Tinomudaishe Chinyoka: No excuses, electoral reforms are all around us

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

A scarecrow does not really do anything to crows. It certainly does not scare crows. Instead, the crows see it and, on the basis of an assumption that they make about the threat it poses to their life and limp, the crows are scared away.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

It is the same with the famed ‘goritoto’. Spoiler alert: they don’t exist. But tell that to those who fear them. I was driving with family at night one day recently and my niece started talking about how this fiend of the night can move from one side to the other in the blink of an eye, it’s light the only evidence you have that it was changed places.

So vivid was her description of the monster ‘goritoto’ that l noticed other passengers go quiet, and I could be wrong but l think I heard a few mumbled prayers. And, as we approached the outskirts of Gweru, I swear that in the flickering early lights of the City of Progress, for a second I thought I saw a few magoritoto.

We create our own monsters, and give them power, and we run not from the monster but from the power that we have given them. The monster remains inanimate, but boy are the powers so real, so alive! Despite clear evidence that the monster does not exist, we are more convinced that it does by the very sight of such evidence.

I was thinking this as I watched ZBC-TV news the other night. For a long time, the news focused on the opposition candidates running for President.

In deliberative Shona which quickly morphed into jaw breaking English, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance explained that his party would not go into the polls unless there were reforms, chief of which was equal access to the media, plus access into the rural areas.

Seated in his chair behind a desk that perhaps made him look younger and smaller than he is, Zimbabwe flag nearby, you got a picture of what a putative President Chamisa might look like on his first SONA. Unconvincing is the word that comes to mind.

After he was done, there came the Banker, Nkosana Moyo. The man tried to sell his ‘no rallies’ strategy as the only rational way to campaign because, why, hadn’t he already been to all these places? He then went on to read from a script, and you felt sorry for the man: surely having rallies wouldn’t have stopped him going to these places, would it? But, he kept on reading from his list.

There were some comical moments in this: when he said Karoi, his ‘ro’ was so flat he sounded like he was describing a ‘smallanyana’ little witch, prompting my niece of the ‘goritoto’ expertise to say ‘asi haazi muShona or Zimbabwean?’ You saw the glint in Nkosana Moyo’s eye when he said some places, like ‘Nyika Growth Point in Bikita’ as if either to say “look, I know where it is!” or “yes, even l have come from lofty New York and have been to this place of yours!”

Then, like a man with time in his hands (I guess if you stand long enough in front of a banner saying ‘It is Time’ you get to think that we have all the time in the world to listen to whatever you have to say), Nkosana Moyo pivoted to an attack against his main rival for the opposition vote, Chamisa.

According to the banker, Chamisa simply can’t be President because he doesn’t understand finance. You need finance to be President, otherwise what solutions can you give us, he said. To his credit, the person asking the question didn’t then ask the Banker the hypocrisy of a Physics professor who took a finance job at TA Holdings and then Standard Bank before he had any finance or economics training saying this. And you have to wonder, if we elected this banker and hypothetically got attacked by a foreign nation, should he resign so that we have a president who understands Defence?

But, we digress. After the banker came other political parties, including one guy called Netanyahu something (it was hard to get the surname, that first name just cracked me up) whose theory is that the better than one million votes that have traditionally gone to the opposition is low hanging fruit for his party. Perhaps he sense a lot of disaffected voters not keen on having little airports built in their back gardens in case they don’t want to take the bullet train to church?

My point?

Well, this: Chamisa is talking about not taking part in elections because he wants reforms. These reforms are around access to state media and the ability to campaign in the rural areas without police interference.

BUT! Is that not happening? How does someone complain about lack of access to state media while being interviewed by state media? And, that list the banker thoroughly enjoyed reading? Those were overwhelmingly rural places that he has been to. Not once did the banker say that he had been stopped from campaigning in Nzvimbo, Murambinda, Jerera, Gaha, Chiredzi, Binga or all the other places he mentioned in very suspicious Shona. Not once.

So, what access does the MDC Alliance want to the rural areas? Maybe they want the government to create tar-macadamised roads so that their state of the art vehicles bought during the GNU can go there? Is that the access they need?

Because it surely can’t be the mere ability to go anywhere of their choosing, because that is already happening. Nkosana Moyo confirmed that, and he is not a government mouthpiece but one of the contestants.

Hence, my thoughts on monsters. The MDC narrative has become so ingrained in the mental psyche of its leaders that they can’t think of new realities. They can’t see that the monster is gone.   It is like that story I once told: when a village that was being terrorised by a crocodile finds out that the crocodile is dead, there will be a few villagers who want to resurrect the crocodile so that they might kill it themselves.

The access that the opposition have to state media is there for all to see, but in their minds we are still in pre-November 2017 mode. The rural areas are free for them to go to but it doesn’t fit into  their narrative because they want town rallies, where they can pull crowds. While others fish in the river, they would rather fish muchirongo, then complain that it’s because they weren’t allowed to go to the river. By whom?

The monster of Mugabe-era restrictions stands like a scarecrow in the electoral landscape and they are incapable or hearing that in the new dispensation, we have a contest of ideas not fists. Zanu-PF is going to win through the force of argument and delivery and not the argument of force.  Through a better candidate who promises tangible outcomes not fantasies and unrealistic claims of airports in Murewa to carry village tomatoes to Harare.

But they don’t want to hear that, they are stuck in the past.

That is why they got excited at the prospect of Mugabe joining NPF, because they would so love to run against Mugabe, not a President Mnangagwa who is actually delivering. During the President’s very successful trip to China, they kept talking about Mugabe’s trips, because this one they couldn’t criticise on substance and outcomes.

People who create their own piñatas have to destroy them on their own. The elections in 2018 will be free and fair, and no amount of referencing the past will change that. Those news interviews show that state media is ready to give voice to the opposition. Nkosana’s list shows that there is no place in Zimbabwe inaccessible to the opposition.

There should therefore be no excuse about not taking part in elections. Some of us are itching to vote because we want this country to get busy developing.

And yes, #EDhasMyVote.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Gweru based lawyer