In conversation with Trevor: We’re losing our country, says Valerio

Elizabeth Valerio in conversation with Trevor Ncube recently

Opposition United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA) leader Elizabeth Valerio says she was forced to join politics to stop the parcelling out of land belonging to Zimbabweans to foreigners.

Valerio (EV), who is the UZA candidate for the 2023 presidential elections, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that she was alarmed by the direction the country was taking under the current leadership.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Elizabeth Valerio, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

EV: Thank you so much for having me. Happy to be here.

TN: It is a pleasure having you here.

You know I have been reflecting, as we were planning for this conversation.

 Why is Elizabeth doing this?

EV: I have no choice, but to do this Trevor.

TN: Really? Why? Why do you not have a choice?

EV: You know what amazes me when I wake up every day and I look at Zimbabwe, the situation in Zimbabwe, and I am alarmed that people are not doing more.

I feel I have to do this.

The direction we're going as a country is just not a direction that I can wrap my mind around, and not be alarmed or concerned.

When I say that I am mostly referring to the lifestyle that people are living today.

The standard of living most people have on an average day — you see people who are not getting access to very basic things that in the rest of the world would be completely unacceptable, but in Zimbabwe we are just continuing and it continues to get worse.

More than that when I say I am alarmed about the future of Zimbabwe, it is the fact that we are slowly losing our own country.

So why am I doing this? I am worried we will not be Zimbabwe if...

TN: We are slowly losing our country? What do you mean?

EV: It has become apparent to me that a lot of the priorities of the current government are not on preserving Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.

There is a lot of emphasis on externalising the benefits of our country, and I do not think that is what government is supposed to be doing.

It is supposed to nurture what we have and ensure that what we have benefits the citizens of our country.

So, I see foreigners coming into our country and a lot of land is being distributed to foreigners.

That is what has caused me to be mostly concerned, because a lot of what is happening or what has happened over the last several decades can be reversed.

You can restore, you can build, but we are not going to be able to recover the finite resources that we have, that are our land, on our land, within our land, and so I am really surprised that not every Zimbabwean is as concerned as I am.

Because when I look to the future I just do not see this turning out very well for us.

TN: Foreigners. Chinese?

EV: Chinese. There are a number of countries I think that are exploiting us.

My greatest concern began with the Chinese.

I live in Hwange, and there were Chinese coal mining operations being proposed, or actually having been approved for Hwange National Park.

And that was a Chinese interest, but you look across Zimbabwe, there are many different countries now, and yes there is this mantra of Zimbabwe is open for business, but to whose benefit?

TN: Yeah. You know I am pushing you to say Chinese because there are a lot of whispers.

We seem to be afraid to speak up, to say what is happening to this country concerning our resources, and in particular the preference that the Chinese and the ease with which the Chinese are getting our resources is not right.

Why are we not speaking out? Why are you not speaking out explicitly about that?

EV: So I am, I have spoken out explicitly, but at this point I am concentrating on a bigger solution.

My initial entry into politics was because I was trying to prevent the Chinese, I will say occupation of our land, because it has become so widespread, and so concerning.

The manner with which it is being carried out is not benefiting the citizens of Zimbabwe.

So I speak out, I am on record as having essentially rallied communities around this notion that we need to stop this.

We need to prevent the Chinese from taking so much of Zimbabwe.

And most of these spaces are important spaces to our country, they have sacred historic relevance and we need to protect those spaces.

So very much I am on record about the Chinese, I do think that people are afraid to speak about it.

Most people in Zimbabwe worry about the repercussions, what will happen if I really address these issues.

In the industry where I work a lot of people are concerned about having perhaps their concessions revoked or whatever may come, but that is not how we are supposed to live.

As a society we need that safeguard of knowing that if you invest in an enterprise you have the assurance that you can see the rewards of your hard work.

TN: You have just touched on a number of issues there, which I would want us to revis down the line.

But let us go to 2020 when you start this campaign around the Hwange National Park, which then gives birth to this journey that you have embarked upon right now.

Talk to me about that moment where you said I think running for president is a solution?

EV: So it did not come as a moment where I got to make a choice.

I was elected to become president of a political party, but that is after days and days of sitting with people, searching for solutions.

We had deliberations for three days, a group of 30 strangers who I had called and said what is the answer? We need to protect these elephants in Hwange, we need to make sure our land remains with Zimbabweans.

How do we do this?

