Nelson Chamisa he leader of the MDC went on HardTalk over the weekend and most people felt his performance was underpar. He has been on the receiving end of many jokes and scathing memes none of these people have explained what he should have said or how he was supposed to respond. One person, a dear friend, mentor and social commentator, Francis Chapuredima, has imagined himself in Chamisa’s shoes and here is how thinks Chamisa should have responded.
1. You are clearly a man in a hurry but your critics think you are in a bit too much of a hurry. You understand that criticism?
First of all let me try to make it very clear that Zimbabwe’s case is not about me. As you have said in your introduction, we have been through decades of pain and so rather than Nelson Chamisa being in a hurry the reality is that Zimbabwe needs to be and is in a hurry to get our country fixed. The change we need cannot come sooner. So I hope you and my critics understand this urgency.
2. Talking about the man in a hurry because it was quite extraordinary what you did. Your former leader of the Movement for Democratic Change Morgan Tsvangirai died in South Africa, one day later you decided to seize the interim leadership of the party much to the consternation of the other party members. [Interjected]
Stephen, in President Tsvangirai we lost an icon. We will forever value and cherish his contribution to Zimbabwe. Be that as it may, and with all due respect to him and his family, is Zimbawe we have a saying that goes ‘kufa kwemujoni Kamba haivharwe’ this literally translates into ‘the death of corporal does not get the police station closed’. Now President Tsvangirai was no corporal, he was the Captain please note that. Further if you were to die today, I am sure your management will right away start to think of who will present the next Hardtalk. What am I saying? I am saying President Tsvangirai would want us to continue with this struggle. He was both a family man and also a political leader so I had no doubt that the family was handling what had to be done as soon as he passed on, but I saw it necessary to get our party leadership together to establish clearly the issues surrounding leadership.
3. You didn’t find the decency, respect for a man who has just passed and for his family and for the feeling of the party as a whole needed a pause and yet you wouldn’t pause?
I appreciate that you seem to be educating me on how our culture pauses and shows respect for the deceased and the family. However, let me tell you that in my culture after one dies a pause is expected and this pause sometimes goes on until the deceased clothes and personables are distributed out(we call it kugova nhumbi) after the burial of the person, and that can take upto three days for the ordinary citizen. At times some major decisions and issues can only be addressed a year after the death (after what we call kurova guva). So there you have it. We are talking about an icon and a leader of the biggest political party, at a time when Zimbabwe had just experienced a huge change and also as a party I am privy to some of the challenges we may have been facing at the time of his death. How long a pause did you recommend Stephen?
4. Well you make it all sound simple The Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo and Bulawayo of course is a stronghold of the opposition in Zimbabwe. The editorial in that paper said “we are appalled by Chamisa’s disrespect he’s showing to his leader by angling for his position just a day after his death.”
You seem to know a bit about The Chronicle, and I wonder if you are selectively leaving out the fact that the Chronicle is not the most objective publication when it comes to Zimbabwean opposition parties. Your quoting it verbatim seems to show facts, but please let the audience know that expecting an objective comment on Donald Trump from CNN is fantasy. That is all I have to say without repeating the answer I already gave you in the previous question before you interjected me. On a side note, gone are the days when just Bulawayo was a strong hold of the MDC. We have been a national movement for years Stephen. Both rural and urban, and all provinces. Moving on please try to let me finish my answers before interjecting. Hope I deserve at least that much respect as your guest?
5. But there’s disarray, that’s the problem. There’s disarray because by the time of his death Morgan Tsvangirai had three different deputies of whom you were one. But one of the others who was a long-standing vice president of the party Thoko Khupe she was so infuriated by your grab for the reins of power that she refused to accept it and now she’s running as an alternative MDC leader with her own team, her platform with the determination to destroy you.
