Hopewell Chin’ono: Chamisa needs to stick to written speeches because he is bleeding middle class vote

By Hopewell Chin’ono

Zimbabwe hasn’t had a brilliant political orator of Robert Mugabe’s proportions, but even Bob, the titanic speaker of note, stuck to his written scripts and speeches and would only deviate to emphasize a point which would have been well thought out already.

MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa
MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa

Barack Obama was light years ahead of Mugabe in speech delivery and oratory but even he stuck to speeches read via the teleprompter.

I will say this again, Nelson “Wamba” Chamisa needs to stick to written scripts and speeches because he is bleeding the middle class vote that might not necessarily vote for Emmerson Mnangagwa, but will simply stay at home.

Many of these affluent and educated voters are finding his hyperbole statements, declarations and analogies like the latest one where he declares familiarity to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, to be comical and embarrassing.

It is not what he meant to say that matters, it is the initial perception that it created in people’s minds and the subsequent denials that run contrary to the video evidence.

Wamba called Kagame his big brother, that is not a problem at all, but he went to say that he helped Paul Kagame with his ICT policy in Geneva where Wamba was attending a conference with Robert Mugabe.

He went on to say that Kagame was so mesmerised with him such that he asked Robert Mugabe where exactly Wamba was from (perhaps in regards to political party affiliation) adding that Mugabe lied that Wamba was from ZANUPF.  

Well, nobody knows whether that part of his affiliation is true or not but that is beside the point.

These are the declared and known facts that nobody can deny because they are on video, this is what Paul Kagame refuted and called a lie.

Kagame did not deny meeting Wamba, he denied knowing him, anyone who has worked with politicians knows that they meet thousands of people and Kagame is more of a rock star and enigma wherever he goes.

It would be foolhardy to think that because they met, therefore Kagame should know and remember Wamba. That is the crux of the matter.

Kagame was basically saying that he never got any help for his ICT policy from Wamba and that he doesn’t know him. Meeting and knowing someone are two different things.

Nelson Chamisa has since restructured what he meant in tweet to Paul Kagame.

“Your Excellency, you’re not expected to remember everything. We met at a conference a few years back & you requested your ICT DG to get a copy of a presentation I had given,” Chamisa said today

But is that synonymous with helping Paul Kagame with his ICT?

I find the embarrassing defences by Wamba’s supporters disappointing, Wamba did not tell the truth and yet their response is to mount an abusive twitter campaign calling President Kagame names for simply setting the record straight.

This is the same Paul Kagame who is the current Africa Union Chair who they might run to if they have issues with the political process in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t end there, the Rwandese Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo tweeted, “….this man (Chamisa) actually went to Geneva without any plans to meet the President of Rwanda, somehow ran into him, and happened to carry with him an ICT plan for Rwanda?”

Only a mindless Wamba supporter would see this new Wambology and the responses it has elicited from the Rwandese as nothing at all as many of his supporters have since claimed.

Some have even asked why the Rwandese President responded, of course his job is to protect the integrity of his country, he didn’t like the idea that someone was claiming credit for something that they didn’t do.

It is similar to a man who goes around saying that the house you live in is theirs when it is not true. Can you be accused of calling them out?

Rwandese ICT policy and implementation was driven by Jean Philbert Nsengimana.
Nsengimana is the current Rwandese ICT minister and is a software engineer by training.

He holds a Master of Science degree in Information and Communication Technology and he majored in Software Engineering. He also has a Masters in Business Administration, majoring in Information Technology Management.

So any responsible President would have corrected an anomaly created by a campaigning foreign politician, a lie that has found its way into the mainstream media especially if it removes credit where it is due.

Accusing Kagame of setting the record straight is literally saying that he should have allowed the lie to stand. Political players should not invoke foreign country interventions that are not true if they don’t want foreign Presidents to call them out.

Anyone who thinks that Wamba’s lies should be defended regardless does not hold Nelson Chamisa’s interests at heart. They are sycophants.

