Then a protégé of President Robert Mugabe by virtue of having worked as his personal aide and as an astute Zanu (PF) strategist from the Midlands province,Mnangagwa held the town in his palm.
He was the local Member of Parliament and boasted a vast business empire.Business people, politicians and the city fathers were beholden to him and nobody dreamt of challenging his domain.
But then, the winds of change blew. Enter Blessing Chebundo, a brave David who successfully challenged the giant. He stood against Mnangagwa in the 2000 parliamentary elections, and brought down the Goliath.
Prior to helping establish the MDC, Chebundo worked at the giant fertilizer manufacturer Sable Chemicals from 1979 to 2000. When he left he was the Occupational Health and Safety Officer. From 1990 to 2000, Chebundo was an active trade unionist. He was elected the Provincial Secretary for Midlands in the Zimbabwe Chemical and Allied Workers Union in 1990. In 1995, he was elected the National Treasurer of ZCAWU and became the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Vice Chairperson for the Midlands Region.
In 1998, Chebundo joined hundreds of others from the 41 trade union and civil society organisations that came up with the idea of forming a political party, the MDC. He was the founding Chairperson of the MDC Midlands North branch, covering Redcliff, Kwekwe, Mhondoro-Ngezi, Sanyati, Silobela and Gokwe.
At the first MDC congress in 2000, Chebundo was elected national executive member for health, and became the first opposition MP for Kwekwe. This constituency was delineated into, Kwekwe Central and Mbizo, now represented by Settlement Chikwinya, also from the MDC, in 2005. “The path to becoming the first opposition legislator for Kwekwe was a protracted, thorny and meandering one, where the gap between my life and death became increasingly narrow,” Chebundo told The Zimbabwean in an exclusive interview.
“Back them Mnangagwa had been informally declared the heir apparent to President Mugabe.So, challenging him was like challenging Mugabe,” he said.
When it became public that he was challenging Mnangagwa, his first battlefront was the workplace. A business mogul (name withheld) who had a lot of influence with Sable Chemicals management told them that they should fire him because he was contesting against Mnangagwa, but they could find no legal reason to do so.
“My first attack was on the morning of Tuesday 9 April 2000. A group of about 15 Zanu (PF) activists came from nowhere when I was waiting for transport to take me to work. Their leader, who (questioned why I was) challenging Mnangagwa poured about 15 litres of petrol on me and attempted to set me ablaze. Fortunately, the matchbox he was carrying had become damp and he failed,’’ said Chebundo.
Six days later a mob of about 50 Zanu (PF) activists invaded his house in Msasa Park and set it ablaze, reducing it to ashes, forcing him to hide in the bush to avoid the attackers.
“Everything which I had worked for in 21 years was destroyed and because my party was still in its infancy, I did not receive any compensation,” he said. Born in Shurugwi in 1958, Chebundo is a holder of an Environmental Health Science degree obtained from the National Institute for Working Life in Sweden. He also acquired a Bachelor of Science in Local Governance degree from Midlands State University and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Developmental Studies from the same institution.
Since winning the Kwekwe seat in 2000, Chebundo has been arrested more than 10 times on trumped up charges that range from the possession of arms of war, rape and public violence. He has been acquitted every time.
He has facilitated the establishment of two old people’s homes in Amaveni and Mbizo, and is helping many people left destitute by Operation Murambatsvina. He also constructed the Mbuya Saunyama Children’s home which now houses 50 children.
Last year he refurbished Globe and Phoenix Primary School which since its establishment in 1925 had not received any face lift. He helped set up a computer class at Amaveni Secondary School, and has done his best to resurface roads in the low income suburbs.Post published in: Analysis