Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Chamisa flying on broken wings

02 Jun 2018 at 15:28hrs | Views
Following the passing on of Tsvangirai, the late leader of a faction of the MDC, I had an animated discussion with some opposition figure whose identity I shall not disclose. Congenitally boisterous and energetic, this talkative politician loudly wondered why the sitting President had not taken advantage of Tsvangirai's clearly fatal condition to unite the nation through a second Government of National Unity. The national psyche, he ebulliently added, was ready for, and tolerant of, such an arrangement, what with the rainbow political energies which had been summoned spontaneously to bury the previous dispensation.

No one needed elections, least of all the MDC however configured, and now without its figurehead by way of the late Tsvangirai. In a seeming show of empathy and uncharacteristic political generosity for the Other, the politician asserted that ED needed time to consolidate his newfound position, as well as recover and rebuild the economy - evidently inherited in a parlous state - before calling for elections. So both the hunter and the quarry needed to catch some breath, thus creating a double coincidence of needs for political opposites, both playing out within a supportable national psyche!

A man of tales and tropes
I chose to play along so as to draw out this loquacious politician into revealing more. So I charitably demurred and agreed, even suggesting his proposals could raise a plausible argument likely to find favour with the new administration. Of course I was careful to qualify all that by stressing this was a view from an intimate watcher and interpreter of the national political puzzle. Smugly luxuriating in the assumed cogency and persuasiveness of his view and proposal – he knows me to be a tough customer when it comes to building scenarios – he happily detoured to make what he believed was a subtle case for himself, while wearing a pose of patriotic indifference. Before long, he summoned more from his creative skills, sauntering into humorous story-telling and trope-making. Once upon a time at a funeral, began his tale, there was this happy, braai-ng crowd looking forward to partaking of succulent pieces from chunks of beef that slowly roasted on a makeshift, wire-gauzed, oily braai stand.

Beneath the slowly browning chunks of meat flared irregular flames fed by melting fat which told of choicest portions that had been selected, obviously for a privileged caste of eaters. Sitting and chatting around the roasting embers were these village eminences who clearly had been sat by rank in anticipation of the great festival. Hanging around and expectant were these little, title-less men whose only hope lay in selfless "winks" from these village eminences. What was pretty clear was both an immutable pecking order which made leftovers or generosity a matter of forlorn hope. Clearly the festival was oversubscribed, which did not stop human hope from, as always, flowing eternal. Much worse, the wafted smell of roasting meat attracted more eager mouths, each addition to the swelling crowd translating into one more layer to an improbable miracle on feeding of the five thousand. The serve was definitely finite, the appetites ragingly infinite. Yet even though everyone knew the scarcity principle ruled, none gave up hope for a juicy piece. Human nature is incredibly complex, I tell you.

Elimination chores and errands
Slowly the end of a roasting phase approached, portending happiness for a few, empty hope for many. So, too, intensified knock-out or elimination subterfuges. First to go was an eager youth upon whom fell the lot of retrieving one elder's snuff horn left leaning by a long abandoned brick under the mango tree under which the elder had rolled up his threadbare blanket from the previous night's sleep. Next was a group of newly married ones whom the elders sent to check if the grave-diggers had gone deep enough. Hard on the heels of the newly-weds were middle-aged fathers who had to check if the diggers still had enough beer to keep them going. Chores and errands multiplied, all the time eliminating knots of eager by-standers. And with each departure, the privileged caste got happier, safer.

The drunk who saw with nostrils
Until all eyes turned to this habitual village drunk whom everyone thought was fast asleep from dregs of the potent brew which had kept mourners awake and dancing the previous night. No one noticed he "slept" with one eye, watched with the other, ready to stretch himself "awake" and "hungry" when the opportunity served. From his sleep, he knew the smell of a full roast, meaning even his wide-eyed nostrils "watched" the readying meal. One old man rose to collect salt, all in full but discreet view of the "sleeping" imbiber.

Before long, the elder doddered back, moaning of aching limbs. By which time two other elders were cutting the strings of meat into manageable pieces which were thrown back into the gauzed braai platform to keep the meat soft and simmering hot. The stage was all but set for a great, exclusive feast of chosen elders. The imbiber reasoned it was time he shook off sleep. Was it not the elders who said he harvests well who arrives when food is about to be eaten? He had arrived, only from the far-away Elysian kingdom!