Wamba can’t win an election by throwing these Wambologies! They will be fact checked and each time they fail to meet the truthfulness test, it is a dent to his stature and leadership and consequentially to his election campaign.

Some of his respectable supporters were quick to draw false equivalences to ZANUPF lies, but they are forgetting that Wamba is campaigning on a different standard, that he has told the country that he is different from ZANU PF and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

We have 38 years of historical evidence of ZANUPF’s commissions and omissions, the reason why there is an election is because others are saying that they can do better than ZANUPF.

So defending your man by using the ZANU PF standard defeats the whole purpose of the MDC T Alliance war cry of Change/Chinja/Guqula, because we have been fed lies by ZANU PF’s governments and you are proving to be the same when you are still in opposition.

Some of Wamba’s supporters came out guns blazing saying that he doesn’t need the middle class vote that has been vocal against his Wambologies.

What these folks forget is that a lot of young people don’t like being lied to, more so if they are able to figure out that you have lied to them about.

In communication, if you are having to follow up every election rally address by your leader with explanations of what he meant in his address, then change your strategy otherwise you will sink.

Bit by bit I am seeing the MDC Alliance loosening their electoral grip and chances and very soon that grip will be released if they continue at this rate.

In any election, every vote matters, but unfortunately the MDC T Alliance supporters seem not to think so.

This is a real low for Wamba and his team to have a President of another country and that country’s Foreign Minister intervene by calling him a liar.

Wamba needs solid advisors and not cheerleaders and job seekers who are afraid to criticise him and will defend any nonsense that he peddles.

This is how Robert Mugabe became the monster we all loved to hate, he was cheered on whilst on a ruinous path and had thoughtless supporters who defended his actions regardless, sometimes with violence too.

I have no doubt that Wamba was once in the same room as President Kagame, but it is context that matters and how it is perceived.

I too spent two successive days with Ghanaian President John Kufuor in Accra after winning the African Journalist of the Year Award, but I can’t claim that he knows me. The next time I met him, I had to remind him who I was and of course he only remembered when I matched his memory to the event.

This is exactly what happened between President Kagame and Wamba, they met in a room full of people and to claim that he then helped Kagame with his ICT policy in that room is quite incredulous.

Wamba’s message started off praising Rwanda but however, the small detail (wambology) that he decided to add in order to put some flesh to his story and personalize it is what sunk him.

His supporters will come out anyway to defend him as usual, abuse anyone who is critiquing him, but there is one point that they are missing.

It is not what they believe to be the truth that matters, it is what the consumers of that message take home after Wamba’s rallies that is the main ingredient.

Now let us look at where Wamba made these startling remarks, he was in Beit Bridge. Half of his audience if not more didn’t know where Rwanda is, let alone know who Paul Kagame was.

Was that hyperbolic intervention and boast about helping Kagame really necessary?
Zimbabwe has a myriad of problems that are immediate to the voters, both those living in abject poverty or the ones in the Northern Suburbs of Harare have immediate issues.

There is no clean running water in Beit Bridge, there are no jobs, the healthcare is broken, schools don’t have books, roads are not repaired, no money in the banks and the list goes on.

Why not focus on these immediate issues that are legitimately ZANU PF’s baby instead of his hyperbole of meeting Trump, bullet trains, airports in Murewa, turning Matopos into a City and so on and so forth?

Are these the real issues that the voter wants attended to immediately?

It is either Wamba changes his strategy and sticks to written scripts and speeches or more outrageous Wambologies will not only sink him but will help cement his name in the Blues Hall of Fame!

For him it might be political theatre to roubble rouse and energise his social base, but it becomes complex, destructive and unhelpful to his cause if it is rooted in lies and half truths.

Wamba is a Presedential candidate of the biggest opposition party in the country, he is not some small time prospective councillor from Dotito. Every word he says will be scrutinised and that in itself is part of democracy.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.
He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind that is coming out in June. It will be launched in Harare and Johannesburg by Graca Machel.

Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope

State of Mind Trailer