Zimbabwe: One more glance at the election scenario

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By Seewell Mashizha

Zimbabwe’s 2018 electioneering trail has predictably been rather entertaining. There is no prize for guessing who takes the honours when it comes to clowning and self-delusion: Munyanduri of the New Patriotic Front! Listening to him attempting to sell himself on radio and television is an almost hilarious experience. Amongst his many self-awarded accolades is the epithet “intellectual super power”. And quite incredulously he tells listeners that he was always first in class from Grade 5 to Form 6. That is supposed to make him the front runner.

With a singular lack of humility, Munyanduri alleges that the degrees held by Emmerson Mnangagwa, Nelson Chamisa and others are not degrees at all. According to him these two gentlemen have “correspondence” degrees! And if we are to believe him, Zimbabwe has no real engineers himself. This aspiring president wishes to transform the country into a nation of bacon and egg people at every breakfast. This is not mindful of the fact that there are many who, for religious and other reasons, will not touch pork. His metaphor is, therefore, misplaced, provocative and insensitive.

Munyanduri’s single biggest undoing is his dismal powers of communication. Half the time, the man is mumbling to himself. He has absolutely no idea what elocution is all about. Quite often, when expected to engage his audience, the man just drones on and on about his attributes. The idea of pace, pitch and power in verbal speech is unknown to him. He is a flat speaker with hardly any intonation and is totally incapable of marking out his major points as he speaks.

Munyanduri is not alone when it comes to daydreams. Our Mr. Wilson of the Democratic Opposition Party is another case in point. These last few days he has been going around trying to garner support for his strangely-named party. At Ntabazinduna he even took to the dusty dance floor as a few bemused onlookers watched him. Wilson claims to have overwhelming support around the country and says he will carry the day and be the next president.

Renowned sculptor and one-time chance musician, Taurai Mteki must have watched too many Lone Ranger movies in the early years of his life. He brings nothing to the table, just himself and his dreadlocks. He has no party, and no visible structures or organisation to complement whatever his efforts might be on the ground. He hope is that people will remember his attempts at Chimurenga music. Mteki is confident that he will spring a surprise come Monday 30 July. But hey, who are we to deny him a place in the annals of this country. History will accord him a passing glance in the context of the 2018 harmonised elections.

Timothy Chiguvare is the unlikely veteran of the road show. He traverses the towns with his ensemble of praise singers and ostensible party members and activists. He talks about a new era of good living and prosperity. Chiguvare, a pastor, portrays himself as a man with cosmopolitan experiences. Like the verbose Tendai Biti of the MDC Alliance, he claims that unspecified well-wishers will pour money into the country once he is on seat.

Many years ago Thomas Mapfumo did a hype song for a ZANU-PF congress where, in his words, anybody and anyone was welcome. If we borrow that metaphor, the 2018 elections become a national banquet of dreams, daydreams and ideas in which all can partake. For that reason, our current mix of parliamentary and presidential hopefuls are a motley lot. This could be a good thing for Zimbabwe in the long run. At some future point in time, inter-party contradictions will be minimized and the country will coalesce around parties that will essentially have become permanent features of our political landscape by then. Aspiring politicians will choose to align themselves with any one of the parties without agonising too much.

Listening to Elton Mangoma presenting his case I could see why Tendai Biti was so dismissive of him. His verbal presentation is so lacklustre as to demean his case. His body language too is not so inspiring. There might be a case for institutions of higher learning to run courses on speech-writing, phonology and elocution to help upgrade the quality and tone of political contestation in the country. 

Quite rightly, Nkosana Moyo says his manifesto is different and unique. Moyo, a man imbued with an endearingly candid nature, is an intellectual with vast international exposure and experience. In my view, he would add value to any programme worth its salt. There will, of course, be questions about his staying power, given the manner in which he abdicated the cabinet post allotted to him in one of Robert Mugabe’s cabinets. His resignation at the time prompted Mugabe’s quip that the country needed real men for the long haul. One hopes that Nkosana Moyo has learned his lessons well, and that given another chance he would not display the same kind of diffidence.

The urbane Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe has quietly been going about his business and projecting himself well at the personal level. This election, however, is likely to hinge on organisational capacity, resources and strategy. Many will lose their deposits when even those whose signatures nominated them fail to endorse them.

There are three female presidential candidates whose challenge may yet prove to have been more academic than anything else. In large measure this is largely due to the sexist DNA of the various expressions of the MDC. Women are belittled within that movement. Trudy Stevenson will tell you as much, after she fell foul of the party and was brutally attacked.

Stevenson was hospitalized with a broken arm after the intra-party violence in the ‘party of excellence’. Thokozani Khupe has similarly been targeted by the MDC Alliance umbrella. The verbal effrontery and disrespect for everyone, and for women in particular, is what prompted Mary Robinson, a visiting eminent person and election observer, to castigate the tendency.

Regrettably, Chamisa, Biti and others are struggling to campaign on issues, preferring instead, the use of innuendos and ridicule. Whenever Chamisa has gone the issues way he has sounded much like ZANU-PF and ED.

Thokozani Khupe, like Justice Priscilla Chigumba, is abused and called a prostitute for daring to oppose Nelson Chamisa. Those who shout themselves hoarse on behalf of Nelson Chamisa with their ludicrous “Chamisa chete” chant do not realise that if at some point in future Chamisa should make it to State House the road to his becoming a tin-pot dictator will have begun now and that they will have aided and abetted the transformation.

Joice Mujuru and her Rainbow Coalition will soon be among the also-rans. Mujuru turned her back on the armed struggle in 2016 when she castigated it on BBC Hard Talk and Al Jazeera. She really has nothing to offer as a politician the way she has trampled on the country’s inheritance does not inspire confidence.

The country has been on tenterhooks, more or less, with Nelson Chamisa threatening Armageddon if the election does not give victory to him and his party. He has literally promised to unleash chaos and violence, much against the wishes of everyone else competing. The reason for his ebullience and apparent intransigence is not, however, far to seek. His brinkmanship has had a clear though undeclared purpose.

The West is not too keen to be associated with its former project in the MDC, and has moved on. That is why there has been a toning down of hostility against ZANU-PF in the era of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Consequently, the MDC Alliance is broke, and therefore has no resources to speak of, its former sponsors having jumped ship. To date there has not been a single MDC Alliance advertisement on television. There is no money to pay for such media.

In the circumstances prevailing, MDC Alliance people decided to find a default position for their campaigning. The default position was ZEC! Constantly reviling and targetting ZEC was an alternative way of campaigning and improving upon visibility, especially since rallies in ZANU-PF strong areas tended to produce diminishing returns with each outing.

There will likely still be a bit of posturing until perhaps the eve of the election itself. The thinking in the Alliance appears to be that any kind of publicity is useful and can be productive. At any rate the Alliance has made sure to remain topical on almost a daily basis. However, some of the tactics are premised on the thinking that the electorate will not see through the party’s ruses.

According to Paul Mangwana, ZANU-PF’s secretary for legal affairs, a sitting government does not stop its programmes because an election is pending. Current government programmes give ED considerable visibility and endear him even to the formerly disenchanted white populace. And the prevailing peace as well as the new investments make ED a man of his word.

Soon we shall know who the real deal is.