By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
On 2 February 2018, Nelson Chamisa turns 40 and is constitutionally qualified to become President of Zimbabwe. Many will no doubt be celebrating this milestone with him.
However, events over the last few days have demonstrated a big gap between legal maturity and actual maturity. In fact, if there ever was a time to conclude that children should never trusted with the Presidency (see Macron and his ‘Africans breed too many children’ comments), that would be now.
Addressing a group of loyal and expectant supporters in Mutare recently, Nelson Chamisa claimed that the United States President, Donald Trump, had promised him and Biti that as soon as they win our coming elections, the United States would give the MDC government $15-billion to help rebuild our economy.
First, is this true?
The short answer is, not likely. The United States embassy has come out with a statement to say that this claim is false. Like any other government on this planet, they do not offer money to some random people or political parties.
It also seems a touch implausible.
The young man might have been impressed with the furniture and fittings at Congress but the sad reality is that “the Donald’s” United States does not have pocket change in the region of $15-billion to throw at some shithole country when ‘the Donald’ is trying very hard to get his own Congress to authorise about as much to build his precious wall on the Mexican border.
Besides, the claim rings disturbingly familiar. After spending the last two election cycles waving around a red card and claiming that Mugabe was too old to be President, it seems decidedly convenient the MDC believed with religious piety his claim that $15-billion disappeared from our diamonds. $15-billion, it seems, is a number that excites people’s tender parts in the higher echelons of the MDC.
Which makes sense, when you are trying to make people forget your claim about building a $100-billion economy it pays to start waving around some change.
So, if the claim is not true, why did he say it?
Maybe, because he thinks Zimbabweans are gullible. We are so backward, wallowing under 15 blankets of paganism in our shithole country and will lap up anything that he, having recently returned from America to ask for continued sanctions, claims to be true.
Or maybe he is so desperate to sanitise that USA trip that it becomes necessary to bend facts to fit his new narrative. Asking for sanctions (fact, because when you ask for American policy to continue until elections are held, when said current American policy is ZIDERA, then you are asking for sanctions) is not good optics. Having been excoriated something awful about that betrayal, the young man is possibly grasping at straws to try and sanitise that trip, and paint it as one whose purpose was to get us money.
The cynical calculation is that if we buy into this cockaminny lie about a promise for $15-billion, we might forget the ‘continue the sanctions’ bit. And the sad thing is that this is the best explanation we might hope for. Because the more reckless calculation in saying this lie is that we are so stupid, so gullible, that we will believe it. And he might not be wrong: I spoke to a youth in Eastlea the other day who said ‘Chamisa is a pastor, he would not lie.’
When l was in high school I had a friend called Sikhumbuzo Shoko (MHSRIP). He was endowed with a quick wit and the ability to use very few words to dissect any situation with clarity. One of his signature statements was: gudo ranunga pembe (a baboon has picked up a whistle). He deployed this to good effect each time someone that had something good going for them started to grow airs and try to appear cleverer and better than us all. How apt.
This reckless episode has again reminded us about the paucity of leadership in the opposition. One leader was prone to make uncosted claims about a $100-billion economy. Now the one stepping forward is barely out of his crib and already spewing lies.
But worse, making such a claim was such an immature stunt that it brings to the fore the question about the position of youths in our politics. True, there are 20-something year olds in our country that would have known that even if Trump had promised them 15 bhinza you don’t go around some shithole town telling people about it because that makes him look bad to the governments of other shithole countries in Africa. But the sheer recklessness of it, the inability to see that dzimwe nyaya hadzivhukunyugwi pavanhu, is indicative of the dangerous immaturity yegudo ranunga pembe.
It was inevitable that once the story was out there, the American embassy would pick it up. It was inevitable that once the American embassy picked up the story, they would have to respond. It was inevitable that in their response, the American embassy would have to deny that such an offer was ever made, even if it was, as international diplomacy demands it. It was inevitable that once the story was out, even if the offer had been made, mari yacho haichatouyi.
Any mature person would have known that.
It is immature to be excitable about matters of state. It is immature to tattle-tale about zvinhu zvazuhwiwa pavakuru. It is immature to be reckless about matters of diplomacy and international relations. It is immature to be blind to the fact that when foreign governments hold closed door meetings with you they do so with an expectation of confidentiality. A mature person would sieve what they have to say in public, not get excitable about having found some good ziana to share.
We have a young pretender to the Presidency. In between jumping ahead of elected officials and accusing senior people in his party like Gutu of daydreaming, he wades into a diplomatic blunder with an ill-thought and immature lie about some non-existent $15-billion. While it was probably okay to act this way in student politics (then, you could make uncosted promises to buy buses even though you had zero idea about source of funds), this is perhaps a bit more serious.
We are told that the youths must lead. That the Macrons and Camerons of this world are the way to go. One recklessly accused all Africans of breeding like rabbits, the other recklessly took his country into Brexit when he did not need to and did not even want to.
My wife will not enjoy reading this, she says that we must never have to talk about people disparagingly in our politics. And I agree. But perhaps, Susan, this is different. When someone shows you they are immature, the best thing you can do is to believe them. Before it is too late.
Before entrusting the collective destinies of all circa 15 million of us kumunhu achiri kubuda mukaka pamhino, we need to look at this episode and say: this right here is why children should not lead grown-ups. This right here is why this youth must not yet be offered for election as President. If ever.