What is so erratic about having three vice presidents? I am sure when President Tsvangirai made that decision he has his reasons for that. You bring up Thokozani Khupe, I find it interesting that you can her Thoko that sounds like a nickname that would be used by people closer to her than you would be. Be that as it may, what you said about her reactions and decisions is true but what I find shocking is that you say she wants to destroy me? This is the first time I am hearing this. I thought she did not agree with what the party decided and so she decided to go her own way in an effort to add to the voices that want to bring a better Zimbabwe. That is not destroying Chamisa is it? Assuming that is a fact, then hey destroying me will only destroy me and not the movement. Remember I said this is not about me?
6. You say we wanted to avoid disarray, you are not avoiding disarray in fact you have made the chaos inside your party.
Unfortunately the decision the party made, did not sit well with some of our colleagues and as a party we could only do so much to try and get everyone one the same page. We had to come to a point where we needed to let go and refocus on the bigger picture. This was a big change, and change theory would tell you that this was an expected outcome. We will soldier on with those who heeded our vision.
7. Well, we will talk about that, your message and how it’s being received in your country but let’s just prolong it longer with the politics of your party. You say it was all constitutional we did it by the book?
8. I doubt that there’s any rule book in your party that suggests that young thugs should physically intimidate people in your party that have other different views on who should be leader that’s what’s been happening.
You are very right. There is no rule book in our archives and current listings that condones any form of violence.
9. You are supposed to be different.
[This question would have been irrelevant]
10. Well if you are dealing with it do tell me what has happened to these young men who surrounded Thoko Khupe at the funeral in the same village while the funeral was taking place of Morgan Tsvangirai she was forced to take shelter in a hut and as the local reporting suggests, there’s a young man who tried to set that hut alight and as far as she was concerned, it was an attempt on her life and these people responsible for that action are supporters of yours.
Local reporting, I would be curious to know who these reporters are. As far as I know there is no local newspaper, radio, or TV station in President’s Tsvangirai’s Buhera. What I am aware though is that Thokozani Khupe made some statements describing the event. In any case, we apologize and regret that this happened to Thokozani Khupe and anyone else. However, let me make it clear that this was at a funeral, emotions were high, and all sorts of stories were going around on how the family felt about this person or that other one. Further, I am sorry to say that even as we try to educate our party members and supporters that we do not use violence we cannot fully control and account for the actions of all of them. These are real people, not machines, and as a political part we do not have perfect and sufficient machinery to control people’s actions and at times we even struggle to identify these criminals. Let alone at a funeral. These young men were wrong to do that, and a party we will continue to preach nonviolence to our supporters and everyone. Let me clearly state that as leadership we did not, and will never send our youth to attack anyone. You rightfully call them youth- those can be hard to control. Do you have a teenage child?
11. Could it be because the bad apples still seem to be in the bus when you say you have dealt with, that incident happened in February but on the fourth of March in Bulawayo Ms Khupe’s supporters were again attacked at a meeting that she was chairing.
We are a very big party with millions of supporters. Some of whom get very emotional and even angry if they feel certain people are going against the party policy. Not all of these supports are able to make the right decisions during these tense moments. This I accept as a reality of all humanity, and we continue to speak against violence and our party leadership system has a unit tasked with investigating all these issues and we follow our party guidelines on how to punish guilty parties, and at times Stephen the consequence may not necessarily be expulsion from the party. Often it gets legal as the victims may report to the police and in such cases our hands as a party get tied since we are not the law of the land.
12. I suppose the danger is that some of your supporters have picked up habits perhaps even tips from the way Zanu PF with Mugabe has done in so many years. In other words they are bad habits that have been formed in Zimbabwe that your party now seems to be taking on board itself.
◦ Habits of violence were not just used by Zanu PF with Mugabe alone. Emmerson Mnangagwa was with Mugabe the whole time. I am curious to know why you choose the former and leave his protégé? Otherwise no, as a party we are not adopting violent ways from any party. Rather, any of our supporters using violence need us to get them to stop or they risk being kicked out but again Stephen if you were to ask any of those violent people to show you’re their membership cards or subscriptions you may be shocked with what come out.
