By Simbarashe Musaki
Linda Masarira’s ‘movie-like’ life comprising of incarcerations, torture and reportedly unpretentious abductions under the hands of former Zimbabwean President, the late Robert Mugabe’s regime may have been a hardener for the veteran human rights activist, cum-politician.
Political persecution inspired her to form her own movement called Labour and Economic Democrats (LEAD) in 2019 with a view to take head-on, selfish political party leaders obstructing ordinary citizens from enjoying the ‘land of milk and honey’ (Zimbabwe), imaginary promised by freedom fighters, prior to independence.
Now 37 years old and a mother of five, she boasts of having lived 50 lives.
Masarira is a politician with a difference and is herself a success story in the country’s political and human rights activism history, which has been previously dominated by men.
“I am self-inspired because no-one can do what I am capable of doing. I have lived 50 lives in 37 years and I just aim higher for people to have standard living conditions,” she said.
Her activism lifestyle, coupled by high quality political concepts, amazes many people who in turn raise countless questions about her childhood, trade unionism, and political history, which Zim24News successfully traced.
Born on October 3, 1982 at Hwange Colliery Hospital, Linda grew up ordinarily like other children and in a family of two, and is the eldest child of John and Perpetua Masarira.
She attended primary education at Hallingbury Primary school (Harare) and enrolled for secondary education at Marlborough High School for form 1 and 2, before moving to Chipindura High School (Bindura) to do her form 3 up to Lower six.
The frequent moving from one school to another as spiraled by her parent’s search for greener pastures.
At the tender age of 17 years, Linda fell victim to the social evils of today’s society, as she was unfortunately raped, which unfortunately also culminated in an unplanned pregnancy.
However, Linda managed to finish her Upper 6 successfully at Christ Ministries (Harare), despite staying alone.
Although activism was inborn and not a breeding area for empty vessels diametrically opposed to general belief then, Linda pursued tertiary education, prior entering the mainstream activism arena.
She did courses including Information Technology (I.T) and Networking, Computer Technicians, Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) and a Certified Railway Trains working course.
In 2002-3, she got employed at Gratephase Computers as a computer technician before trying her luck as an indigenous business woman, establishing her company Lindaz Interiors, while at the same time Linda was also an employee at Systems Technology between 2003 and 2005, where she started trade unionism as the workers’ committee chairperson.
She is a victim of the infamous Zuva judgment in 2015. After having worked for NRZ from 2006 as a Guard Special (assistant train driver) and successfully led two workers’ unions that is Train Men Workers Union (TWU) between 2008-2013 and National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers’ committee between 2014 and 2015 in fighting against poor remuneration and late payment of salaries.
Regardless of being fired twice for trade unionism, her late husband Charles Moyo remained her cheerleader and was the man behind her successful labour activism career.
“I was fired two times in my life for labour activism and advocating for labour justice and decent salaries. I am a victim of the Zuva judgment and gender justice, and after being fired at NRZ, I just made a promise to myself that I was not going to work for anyone again. That is when I ventured into farming and started doing advocacy work,” said Masarira.
After being fired by NRZ, Linda did not lose hope of getting her terminal benefits and being a voice for the voiceless. Therefore, she formed and chaired the Association of Railways Terminated Employees (ARTE) and managed to ensure that all Zuva judgment victims got their benefits.
Politically, her role model is former MDC women’s assembly chairperson, Lucia Matibenga.
Her political career commenced in Hwange as an MDC activist before dumping the party in protest, accusing former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai of betraying people by going into hiding in Botswana during the bloody 2008 elections.
In 2015-17, Masarira who is not a political Uncle Tom became the then Tendai Biti led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secretary for Recruitment and Mobilisation before quitting, citing the party leader’s shenanigans, hypocrisy and misogynistic, as push factors.
Fed up with partisan politics, she launched her own movement called, Harare Central independent campaign dubbed #Purple Campaign in September 2017 before joining the Thokozani Khupe led MDC-T, as the national spokesperson and disclosed her expulsion in 2019, as a result of patriarchal dominance around the party leader.
Focusing on human rights activism, joining hands with the likes of Promise Mkwananzi in 2016, Linda became a founder member of the popular Tajamuka/ Sesijikile movement, which was former President the late Mugabe’s nightmare, as the movement vigorously advocated for Mugabe to step down on accusations of gross human rights violations.
Linda who got the nickname Chandagwinyira from her parents was part of the 2016 Occupy Africa Unity Square Campaign, which protested against the deteriorating socio-economic environment leading to her periodic arrests.
Following a series of fruitful protests she spearheaded in 2016, Masarira was incarcerated for 80 days at Chikurubi Female Prison and carried her activism behind bars thwarting human rights abuse in prison and was transferred to solitary confinement at Chikurubi Maximum Prison (male prison).
“I’m glad that I led a protest in prison to change the living conditions of female inmates at Chikurubi and this led to my solitary confinement at Chikurubi Maximum Prison (male prison). They thought they were fixing me, but I managed to have an opportunity to turnaround other people’s lives who were subjected to inhumanity by prison guards,” she said.
Linda is also a trustee, the first coordinator and brains behind the formation of Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance (ZIWIPA), in 2016, whose major achievement was ‘Bring back our women from Kuwait’ campaign which sped the repatriation process to more than 200 stranded Zimbabwean women, who had fallen victims of human trafficking.
Linda’s resume is admirable as she is the convener of Pensioner’s Voice, former coordinator for the Young African Leadership Forum (Zimbabwe Chapter), former chairperson of the Revolutionary Fighters, as well as, former chairperson of Star Fellowship cohort 3 and FES Alumni.
George Files said, “whoever stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80 years.” Masarira subscribes to that view and is currently studying for Bachelor of Arts, Honours Degree in Peace and Governance, while on the humanitarian aspect, she is running a sustaining project for teenage mothers disowned by families and a sanitary products donation program benefiting rural women and schools.