanga. It was washed away 15 years ago and people have been walking long distances to get transport. We have some of the materials including 300 bags of cement, but we want more cement and so if you and your paper or anyone can help, please assist,” said Chinotimba.
“I am not doing this so that I am known; it’s about the people who voted for us. We suffered to liberate the people so they cannot continue to suffer. It is better for us to suffer because we are used to suffering because suffering is what makes people go to parties like the National Constitutional Assembly that are just there for the money.”
But despite his apparent transformation, Chinotimba’s chequered history is still following him especially claims that he previously spearheaded ZANU-PF’s violent campaigns.
Last week at the Bulawayo magistrates Court, Chinotimba withdrew charges against Steven Gwarada who had accused him over the phone in 2011 of killing people.
“I know you Chinotimba, you are used to killing people but today it is over. If you fail to bring back my cellphone within two days you will die,” Gwarada allegedly said three years back.
In Parliament, two weeks ago, MDC-T Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya accused Chinotimba of having killed Dickson Sibamba in 2008.
“We have people we are forced by the dictates of parliamentary procedures to call honourable, but, these people have got blood in their hands,” said Chikwinya.
The MDC-T lawmaker was forced to withdraw the statement by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda. Chinotimba vehemently denied that he was a murderer.
Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst, this week said it was still too early to conclude that Chinotimba is a good parliamentarian.
“…as Chinua Achebe in his book Man of the People says ‘… a mad man may sometimes speak a true word, but, you watch him, he will soon add something to it that will tell you his mind still spoilt.’ Let us give him time before we conclude,” said Mukonza. Financial Gazette