And after sitting with individuals who had a depth of knowledge from all sorts of backgrounds, the solution was, let us create a government, because the problems are centred around government.

The choices that are being made by this government are causing us to be in the situation.

And the only way you can fix that is actually by having a new government.

So elections began amongst the individuals that were sitting there and you know the last election was for the president of the party...

TN: It was you?

EV:  And I found myself in politics for the first time.

TN: We are going to pursue that line of thinking, but I must ask you this question: You say a lot of people are afraid..  why are you not afraid that you are going to lose your concession?

That you are going to lose your business?

That your life might be threatened? Why are you not afraid?

EV: Yeah look I had many conversations even with my husband as I had to break the news to him that I am now going to be contesting for the presidency of Zimbabwe.

It was a lot even for us to think about, what does this mean for our life?

I have a relatively good life Trevor, we have worked hard, all that I have worked for you know I am supposed to be enjoying now, you know.

So I do not know how to describe this, but I am more at peace today knowing that I am actually working on a solution for Zimbabwe than I was during those weeks and months leading up to me becoming president of UZA, because during those weeks and months I was tormented by the idea that these villagers several kilometres away from me are being told they have to leave the gravesites of their ancestors and they have to move.

I was tormented by the fact that people are going to be creating coal mines, coal trucks are going to be roaring through preserves, places that for our future generations should be enjoying.

And in those spaces there are architectural sites that we need to protect.

So I was racking my brain for a solution, I was saying do we create a think tank, a pressure group?

What do we do?

And actually it was all completely that pressure was released when I realised we are building a new government, and what this government can do is create a better future for our country, and we get to choose as citizens.

When I say we, the collective citizens get to choose what we want for the future of Zimbabwe.

TN: But has your standing up and saying I am going to be a candidate for UZA, has it stopped what they were doing in Hwange?

EV: Taking a step, before we even formed UZA the Cabinet actually came to a decision and they pronounced a ruling that they were not going to be permitting any coal mining operations within a national park.

So I must say that rallying together as a community our voice was heard, and so I do not want to discredit the Cabinet and the government from the position that they took.

There is no coal mining operation within the borders of the national park now and I am thankful for that.

We were all so thankful for that, but again the pressure was now coming from other parts of the country, and we as a political party have chosen not to necessarily focus narrowly on just that one space.

We are now focusing on solving all the problems in Zimbabwe.

We are building a constitution, I mean sorry, a manifesto that will actually look at every aspect of our society.

So the tourism sector, the land issue, all of that is just one aspect of what we need to fix, there are many aspects.

That is what was revealed to me as I was sitting with the individuals before we formed UZA, it is more than Elizabeth's concerns about land.

I was able to create a self-sufficient environment where I created my own electricity, my own water supply, that sort of thing.

I was not affected by the fact that Zinwa does not work or that Zesa is not keeping the lights on.

But after sitting with all of these individuals and understanding the hardships of every Zimbabwean we came together and said we are going to unite and build a new Zimbabwe that solves all of these problems.

So government’s job right, is to address the needs of the citizens, and this is probably why I am so excited, I am so happy...

TN: Share with me your excitement and your happiness? I can tell as you are talking.

EV: Over the past several weeks we have been creating our manifesto and as you analyse this, the solutions are there in our constitution Trevor.

It is not really something that you have to reinvent.

The constitution of Zimbabwe says what is supposed to be done by government, but if you give the citizens now a new government that actually understands that mandate it creates a different outlook for us in Zimbabwe.

Of course we are also able to bring new ideas; fresh ideas.

I think Zimbabwe has been stuck in this, again nothing against our mature political leaders, they have their own experiences and they have what they sought to achieve for Zimbabwe.

We liberated this country, we ensured that there was majority rule.

Those are important things, there are accomplishments that we should never discredit, but now it is time to start thinking about a different perspective and what we could do to now restore and revitalise this country.

We have lost a lot of our lifeblood, our industrial sector, there is so much that is broken in Zimbabwe.

So the excitement is in what is possible, but what is possible with the citizens of Zimbabwe because it will work if we say government does it all.

We need every citizen at the table, with their ideas, it starts with their vote and it builds up to active participation as citizens.

If we all come together and do the work that is necessary Zimbabwe could be one of the best.

  • “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on  The conversations are broadcast to you by Heart and Soul Broadcasting Services. The conversations are sponsored by WestProp Holdings.

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