Madondo plunges into Irish politics


She has registered as a candidate for local elections to be held in her local town of Tallaght in June, making her the first Zimbabwean to have a go at Irish politics even at local government level.

Driven by what appears to be a dogged determination Madondo, a representative of the Green Party, is passionate about the challenge ahead.

“I am a public representative,” she tells The Zimbabwe Times. “I am not doing this for myself. I am doing it for the people.”

Now and again she invokes the name of God for help in her political campaign. But behind the invocations for divine intervention is a crucible of steely resolve founded on personal tragedy.

Born in 1975 at Gutu Mission Hospital, her father died when she was only nine. Then her mother succumbed to cancer.

She says she saw her once active mother wither slowly, leaving her not only orphaned at an early age, but also responsible for the care of a young sister.

Madondo put personal adversity behind her to become a school-teacher. She then worked the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA). Subsequently she worked for the Genesis New Start Centre. First established by Population Services International (PSI) in 1999, the USAID-funded New Start programme provides HIV counselling and testing services to an average of 20 000 clients per month at 20 centres throughout the country.

After she arrived in Ireland seven years ago to join her husband, Farai, a civil engineer, Madondo had to contend with the all-too-familiar frustrations of securing a job suited to her qualifications.Armed with a degree in Philosophy, Religious Studies and Shona (Drama) from the University of Zimbabwe and a qualification in Systemic Therapy from the Zimbabwe Institute of Systemic Therapy, Madondo found herself with skills considered non-transferable to her new domicile.

“I believed I had a very good education,” she says, “but I found it very difficult to find a job. It was an uphill struggle.”

She eventually found solace in voluntary work.

“I worked for non-governmental organisations, in prisons and with women with HIV/Aids,” says Madondo. “I then worked as a care assistant.

“But I felt I was being underutilised. However, through all the voluntary work, I managed to make contacts and network.”

Madondo eventually clinched a job with the charity Christian Aid. Her relief at securing a ‘decent’ job is all too apparent.

“I have walked a long journey,” she says. “Now I am settled. In my job I have travelled to countries, such Afghanistan and Rwanda. I enjoy it.”

It was while she was on one of her trips that the people of Tallaght met to decide on a municipal candidate for their town.

Unbeknown to her, the Tallaght community had taken to her mix of charm, commitment to public service and confidence.They decided that Madondo, with her background of active community work, was their ideal representative. Tallaght is the largest town, and county town, of South Dublin County. Originally rural suburban, development began in the 1970s and a new town centre area has been developing since the late 1980s.

Madondo had become a familiar figure in the Irish media, having also fronted campaigns to highlight the deteriorating political and economic situation in her home country, Zimbabwe.

“The people of my community called me and told me my name had come top of the list,” she says.

“They asked if I would want to represent them. I consulted my family, they supported me and I decided to stand. Since I was now settled, I resolved I could take on the challenge.

“Ireland is unique,” she says. “Its political system allows immigrants to be elected in local elections but not for the European Parliament.”

Madondo says she undertook meticulous due diligence before choosing a party to join. In the end, it was the Green Party which appealed to her.

“I was invited by other parties and looked at what they stood for.

“If you are an immigrant, you must also look at the interests of people like yourself. Immigration is a fairly new phenomenon in Ireland, and you don’t want it to be kicked into the periphery.

“But, in the end, I want to be a representative for all. The Green Party is a small party but it represented what I stood for, concrete ideals such as democracy and social justice.”

For her passion for matters in immigration, she was rewarded with the post of spokesperson for integration for the Green Party.The Green Party was founded as the Ecology Party of Ireland in 1981 by Dublin teacher Christopher Fettes. The party became the Green Alliance in 1983 and in 1987 was renamed to its current title.

On June 14, 2007, following negotiations that agreed on a programme for government, the Green Party entered into government with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.Known as the “greens”, its principles include environmentalism, grassroots democracy, nonviolence and social justice.Madondo says she is not the only person of African origin contesting on the “green” ticket. Two Nigerians have also thrown the hat into the ring.Madondo remains reasonably confident in Tallaght.

She, however, faces problems with fundraising for her campaign, and points to the testament of new US President Barack Obama’s well-funded election campaign.

“But I did not grown up here,” she says without a hint of despair. “I have to go an extra mile to create fundraising networks.

“It is very challenging if you are an immigrant. But I have enjoyed a lot of support, especially from Zimbabweans.”

At the tail-end of the telephone interview, we are interrupted.

“All the best in your campaign, Tendai,” the voice of a workmate at the Christian Aid office is heard in the background.

It is a message many Zimbabweans of goodwill will be repeating. Come June 5, one of their own could be part of local Irish politics. And Madondo’s final message has a ring of Obama’s “Yes, we can” mantra.

“I hope that what I am doing will encourage others, especially women in the Diaspora,” she says. “Win or lose I will still want to be a public representative.”