AS a venue for any political gathering, Chinhoyi evokes conflicting emotions to many Zimbabweans simply because the Mashonaland West provincial capital has always been a source of both national pride and embarrassment.
Chinhoyi evinces an odd mixture of patriotism and derision because it is the venue of two occasions that starkly and ironically stand out as evidence of the heroism and the stupidity of the sons and daughters of this land.
As a source of national pride, this is the place where, in 1966, we launched a brutal armed struggle against the racist colonialists in what famously became known as the battle of Chinhoyi.
But as a source of national embarrassment, this is the same place where almost half of the country’s barefoot Cabinet Ministers engaged in a ritual in the laughable belief that pure diesel could ooze out of a rock. This was an episode in which a coterie of Cabinet Ministers that included medical doctors fell prey to the antics of one Rotina Mavhunga, a female traditional healer that one Didymus Mutasa later told us was a very beautiful damsel.
It will never be known whether it was their permittivity or the beauty that cast the spell on our Cabinet Ministers, but the episode made the country a subject of international scorn and derision. A whole Cabinet that believed that pure diesel could ooze out of rocks and pebbles!
On Sunday, however, a young erudite, eloquent lawyer and former student leader shouted out a new war cry that reverberated at the nearby sacred Chinhoyi Caves.
The 40-year-old MDC Alliance presidential candidate launched the new battle of Chinhoyi when he promised that his government would prioritize transformation of the lives of the people.
This was his first rally bereft of what had needlessly become sonorous cockpit inconvenience in the MDC-T; a noise that had inflicted collateral damage on the MDC Alliance that had been sculpted by the greatest and most iconic leader of our time, the late Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.
Indeed, the Chinhoyi rally was significant in that there was now clarity at the vortex of our 2018 campaign following President Nelson Chamisa’s unanimous endorsement as party leader and presidential candidate by both his party’s national council and his fellow MDC Alliance principals.
There is a significant similarity to both versions of the two battles of Chinhoyi launched in 1966 and last Sunday respectively. While the battle of Chinhoyi in 1966 was launched by seven freedom fighters, President Nelson Chamisa on Sunday launched the battle for social and economic transformation of Zimbabwe with the endorsement of the seven political parties that make up the MDC Alliance.
The seven guerrillas who kicked off the liberation struggle at the famous Chinhoyi battle were David Guzuzu, Arthur Maramba, Christopher Chatambudza, Simon Nyandoro, Godfrey Manyerenyere, Godwin Dube and Chubby Savanhu. On Sunday in Chinhoyi, alongside president Chamisa as he launched his battle to transform the lives of the people, were the leaders of the seven parties in the MDC Alliance, namely the MDC-T, the MDC, Transform Zimbabwe, the Multi-Racial Christian Democratic party, Zanu Ndonga, the People’s Democratic party and Zimbabwe People First.
Indeed, our 18 years in the democratic struggle have taught us that while change is important, Zimbabwe now needs transformation. Change is superficial and skin-deep; Zimbabwe needs transformation; itself representing a holistic make-over of an entire country’s collapsed infrastructure and fractured body politic.
While change is akin to a dose of painkillers, transformation would be tantamount to a massive surgical operation to correct the country’s chronically diseased socio-political sector. President Chamisa spoke at length about the MDC Alliance’s policy programme to transform the country’s governance culture in order to bring back the dignity of the Zimbabwean.
The 1966 battle was a battle for liberation, but the 2018 battle is a battle for economic transformation and one cannot be a hero of both battles, as president Emmerson Mnangagwa vainly seeks to do. Each generation must fight its own war. The generation that fought the war of liberation cannot purport to fight the new war of transformation because the weapons, nature and form of the two battles have changed over time.
President Chamisa told the Chinhoyi rally that Zimbabweans faced a simple choice in this year’s election.
It is a choice between day and night.
A choice between light and darkness
Between the past and the future
A choice between the old and the young,
This election is a choice between the analogue and the digital generation.
The other day, president Chamisa called it the stark contrast between the iPad and the mbira generation, just to showcase the vastness of the technological gap between his and Mnangagwa’s generations.
As we drove out of Chinhoyi, I could not help but muse over the two significant battles that had been launched in the same town by two different generations — the battle of liberation and the battle for economic transformation.
I pondered over the ironic significance of the figure seven in both battles and how, just as the seven guerrilla comrades had been under-estimated in 1966, so too would President Chamisa, his seven political allies and their spiritually inspired mission be under-estimated by the new oppressors of our time.
The comfort is that Zimbabweans have always shamed their oppressors. And they will certainly do so in this watershed election in the next few months. The war of liberation launched in Chinhoyi in 1966 had been wasted away by the generation of kleptocrats that took charge in 1980.
It was befitting that president Chamisa and his seven Alliance partners go back to Chinhoyi to carry forward the vision and legacy of the seven patriotic sons who wanted a better future for their country. So, yes, we had to be in Chinhoyi last Sunday to launch the new battle for economic transformation.
We had to go back to Chinhoyi for a young man to carry forward the vision of the similarly young generation in 1966. We had to go back to Chinhoyi for president Chamisa to carry forward the vision launched in 1966 but which has been squandered by the gerontocracy currently occupying the seat of government.
Luke Tamborinyoka is the presidential spokesperson and Director of Communications in the MDC-T led by Hon. Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He writes here in his official capacity.