13. In what way, you say ‘been dealt with’, be specific with me that’s a broad term, what has happened, have they been expelled from the party, have they faced justice, and have they been in the courts?
Like I said earlier, there are certain disciplinary measures we can take and have taken such as suspending leaders or cautioning supporters but how do you expel a group of people from say one are who probably identify with the party but may not necessarily be in the structures formally? It is not easy. Why do you think the EPL fines the club when their fans break rules at games? It is a complicated process to especially if the law enforcement officers witness these incidents and do not make any arrests. Now when you talk about justice and courts, I hope you realize that as MDC we are not an arm of the justice system. We leave that to the legal and justice system of Zimbabwe to handle matters as and when reports are made, if they are, and then cases brought to court. I might be an Advocate but within MDC I am just the President of the party not a law enforcement agent.
14. Let us just talk a little bit about the legacy of Robert Mugabe before we get into the election policy platforms and your rivalry with Mr Mnangagwa for presidency. Do you want Robert Mugabe to face the courts, to face justice?
To be honest with you, just after Mugabe left office as Zimbabweans we just felt that it is all we needed. Right now our focus is on our country, every second we spend pondering on Mugabe might be waste.
15. Well of course deep structural issues are including, surely, an accounting for terrible violence gotten around the killings for example where thousands and thousands of people were killed. Wouldn’t Zimbabwe be a healthier society if people were held to account for what happened?
Stephen, Stephen you seem to be have a selective amnesia. Are you forgetting that all those atrocities were carried out when the current President Emmerson Mnangagwa was one of the top security bosses in Zimbabwe? May I humbly suggest that you spare me that question, and save it for when President Mnangagwa comes on Hard Talk. I totally agree on accountability and closure.
16. But the people of Zimbabwe would like to know what that means. For example, there were serious allegations floating around the country about missing billions revenues in the diamond industry reported to have gone missing after the government’s balance sheet…people would like to know are you prepared to take Robert and Grace Mugabe into court room?
Again, Robert Mugabe, if he was to go to any court, would have to bring along Emmerson Mnangagwa. The two cannot be done apart when it comes to being held accountable to Zimbabwe’s failures. So again, I can’t wait to watch Hard Talk and hear what President Mnangagwa says on this subject. I am equally curious.
17. So I will take that as a no, Mr Mugabe and Grace Mugabe can rest easy?
I think right now I think our time, energy, and resources need to focus on real issues affecting our people. I am sure if we stick to that path it will be very clear what needs to be done, and if we need to recover any resources for the nation for the people it will be very clear. Be that as it may, I am sure you are aware of the current administration position on the Mugabe family. They seem to have made up their minds to let them be. As MDC we are focusing on the bigger picture. The best gift we can give ourselves and Zimabweans who suffered under the Mnangagwa and Mugabe years is total freedom and a better Zimbabwe. I do not think a prisoned Mugabe will bring back our hospitals and universities. Do you Stephen?
18. I suppose nobody would dispute that what Zimbabwe needs right now is mature, responsible, wise leadership?
Is that a question?
19. Would it not be true to say that in the months that he has had power, Emmerson Mnangagwa has exhibited all of those qualities? He did set-up a truth and reconciliation commission. He has ensured that the process of the establishment of rules and parameters of elections are in place. Ballot papers have been printed. He has assured the international community it will be free and fair and invited the EU and the Commonwealth in Zimbabwe to send monitors. All that you welcome I can imagine?
Wait right there Stephen [I would have interjected here] where is this notion that Emmerson Mnangagwa has been in power for a few months coming from? Stephen Mugabe lost power in a way that showed you clearly that he was no longer in power. He was a figurehead. On top of that, for as long as Mnangagwa has been alive he has been in very powerful positions and was a decision maker. He even rose to become a Vice President. Mnangangwa has been a powerful leader and policy maker in Zimbabwe for decades. For almost the whole of my life- I am 40! So are we going to judge him based on those decades or based on these few months? If we want to be wise I say we judge him based on decades because that is when someone’s true colors come out.
