By Hopewell Chin’ono
I had a nice surprise this morning from Nelson “Wamba Dia Wamba” Chamisa when he called to wish me a happy birthday. We joked about the seminal promise he made in my backyard of Murewa where he talked about building us an airport if he wins the next election.
Zimbabweans spent the whole weekend on social media discussing this issue and many other related aspects of our infrastructural needs triggered by this airport promise and some may say the bullet train.
I have now called these above and beyond promises, Wambologies. What ZANU PF supporters are missing is that Chamisa is disrupting the everyday conversations that we have by planting his futuristic ideas.
They are not accidental in my view, they are being deliberately placed in his overall engagement with his supporters and citizens at rallies to stimulate debate and to talk about the MDC Alliance and indeed Nelson Chamisa the presidential candidate.
These big ideas are getting us to talk not just about the them, but also about the immediate ones like the need for tarred roads, schools, clinics, universities, clean running water etcetera. They are broadening the scope of understanding and articulating our everyday needs as seen in the many social media debates and discussions over the weekend.
Throughout the day yesterday, Zimbabweans were talking to each other about their needs and what they consider to be important to their communities.
There are Zimbabweans like Dr Praise Matemavi, a transplant surgeon in Michigan in the US whose dream of coming back home has been delayed because Zimbabwe has no transplant surgery units.
She represents Zimbabweans who dared to dream big but had their dreams deferred by limited thinking within our health delivery system management.
The idea of an airport in rural Murewa planted at an election rally energized and allowed us to imagine the possibilities that lie ahead, it also gave us the peg to unmask our limitations which are a product of failed politics.
Chamisa is quite aware that the youth vote is King in this election, so he has deliberately focused his electoral messaging around their own dreams which are divorced from farming implements.
The perpetual and profound political influence he is having in our daily lives and on our national discourse is bold and healthy in a democracy. Whether he wins the election or not, he has dared us to think beyond the ordinary and to imagine the possibilities that lie ahead.
The hallmark of leadership is to dare, to be visionary and to tell your followers about what lies beyond their limited scope. The Martin Luther King telescopic type of vision. Leaders must transcend the limited boundaries set by average thinkers and turn their flock into believers.
Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore from being a third world backwater into a first world country in one generation. He pushed pragmatic long-term social and economic measures which saw Singapore being no different to New York.
Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product was at the same level with Ghana when the two countries became independent and yet the difference today is remarkable and vast. Lee Kuan Yew would have been ridiculed if he had said that his country would be where it is today. Nelson Chamisa is not talking about where Zimbabwe would be in December.
He is setting an agenda for the future like what all leaders should do, they should lead and lay foundations for future generations to follow when they are gone. The promises that Chamisa makes today might be realized when he is gone, similarly to how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech culminated in Barack Obama’s election in 2008, forty years after King’s death.
Martin Luther King was one year younger than Nelson Chamisa when he was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee in the United States. Yet he remains one of the most revolutionary thinkers of our time.
The idea that Nelson Chamisa is too young to lead a national party or rule a country is self defeating and is a reflection of our years of broken rule under Robert Mugabe.
Students of history will help us understand that almost all heroes of African liberation struggles were in their twenties when they made the most profound impact on their nations.
Chamisa is actually much older than many of the liberation luminaries both home and abroad.
Robert Mugabe was 36 when he was in ZAPU, Patrice Lumumba was 35 when he was killed in the Congo, Thomas Sankara was 37 when he was assassinated after revolutionizing and leading Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Josiah Tongogara was in his 30s when he took control of ZANLA and led them to victory on the eve of his death.
So it is the content of one’s politics that matters not their age. Age is not necessarily a prerequisite for wisdom.
What Nelson Chamisa has managed to do is to provide a platform for the representation of diverse views which are not necessarily limited to government dishing out maize and fertilizers, but a telescopic view for the citizen to imagine a world around them where they can guarantee their own food security.
His vision is not necessarily a matter of feeling and emotions which are devoid of rational thinking, he has managed to create unconstrained debate about where Zimbabwe should have been and provide a blue print of his own vision of where he can take us if he wins the election.
This debate should therefor be fought on policies which can be audited. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that Zimbabwe is Open for Business. He will also be required to show what it is his government has done to back up this declaratory and promissory statement.
The culture of patronage has seen the placement of thoroughly incompetent people through nepotistic corruption by the line cabinet ministers. The President has called for zero tolerance of corruption and yet many of his ministers are still demanding bribes, kickbacks and all manner of illegal payments from prospective investors.
This will kill the fervent energy and excitement which was created by the demise of the veteran dictator, Robert Mugabe. The current President is trying to allow his ministers to do their jobs by not overtly interfering with their work, however these ministers save for a few have gone back to their old ways.
This will undo the little progress that has been creating a sense of change. Change is not an event but it requires commitment to the cause. We have been victims of people who go into politics to amass wealth and not to serve the citizen.
Incompetence and corruption are fast becoming the key drivers and sources of the disillusionment setting in and strangling the President’s pronounced vision of an efficient Zimbabwe, where your success is hinged solely on your hard work and honest and not on who you know.
How can we be open for business when local entrepreneurs are being hindered by corrupt ministers and their surrogates whose sole aim is to engage in crude accumulation of wealth and hiring of incompetent company board directors chosen on the basis of nepotistic considerations.
The corruption tradition of nominating friends, lovers, family members, business partners and surrogates to parastatal boards has been with us for decades but it was accentuated in the last ten years and it hasn’t changed with the replacement of the former President.
It is important for President Mnangagwa to know that although he needs to allow the ministers in his cabinet to freely administer their portfolios, their failure will be legitimately tied to his office regardless of the election result.
He who appoints is responsible for the commissions and omissions of his team. The continuation of graft in government and its parastatals will bring the same pressures that came to define Mugabe’s last days to the new government.
The practice of a new minister appointing new board members to the parastatals under their watch has seen unqualified people naturally bringing down companies funded by the taxpayers.
When ministers are moved around to new portfolios, the same surrogates appear on the boards of the parastatals under their purvey.
Faced with this level of rot and the promise of a futuristic future, it is anyone’s guess how the unemployed youth will decide to cast their all important vote. The future is pronounced now not tomorrow.
We shouldn’t be constrained by today’s failures to think and dream big for tomorrow.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow. His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March. He can be contacted on email@example.com or on twitter @daddyhope