Sand-salting stripes of meat
"Ahh-h, you want to dip into the meat with your unwashed hands," asked one outraged elder. "Besides, who from your age do you see here?" asked yet another. Realising how tactless his age-mates were, the third elder simulated hearty sympathy, politely asking the drunk to go fetch a poking twig from the bakwa - the shelter for faggots. Not that this was a heavy task. Only that the bakwa was quite some distance away from where the meat roasted. Clearly he would come back to an empty fire. After all, why would the elders need to poke the fire long after the meat had roasted and ripened for the mouth? "It's a smart plan to get rid of me," he concluded. Seemingly deferential and dutiful, he picked his broken slippers, and then tucked each into a spit made between his big and long toes.

He then stood upright, ready to go for the chore which the elders had set for him. With all eyes glued to the simmering and roiling strips of meat, none saw that the drunk had deliberately filled the heel-tip of his slippers with a thousand grains soil loosened by the dead man's plough a few days before. Then in a well-executed accident, he broadcast one "bushel" of sand grains, and then another, as he walked off. The drunk's effort hit the bull, effectively "sand-salting" the whole roast.

Who blinks first?
President ED Mnangagwa has now proclaimed the day for the 2018 harmonised elections. It is 30 July, just under two months hence. The political temperature is rising, with the two main political parties now on a campaign trail. It is a game of wits, with the so-called MDC Alliance perking Zanu-PF's rural stronghold, while Zanu-PF is perking the alliance's urban and yet-to-be tested demographic strongholds. On both sides, the shows have been impressive, leading the gullible many to wonder which side holds sway.

MDC Alliance has been at it, bagging upward of 45 rallies across the country. They started early, leaving the faint-hearted to wonder if Zanu-PF was not leaving matters until too late. The Alliance crowds have been well choreographed, in some corners successfully cheating the eye. But like I always tell people, crowds are the hardest text to read, made harder by the fact that parties go out of their way to cheat and falsify onlookers through them. The hope is to achieve a bandwagon effect.

Playing political "ups"
In the case of the MDC Alliance, the novelty of sizeable crowds in rural areas - however built - has made their act plausibly hit the watcher's eye, leading many willingly suspending healthy disbelief. Except there are key indicators which went unnoticed, all of which puncture their otherwise soaring numbers balloon. Firstly, until now, all their rallies were mere "ups" - uncontested, solitary acts unrequited by competition. Hardly do you gauge the performance of a team from unchallenged own-practice. This is why strong friendlies are still needed, well ahead of real matches. But the youthful MDC Alliance liked its own "ups", even vanquishing an opponent it feigned.

When a head-start is ruinous
Second - and we can say it now - the youthful MDC Alliance's head-start has turned out to be its ruin. The ABC of political campaigning warn that a campaign should not be long and drawn out, lest fatigue sets in. If any have watched closely, Chamisa has been losing against himself. The turnout to his current rallies compare drably with his early solo rallies. The interest has markedly declined, not helped by the paucity of messages compounded by repeated goofs. His messaging texture wears thin, thinner which each rally, which is why he has dwindled into a master of personal slights and abuses.

Pitted against an opponent who meekly and quietly absorbed slights and abuses during the heady G-40 days, Chamisa has helped stoke up ED's bank of victimhood, matched by dignified quietude. And the fact that Chamisa's solo act denied a sparring partner made his attacks on ED rather immature and gratuitous. Above all, he did not realise that for a society emerging from an era of reprehensible Presidential Youth Interface Rallies, there has developed into the national psyche a streak for positive, issue-oriented campaigning in place of attack messaging. The story of a mother-eagle which told her "child" to return the swooped chick of an uncomplaining dove, while allowing her child to devour the chick of raging hen, is illustrative. And where Chamisa has made age a campaign factor in a society given to revering elders, he comes across as a snotty juvenile who dares stand in front of elders.