20. When you say it maybe you sound partisan and defensive and maybe in longest I’m looking at independent analysts like Eldred Masunungure director of Mass Public Institute in Harare he says “ This election looks like it will be the freest and fairest and possibly most peaceful since 2000”
Mr Masunungure would be the first one to tell you that Emmerson Mnangagwa’s party, Zanu PF, has been making promises to Zimbabweans for decades. Can he tell me why we should believe him now? In any case why does an incumbent have to wait for elections to deliver? Who is delivering now?
21. The reason I talk about wisdom and responsibility and truth in that clearly in Zimbabwe political tempers tickle and rise very quickly.It did happen in the past. It seems to me you and one of your associates Tendai Biti have been stalking the flames in recent days. Tendai Biti said, “unless we get a clear commitment from the seccurocrats” by which I think he means the Zanu PF military nexus “unless we get a clear commitment from them that they won’t interfere the election” he says it will be a “sham” and you have said if you don’t get your way on things like ballot papers, you gonna bring the election to a halt, you are rising temperature?
Some members of the security sector are on record as having said that they will never recognize any leader without liberation credentials. Clearly that sounds like not a sustainable criteria since, at some point, there will be no one left with such a resume in Zimbabwe. So that is a cause of concern since we do not know what steps those secuty sector members are willing to take to ensure that they achieve such ends. Again, electoral reforms are not about Chamisa’s ways. These are about creating those free and fair elections Mr Masunungure talks about. These reforms should come, we have told the government, and they will benefit Zimbabwe beyond me. So we are raising those issues, and if that comes with increments in temperature who am I to hide the thermostat?
22. Well Emmerson Mnangagwa has a record and his record is since he got into power the talked about truth and reconciliation and passed measures to…(Chamisa interjects)
Please use his whole record, why is everyone forgetting that this man was not born on November 15, 2017?
23. Well I haven’t finished. He also passed the indigenization law and economic empowerment act which foreign investors seem to like. He’s also pledged to fight what you just described as the scourge of corruption. The man is actually delivering on a transformation?
Please use his whole record, why are you forgetting that this man was not born on November 15, 2017?
24. Why do you think governments like the UK government are reaching out to Mnangagwa and suggesting that they think he’s proven to be a good leader for Zimbabwe.
Is this a trap of some sort? You are the citizen, help me out. All I know is that in politics and international relations there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. I wish the UK well in their dealings with any government of the day. For us Zimbabwe we are permanently Zimbabweans and will do what is best for our country.
25. Well you keep telling me you have got that change. I guess it is an attractive slogan for many people in your country, but there’s a difference between making promises good enough in a world of fantasy. Let’s go through a few of yours. In January you told people of your country that you could solve Zimbabwe’s liquidity crisis in two weeks an indeed if you fail to do so, you would leave office because you said you are committed. Two weeks to solve liquidity crisis and that’s nonsense to me.
To you because you have never stood in a que overnight or for days only to withdraw £20 from HSBC. My statements are meant to resonate with the retired grannies who travel from rural areas to get their pensions, and end up sleeping in bank ques only to get £20 because the banks have no cash. It is a statement meant to show a sense of urgency and the people who need this hear us loud and clear, and no you are not one of them and it is fair for it to be nonsensical to you. I say count your blessings Stephen. Next question please.
26. With due respect Mr Chamisa, politicians will say they can fix a problem that has been dogging the country for years, fix it in two weeks that just sounds silly.
Please allow us to have dreams and be visionaries.
27. Well it reminds me of the promise you made to party supporters in Chinhoyi saying you gonna build a bullet train from Bulawayo to Harare, you said with this infrastructure it will help people to travel from one city to another in 35 minutes, that is beyond nonsense.
