From the small screen to the ballot… Ex-’Studio 263’ actor eyes political office
By Leroy Dzenga
“Studio 263” remains an example of how good Zimbabwean television productions can get. The show used to be a primetime staple for many families in the early 2000s. None of the existing productions can compare to the popularity commanded by the soapie at the time.
It introduced to the country, a youthful cast depicting a trendy demographic at the turn of the new millennium.
One of those who made their names from “Studio 263” was Tatenda Mavetera, who played the role of cheeky Tendai Jari.
While the country wonders what happened to the faces that used to light up Zimbabwean evenings, she bounces back wearing different robes.
Mavetera is the ZANU-PF Seke-Chikomba women’s quota representative in the forthcoming elections.
“After ‘Studio 263’, I got into farming and construction. I have also been working with the Zimbabwe Youth Council and ZANU-PF; with young people,” the 32-year -old mother of two said.
It is not every day that artists cross the floor to pursue political office, so what drove the actress towards her new route then?
“I have always been of the opinion that whenever there is any change you would like to see, you have to be directly involved in the processes. Considering that I have held many leadership roles, I realised that there was need for me to be involved, so I could implement the ideas I have on how politics should work,” she said.
The actress benefited from the women’s quota and is vowing to prioritise their issues upon election.
“One thing I think needs more concentration is gender equality. We are happy that now women are being mainstreamed in politics. If I manage to make it in Parliament, I will prioritise women’s issues, since I represent women’s quota,” the parliamentary hopeful said.
Youths are also part of her focus, a demographic she has worked with since disappearing from the public eye.
“I think there is also need for me to give specific focus to young people and make sure that I help them to get space in the various sectors of the economy. President Mnangagwa talks about the economy as a key area and I am ready to play my part in ensuring that ideas from young people are converted into sustainable economic ideas,” said Mavetera.
In previous cases, people who have transitioned from showbiz into critical sectors like politics have struggled to command respect because their initial projection to the public would have refused to wane.
“You can never be able to shake off your past, but it shapes you for the future. My past is a stepping stone for me because when people hear my name, it’s not like they are hearing a new name. And I believe being popular is a good advantage for me because people already know me and that way I can get legislative space,” the Nama award winning actress said.
Public office will be a new chapter in her illustrious life, she says.
“In life no one stays at the same place, acting was one part of my life and this is the new phase I am walking into. What ‘Studio 263’ did, was to expose me to the country. Now I am capitalising on the fame I had, using the popularity to impact on people’s lives in a positive manner.
“When we acted, we were impacting on people’s lives and I believe in Parliament I will be impacting people’s lives but in a different capacity.”
Politics can in some instances be a baptism of fire, a highly demanding environment, which asks a lot of its protagonists.
Despite the perceived hostility of the field, she feels ready for the challenges the new expedition will throw her way.
“As much as politics can be hostile, I think I have what it takes to handle the challenges. Television prepared me for other roles. Television and politics are not too different, they both aim to impact peoples’ lives.
“When you embark on a political journey you are impacting on people’s lives and trying to foster development. As much as it can be hostile, it all depends on how one wants it to be. I intend to put people first in my efforts,” the former Zimbabwe Youth Council board member said.
Zimbabwe has seen a fair share of fly-by night politicians who run for office as a rent seeking measure, which has made many to question the motive behind first time office seekers.
“You can only be an opportunist if you are not consistent. I am not an opportunist; I have always wanted to make sure that I contribute to the development of other people. For me to be here, a lot of people have contributed to my development. My drive has been to ensure that people develop into who they want to be. I used to do it at a small scale and I have decided to try helping people at a national level,” Mavetera said of her ambitions.
Her fans on the small screen should not lose heart as she is not planning on shelving her acting career even after entering the National Assembly.
“People can still expect me to appear in productions because I love acting. Television gave me my first big break and will always remain a part of me, however, I will apply discretion on the roles I accept, since I will be representing people in Parliament,” she said.
It appears her industry peers would have preferred that she stays with them in the content creation fraternity.
“Most of them have been acting surprised because it is a bit different from our entertainment industry. They have a vague idea of what politics is and they just wish me the best with a hint of scepticism. But I will fight for their plight as well when I get into Parliament because I understand the issues first-hand,” said Mavetera.
“My family has been so supportive of my political career. Many may not know, but I have been in politics for 12 years behind the scenes at ZANU-PF. Ever since I got off the screen that is what I have been doing. My family members were part of my campaign team; even my husband has also been supportive,” she said.
If she wins Mavetera will not be the first acting talent to join the political fray. American actor Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Terminator Franchise dared to dream and became the Governor of California.
Locally, John Chinosiyani, Zimbabwe’s first child television actor, once tried his lucky in politics but failed.
He formed a political party but found the going tough on the murky Zimbabwean political waters.
There is precedent; maybe Mavetera will get a chance to “act” in the National Assembly; only the July 30 poll can tell. The Herald