Chamisa, the elections and discombobulation

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By Seewell Mashizha

IN the past I made reference to Nelson Chamisa’s penchant for things mundanely spectacular. In doing so I bracketed him with Jonathan Moyo. Both were, at some point in time, in charge of publicity in their respective political organisations and both have a tendency to think of themselves as the ultimate in terms of human intelligence. They see themselves as God’s gift to humankind.

As might be expected, both men are given to verbosity and elegant variation in their speech, something quite reminiscent of high school debates. In their time both seemed to think all you had to do if you were in charge of information, was to deny everything in language that is as hyperbolic as you can muster.

When some members of his Utakataka Express began to want to drift away, Tongai Moyo did a song he called “Muchina Muhombe” (The works) in which he questioned the wisdom of their assumptions. Many people said Moyo’s song was directed at Ronnie Mudindo, the tall bassist he eulogizes in “Samanyemba.” Tongai sang:

Kid brother, someone led you up the garden path

Someone made you swollen-headed, my little brother

Made you think you are now phenomenal – the big one

But let me tell you, Little Brother, you got it all wrong

I’m the main man, the big machine that keeps rolling

The lyrics of Tongai Moyo’s ‘Muchina Muhombe’ easily come to mind when one thinks of some of the things revealed by WikiLeaks. Apparently the American embassy in Harare gave a damning assessment of the MDC-T, noting that a future MDC-T government (if it came to being) would need a lot of handholding.

In the leaked cables to Washington, Christopher Dell, then ambassador to Zimbabwe made several interesting observations, principal of which was the one in which he is recorded as having advised that he did not believe there were opposition politicians with leadership qualities to take over from then president Robert Mugabe. Furthermore, Dell asserted that the MDC was “far from ideal” and that he was “convinced that if they had had different partners other than the MDC, they could have achieved more”. This is direct confirmation of America’s regime change agenda in Zimbabwe and the MDC-T’s collusion in the matter.

Dell made a very definitive remark about Welshman Ncube, describing him as a divisive and destructive person who ought to be put to grass. In the same breath Dell dismissed Biti and Chamisa as inconsequential “light-weights”. In his words, the two hopefuls were “thin below the top ranks”. This assessment of the MDC-T and some of its personnel would appear to be endorsed by Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organization.

Gwisai’s view is that compared to Robert Mugabe governments over the years, the MDC-T would be a lot easier to tackle because its government would be “a much less sophisticated, blundering and less credible” regime. If that is not a dismissal of the likes of Chamisa and Biti, I would to wonder what is.

When Nelson Chamisa began his on-going rallies around the country, ahead of the impending elections, he invariably began by invoking the memory of Morgan Tsvangirai by singing the MDC-T anthem “Tsvangirai, chitonga zvako, ZANU yakonewa” (Tsvangirai, step right in and govern, ZANU has failed). There hardly can be anything more nauseating than this crass hypocrisy. Chamisa was critical of the man he now sings praise to. But even more disturbing is the manner in which many of the MDC-T faithful look the other way when Chamisa says irreverent things about “the father of democracy”. This man Chamisa, now calling Tsvangirai a hero, is the same man who in private called Tsvangirai a “weak and inept” leader.

There is no prize for guessing that Chamisa’s hurried and undignified grab of power, barely a day after the demise of his “revered” leader, was in part designed to show him as a decisive and more proactive leader, compared to Tsvangirai. This of course is patently false and it may well be that one of these days Chamisa will fry in his own fat. Is it any wonder then that Steven Sackur of BBC Hard Talk described him as a young man in a hurry? That brings us to the real concern of this installment. There is no way that this trending piece of news can be relegated to the backwaters of the current political discourse.

As might be expected, there has been a level of unbelievably frantic spin-doctoring around the Hard Talk episode by some. Some will quote how Chamisa fared better than many a world leader including former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is said to have literally walked off the set.

That of course is just a red herring calculated to make people think less about the import of Chamisa’s words. Most baffling of all is Chamisa’s apparent deficits in terms of language facility. Amazing for a man often portrayed as an orator. He kept tripping himself – unwittingly too! When Sackur put it to him that his party was in disarray because of him, Chamisa, after first trying to deny this, offered what he obviously thought was a masterstroke: The more parties there are, the merrier, he said. That is the good thing about a democracy, he said. Democracy? Excuse me! Honourable Chamisa seems to have forgotten that his constant mourning is about the alleged lack of democracy in the country. His thought processes and attempts at verbal acrobatics are quite baffling in this respect. And no matter how generous one may feel inclined to be, the truth remains, Chamisa’s performance on Hard Talk was a huge yawn. Even David Coltart could not, with his double-speak, evade and camouflage this truth.

Sackur went after him several times, pointing out the inconsistency in some of his public uttering. More than once Sackur used such words as “nonsensical” and “silly” or more euphemistically said, “That didn’t happen did it?” Sackur literally accused Chamisa of lying. Chamisa lamely tried to parry the unrelenting onslaught, thereby claiming that he had not said that he had on his visit to the United States met with Trump and been promised USD 15 billion if he won the elections.

Ruthlessly, Sackur cited footage from Chinhoyi in which Chamisa distinctly and unequivocally states that on his visit to the US he had seen Trump. The social media guys are having the time of their lives. They combine the Chinhoyi clip with a section from the Hard Talk interview. Caught out, Chamisa retreats and says he only had meetings with the Trump administration. We wait to see in what other matters Chamisa misrepresents the truth. These are interesting times indeed.

George Charamba, the Presidential spokesperson recently made a telling observation and these are his very words, “What young Chamisa has done and done inadvertently, but in a way that is nationally helpful, is to show that he can walk the length and breadth of this country uninhibited, which means it is going to be difficult for him to turn around and say it wasn’t free, it was unfair, then people will say, Comrade we saw you all over the country…”

Three years shy of  what for Chamisa was the critical age of forty, he had a tiff with his “boss’ and made quite a few disparaging remarks about him. Chamisa described Tsvangirai at the time as being “running scared” and seeing shadows. In language aping the language of the pulpit, Chamisa, tongue-in-cheek and in a thinly-veiled statement said of Tsvangirai, “The guilty are afraid but the innocent are courageous and indomitable!!!”The remarks were a sour-grapes reaction by Chamisa after Tsvangirai had frustrated his ascension to the powerful post of Secretary-General made vacant by the departure of Tendai Biti, following calls within the MDC for leadership renewal after the party’s dismal performance in 2013.

More recently, Chamisa has also poked fun at Tsvangirai’s comic misapprehension before a guard of honour mounted in his honour in Germany. At the time the video went viral. Someone should remind our Nelson, no matter how confident he is about his chances, of the proverb that warns us not to count our chickens before they hatch. He says he is already practising how to inspect a guard of honour.

At the risk of sounding tautological, I will say it again: these are interesting times indeed. To Nelson’s misadventures add the drama after the primaries in Norton where the loquacious Christopher Mutsvangwa appeared to have lost. Citing irregularities, Mutsvangwa was so incensed that he threatened ZANU-PF with unspecified consequences. As presidential advisor, Mutsvangwa could have spoken with ED in confidence. Instead he chose to go ballistic at the mouth.

Meanwhile, going by Chamisa’s own admission, the West no longer supports the MDC formations. His complaint is that Britain seems to prefer Emmerson Mnangagwa. Are Christopher Dell’s words here to haunt him? Many will be disoriented after the elections. Discombobulation will be absolute. It might be that the British do not see him winning- a consequence of America’s assessment.