Zimbabwe’s youngest MP, Joana Mamombe.
Joana Mamombe, 25, stood out as the youngest MP in the new Parliament when Zimbabwe’s newest crop of legislators took their oaths last week following the controversial July 30 elections. Mamombe of the MDC Alliance replaced Jessie Majome as the Harare West representative.

She is a molecular biologist, who says one of her major priorities in the next five years is to fight cancer and advance the interests of youths. Below are excerpts from an interview.

VL: Who is Joana Mamombe?

JM: I was born on June 18, 1993, in Harare. I grew up in a Christian family. I am passionate about young people’s participation in political and governance matters.

I trained as a molecular biologist at the universities of Bergen in Norway and Sussex in the UK where I studied for an MSc in molecular biology and genetic manipulation respectively. My research interests focused on cancer therapies and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. I am a recipient of the 2017 Cannon Collins Scholarship, a prestigious academic award for postgraduate study in the UK. In 2016, I was awarded the Students at Risk Award (Star), a flagship scholarship of the Norwegian government for students facing persecution in their own countries. Lastly, I graduated from the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) with a BSc in Biotechnology.

What drove you to become a politician?

I became active in publics and political affairs at the CUT, where I joined student politics. I became the first female secretary-general at the university. I later served as national gender secretary for Zimbabwe’s national students body, Zinasu, highlighting the plight of students in Zimbabwe.

Some of my campaigns came at great personal risk as in 2015. I am also one of the co-founders of #Tajamuka - an initiative of young people that challenged the government of Zimbabwe on the growing social and economic challenges in 2016.

In 2014, in recognition of my courageous work, I was chosen to attend a global conference in Denmark marking 100 years of women in politics and leadership. In 2017, I was a keynote speaker at the Network of Universities from the capitals of Europe where I spoke about young people as change makers in a rapidly globalising world.

I was also invited as a guest speaker at the International Students Festival in Trondheim (ISFIT), Norway, focusing on public health. All these speaking and global commitments have prepared me for public office.

The dearth in public leadership to deal with rising unemployment and hopelessness drove me into politics to grow our economy and change the systems of governance.

You are taking over from Jessie Majome who fiercely competed with you. Have you buried the hatchet?

There is no hatchet to bury. My campaign was never about fighting anyone. It is unfortunate that some people saw this as a fight rather than a democratic contest.

Did you learn anything or grooming from Majome as an MP?

I did learn a lot from Honourable Majome, especially around communicating using new media tools. But nothing replaces face-to-face and personal engagements. Thus, I have lined up town hall meetings to engage with Harare West residents to serve as the bedrock for our 100-day plan.

I have also learnt that it is imperative to link the parliamentary work with the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people. It serves no purpose to be a star in the august House if constituents cannot identify with that stardom. I have also learnt that it is important to have an agenda. Hon Jessie Majome served Parliament with a clear human rights promotion agenda and I think she was successful.

What are the challenges that face young female politicians?

Matriarchy and patriarchy. Political spaces are difficult to penetrate as the spaces are heavily male-dominated. To add insult to injury, there is no clear grooming and sometimes succession planning by mature sisters in political parties. In some instances they create an impervious barrier to rising young female politicians.

So many times I was told I was young and should not contest for political office. There is a misguided belief that young female politicians do not have innate agency to contest for political office and that senior male leaders are behind our political bids. It is also difficult to fund-raise as this may expose you to unwanted and unsolicited advances from would-be funders. So, it requires uprightness.

Do you have any political ambitions to seek higher office?

I am keen on advancing my studies while I serve the people. This will give me the requisite stamina to be a leading voice on public health matters in our Parliament. I'd like to be known as a leading voice on these issues.

As a product of a single mother, I'd like to be an inspiration to young women to invest in their children’s education and to encourage them to take leadership positions. I thank the Lord for He has taken me this far. Also, I owe this to my mother for her guidance, love and unwavering support in my political career. Alpha-Media-Holdings