Again Stephen, these are things we say during rallies to express dreams and hope. We do not expect them to be taken that literal. We envisions fast trains in Zimbabwe. Is that ok with you?
28. I’m not a transport expert but it’s well over 400km from Bulawayo to Harare and with this train of yours it’s gonna be travelling at 800km per hour which by the way the fastest train in the whole world can’t take more than 400km an hour so I don’t know where you finding it from.
Stephen we are back to what I said already. After I finish delivering these speeches the last thing on the people’s minds is not the Speed = Distance/Time formula and Arithmetic. Rather they see a movement of visionaries, and those ideals give people energy and hope. That is the objective. There is a reason these are called political rallies they are not Arithmetic help sessions. In that regard, I can assure you that when someone thought of landing humans on the moon, someone called nonsense. Stephen, someday History will judge you. You wanna be on the side of hope. You do not need to be a transport expert to be a visionary.
29. Zimbabweans should they want politicians who are serious who talk about and make promises that can be delivered in fact the other promise can’t be delivered but one promise that seems to me you could never deliver if you want but maybe you wouldn’t want. Just a few days ago you made a speech saying you gonna chuck out all the Chinese investors and workers currently in Zimbabwe you aid I will call the Chinese and tell them that the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country, should that be good for Zimbabwe?
What is good for Zimbabwe are transparent deals with any country that are well audited and beneficial to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans in a sustainable way. My administration will not just adopt and sign on all deals done by the current administration without auditing them thoroughly. We will keep the good, and renegotiate, and if need be, I am afraid, we may need to say no to some deals if we are sure the deals do not benefit Zimbabwe in the long term. I think this is common when new administrations come into power. That is what I meant.
30. But the Chinese have delivered airports, have delivered roads they have delivered clean water and sanitation infrastructure and you want to throw them out?
Please refer to my answer above. Just remember that FDI comes with its advantages and disadvantages. We have the future to protect, we have the environment to protect. Economic Growth is great, but Economic Development is best.
31. But it is about credibility isn’t it, with all this you actually striking the right balance between populism and credibility?
In the long term credibility last longer than populism. What you are calling populism I called it appealing to the people with messages and issues that they resonate with.
32. You say you are a serious and credible guy and of course that has been measure not just in Zimbabwe but around the world. At the end of last year in Washington DC. You did see some senior people, congress people, you also claimed that you had seen Donald Trump, you claimed you had a conversation with him in which he asked you how much you needed to move the country forward, you told him $15 billion and he said to you he would provide the money if you won the election. That was not true, was it?
We did not meet President Donald Trump. We met some of his administration members.
33. What I mean is it’s not true that you had seen Donald Trump and Donald Trump indicated to you that he would provide if you won the election?
34. But look because there’s video that shows you at a rally in January back home in January you said Trump that you met Trump.
I think I have clarified this.
35. You are telling me you did not meet Donald Trump?
36. Did you tell the Americans that you would like to see the sanctions remain as long as Emmerson Mangagwa was in power?
No that is not accurate.
37. Emmerson Mnangagwa has all the instruments of power at his disposal, he has the backing of course the Zanu PF ruling party and the machine that goes with that. He is going to win this election isn’t, I mean you are putting a strong fight but he is gonna win?
We are in this to deliver a better Zimbabwe than what Zanu Pf has given us for decades. I do not see how such a value can lose.
38. I am getting, I suppose, a feeling from talking to people in Zimbabwe and reading the press in Zimbabwe that Zanu PF, because Mugabes are now off the scene Zanu PF still commands the loyalty of the people of Zimbabwe.
I do not have the numbers of Zanu PF supporters, let alone facts about their loyalty. What I can tell you is that come to Zimbabwe and attend some of our rallies and talk to the people. I am not too sure which corridors you are meeting and talking to the people you are hearing from.