Sparse resources, fewer friends
But a campaign fatigued in more ways than one. Indications are that resources are getting harder to come by with each rally. There are reports of desperate pitches to South African business interests, now that the West has shown disheartening disinterest. Not helped by periodic outbursts from the likes of Biti which have completed the alienation of the West. The presence in the country of the likes of Peter Hain and Kate Hoey, until now formidable opponents of Zanu-PF, just goes to show how western attitudes have undergone dramatic sea-change. And Zimbabwe's hastened application to re-join the Commonwealth even ahead of its December Annual People's Conference, shows how far Zanu-PF is ready to go to finish off MDC Alliance under western eyes. 2018 is one election where foreign policy has proved a quantifiable contributor to national electoral choice. And for a sanctions-pummelled society, victory goes to whoever shows the greatest promise to get the economy out of the present rut.

Unfinished, sapping primaries
Third, the solo campaign has been dissipated by the wasting conflict from badly handled party primaries. To be fair, primaries of both parties were badly run. But Zanu-PF successfully reframed its internal blips into the narrative of time-honoured internal democratic experimentation. What is more, it showed a better capacity to suture wounds from those party primaries than MDC Alliance. And by so doing, it put closure to its internal party primaries ahead of the proclamation. For the MDC Alliance, the party primaries amounted to a retreat from internal democracy.

Last week's indicative inside leak which suggested Chamisa was purging hostile factions ahead of the party's December congress suggests endless internal bloodletting right up to that congress. As I write, the MDC Alliance party primaries are still to conclude, fatefully inside the proclamation period and about 12 days to nomination day, which is June 14. Options are fast running out, which means even more blatant retreat from internal democracy, with the attendant bitterness which that brings along. Not to mention the grave shortage for healing time.

Flying on broken wings
Fourth and related to the preceding, fallouts with clear resonance and echoes in key mobilizing arms of the Alliance, principally the Youth and the Women Wings, leave Chamisa flying on broken wings. The Mukoyi-Hwende conflict is not only wasteful, but has also raised key moral questions on youth-led intra-party violence which, alongside the "vanguards", frames and brands MDC Alliance as the source of political electoral violence. Meanwhile, the Khupe side continues to bleed the Alliance through protracted legal challenges which Khupe does not need to win or speedily conclude. Alongside many others in the MDC Alliance, the idea is to sap Chamisa for a stout beating in the forthcoming 2018 elections, all to soften him for a party leadership challenge. Of course the rise of independents and readings of misogynistic politics in the Alliance does enervate the Alliance even more.

Enter an obdurate MDC-C
Fifth, spurred on by the Nyekorach snap polling result which showed MDC-C's Alliance partners as numerically insignificant on the ground, MDC-C is likely to be less likely to constituency-share with its lesser partners. The dilemma is real: placating Alliance partners risks giving away constituencies to Zanu-PF; denying them room risks dispiriting late withdrawals from the Alliance, which will see MDC-C limping into the crucial poll while exfoliating from all sides. To all that add the interest groups - both civil and business - which are boldly speaking against the MDC Alliance, and the outlook looks quite grim.

Elders behind the youth!
Sixth, Chamisa made a disastrous ideological misstep in his latest rallies held in Matabeleland South. Not many picked this hefty misstep. Departing from his youth-as-saviours mantra, he admitted that he was the youth which elders like Welshman Ncube had put forward to energetically run the race! Such a volte-face on a pillar campaign postulate suggested a messaging thrust and strategy which has collapsed from its author's self-doubt and self-belief. Much worse, it amounted to restoring maturity as the electable attribute in the 2018 harmonised elections.

That was an unexpected vote for Zanu-PF and its 75-year old candidate. Read against his rather childish claims, this message self-editing echoes right through to the heart of his whole campaign. If the late Tsvangirai needed "massive hand-holding" on account of modest intellect, Chamisa does equally need "massive hand-holding" on account of modest maturity levels. Not helped at all by the young man's penchant for unnecessary fights and provocations, including with foreigners and sitting heads of state of foreign countries. I mean, what is to be gained or got from provoking President Kagame who only comes back to bite you using the very technology you claim you taught him? Did it need much for Chamisa to realise he was touching off a raw nerve by challenging and wounding a foreign nation's sense of honour? To get what?

