Woman of Distinction

Get more information on Gender and Work, Women and Work, and Thokozani Khupe, Zimbabwe's First Female Deputy Prime Minister, on Mywage Zimbabwe.

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By Sanday Chongo Kabange

To many Zimbabweans, she may seem to be an ordinary woman who is messing around on men's turf.

But Thokozani Khupe has  proved beyond doubt that what a man can do, a woman can do and with precision.

Khupe is Zimbabwe’s first-ever female Deputy Prime Minister. She was sworn-in alongside other members of the Government of National Unity in February 2009. She is also the Vice President of the Morgan Tsvangirai-headed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Born on November 18, 1963 in the “City of Kings” (Bulawayo), Khupe has been a staunch and determined unionist whose career in the labour movement spans a period of 25 years.

In her early years as a trade unionist,  Thokozani Khupe served in the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Union (ZARU). In 1991 she was elected Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Women Advisory Council, during which she was also a General Council Member of the ZCTU.

In 1999,  she participated and played a pivotal role in the formation of the MDC, in which she was elected as a National Executive Member in charge of Transport, Logistics and Welfare. A year later after the formation of the MDC, Khupe was in June 2000 elected Member of Parliament for Makokoba Constituency in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

My first one-on-one encounter with Thokozani was during the 2007 27th Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government which ran from August 5 to 18 in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

As I walked around the Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC), the summit venue,  in my daily search for exciting newsfeeds, I came across a media advisory announcing that  the MDC would hold a news conference to be addressed by Thokozani Khupe, who was at the time the MDC delegation leader to the Lusaka SADC Summit.

I wasted no time and attended the conference, as any stories from  Zimbabwe were hot news. I was amazed by what Khupe and her team delivered. She touched on a number of social issues that affected the people of Zimbabwe and outlined possible solutions to these issues.

I told myself, “this woman has brilliant ideas for her country if only given a platform to implement them”.

Now that she is part of the Government of National Unity, Khupe has a chance to roll out her vision for the country’s collapsed economy.

A graduate from Turin College in Italy and a holder of a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from Zimbabwe Open University, Thokozani has led by example as a woman of substance from whom many young women can draw inspiration.

She has clearly shown that the journey she started in the labour movement under the auspices of ZCTU is successfully continuing. Every  Zimbabwean, especially young women,  should want to see Khupe find amicable solutions to some of the issues and challenges she has been facing ever since her days as a trade unionist over 25 years ago.

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