Senator Hlalo: politician with a big heart

Matson Hlalo, the MDC-T senator for Mzilikazi, has endeared himself to the elderly in his constituency - one of the most populous and oldest in Bulawayo.

Senator Matson Hlalo: “I focus on the most pressing problems.”
Senator Matson Hlalo: “I focus on the most pressing problems.”

Mzilikazi covers two parliamentary constituencies, Makokoba and Bulawayo East. It has 50 000 registered voters, according to previous voter registration statistics. Hlalo’s strong bond with the electorate, and the old people in particular, started when he was elected councillor for the area in 1995.

He left Zanu (PF) and joined the MDC at its formation in 1999. He was elected senator after serving as a city councillor for 14 years.

“To me it was just a promotion from being a councillor to a senator. I have been working with the people in the constituency for the past 14 years and we have assisted each other in a number of projects,” said Hlalo, who is also a council alderman.

One of the most popular projects he started is the establishment of Senior Citizens Clubs. Under this project, Hlalo has set up four elderly (osikhulile) kiosks and a nutritional garden.

TheSikhulile Kiosk near Mpilo Hospital in Mzilikazi constructed by Senator Hlalo.
TheSikhulile Kiosk near Mpilo Hospital in Mzilikazi constructed by Senator Hlalo.

“I have given the elderly these kiosks to run and share the proceeds among themselves and the orphans they care for. They also use these kiosks as a platform for meeting and discussing their problems,” said Hlalo.

The senator has also assisted pensioners in the area with paying rent. He often holds promotions for the elderly in his shops.

“When I was a councillor, I used to channel all my allowances towards the welfare of the elderly. It’s not that I do not care for other groups such as the youths, but I assess people’s needs and focus on the most pressing issues,” he said.

What the people say

One of the elderly residents with a disability who has benefited from Hlalo’s benevolence is Alice Ndou.

“The senator has assisted my family with sugar and maize meal many times. He really appreciates that our problems are different from the rest of the able-bodied people. A lot of politicians want our votes during election times but when in power they forget us,” she said.

Ndou said she voted for Hlalo during the past election and given another opportunity she will vote for him again.

Another resident, Nomathemba Dube, said: “I think senator Hlalo has done a lot more than our local MP Deputy Prime minister ThokozaniKhupe. As far as I know everybody, including the youths and the residents, have benefitted from his projects. He has bought soccer uniforms and balls for the youths in Mzilikazi. When the country was in a serious economic crisis, he made sure everyone could afford basic commodities in his shops.”

Dube said if one day she happened to become a senator or MP, she would fight for the eradication of poverty.

“I would advocate for more social programmes such as subsidised health for residents and food for work programmes. I would also make sure that our high density suburbs are kept clean by collecting rubbish bins regularly and getting rid of mosquitoes, bugs and rats which are a problem due to over -population,” she said.

Sunny Mushambiri, who has lived in the constituency since 1986, said: “I have known Hlalo since I was young. He has been giving the elderly people food and has also face-lifted youth centres and soccer grounds in the constituency.”

Mushambiri said if he was an MP or senator he would widely consult the people on developmental issues.

“Most MPs use the top to bottom approach when it comes to developmental issues. Many are in trouble with Constituency Development Fund because they did not bother to consult their people,” he said.

Senators were not responsible for the CDF.

“The fund was the responsibility of MPs – although we were supposed to play a supervisory role in its distribution,” explained Hlalo.

Post published in: News

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