Retracing or abandoning?
Seventh and last by my count, Zanu-PF is now in the campaign ring, which means Chamisa can no longer be popular by default. Inter-party crowd comparisons will be the order of the day henceforth. And Zanu-PF's Gweru entry point pecked on MDC Alliance's assumed demographic forte. The myth has now been exploded. Equally, because Zanu-PF is now carrying out star rallies where the Alliance has been, all the ruling party needs to do is to draw better crowds against sheer fading memory of MDC Alliance crowds. The Chegutu follow-up to Gweru showed how deadly this is likely to be.

The Alliance may have to retrace its footsteps, itself an admission of defeat. Or move on, in which case the voter goes into the booth with fresh images of Zanu-PF's multitudes. As I see it, the more Zanu-PF pecks MDC's urban strongholds, the more the MDC is likely to abandon its rural rides, all to defend its supposed citadels. And once an opponent gets you to abandon your campaign strategy, you are dead meat.

What a bizarre, grim backdrop!
Yesterday, MDC Alliance held a delayed press conference at the home of the late Morgan Tsvangirai. Behind the conference top table were images of Tsvangirai obviously in his advanced state of illness. It is difficult to read what symbolism was meant to be achieved by this peculiarly bizarre backdrop which reminded watchers of the Alliance's unrelenting and immoral posthumous abuse of a dead man. Above all, it suggested a desperate trawling for a unifying symbol, itself an admission that the present leadership is both divisive and bereft of emotional appeal and intensity. Coupled with a myriad nicknames they arrogate unto themselves, all of them baffling and mirroring admiration for figures who were either terrible or colourless (Biblical Nero, Zaire's Wamba dia Wamba, Uganda's Professor Lulle, etc,etc), it is difficult to think beyond infantile self-exhortation only repeated in old age! But receding into childhood is a grown-up's prerogative, for as long, of course, they accept responsibility for it.

The late Mr Tsvangirai

Perverting section 59
My real point is the substance of the "pressa". From it, Biti, who spoke for the Alliance - what a choice at this stage in the campaign! - promised fire and brimstone for the country once and if the MDC sees it is about to lose the forthcoming elections. The chemistry demonstrated by the 45 or so rallies in the country, stressed Biti, showed the elections could only go the Alliance way! Even more ominously, should ZEC - an independent Constitutional Commission created at the instance of the MDC-T and its allies - fail to kow-tow to the Alliance's whims, then the Alliance, relying on Section 59 of the Constitution, will ensure "peaceful" rolling demonstrations which will prove to the British that stability before free, fair and credible elections is impossible. How "peaceful" demonstrations under Section 59 yield an unstable post-electoral Zimbabwe baffles the mind. How the same section lawfully empowers the Alliance to prevent - not boycott - elections which in their judgment don't favour them beforehand, again remains a matter of great puzzle.

Nor is this the end of the puzzle. Why an unhappy party organises more than 45 rallies well ahead of the proclamation dates, within a context of unmet demands by ZEC, is sure to raise many questions. And to defer registering its unhappiness until after proclamation of election dates and in the face of an emphatic show of crowd strength by its opponent against its own faltering campaign, is quite telling. Then the spacious but biliously put argument that release of the voter register in its audited form and an analysable format must be done before nomination, does betray sinister premeditation.

The drunk man in slippers
Gentle reader, the drunk man is about to rise for an unwanted chore! Biti made it clear he could not understand why elections have been set for July 30 when they could have been set for August 30! Get that? Biti was quite clear from this coming Tuesday, MDC Alliance will pull out of the campaign to start rolling demonstrations whose objective is to stop the plebiscite and create instability both for the nation and the British. Third, Biti was clear the rolling demonstrations will target ZEC and Munhumutapa, suggesting a clear intention to lock horns with the powers-that-be. I mean, if the perceived failures are from ZEC, why come to Munhumutapa, the seat of Government, as if it is running the elections?

By saying if observers are not in by 5th June, three days hence, who in this country are the Alliance holding responsible for deploying international observers? And by fearing to raise registered nominees for their candidates, is the Alliance not revealing how unready and unsure it is, indeed projecting a fear that it risks and fears defections right up to nomination day? In which case characters raised to nominate their candidate could very well rebel and opt out of the party on the last hour? Like I said, the drunk is up and about to shuffle his sand-filled slippers. Before long, the meat will get sand-salted. Ngachirire!

Source - the herald
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Get latest news by email: