By Retlaw Matatu Matorwa
Frenzy over the election promises made by the president of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, in Chinhoyi last week has gripped the media.
Chamisa promised Zimbabweans a bullet train should they vote for his party in the coming elections.
Addressing party supporters, Chamisa said the bullet train would travel from Harare to Bulawayo, a distance of 446 km, in 35 minutes.
Though positive, the promise attracted mixed feelings from the public emanating from the practicality of the distance and time.
Supporters of Chamisa opined that the debate was majoring on the minor, whilst on the other hand, some are reasoning that the contents of Chamisa’s promise is pertinent – it goes beyond questioning distance over time.
Holding political leaders to account requires an active citizenry who are able to decipher, pay attention and listen to election campaign speeches.
These speeches are imperative for the electorate to make informed decisions on the candidates who best deserve their votes.
The same speeches provide the electorate with the direction, beliefs, policies and ideologies of a candidate or the political party he or she is affiliated to.
In this regard, the phrasing, wording and facts contained in such speeches are very important. It is therefore beneficial to a politician to ensure that the facts he presents to the electorate are accurate, feasible and achievable.
A politician who cares for his future must guard against over promising, lying to and exciting the electorate with unattainable goals.
This media frenzy is interesting and is a positive indicator that citizens are actively taking an interest in this election process.
It may also mean that the Zimbabwean electorate is hungry for substance and not smooth talkers.
It is helpful for Chamisa to note that in the last 37 years, the country was ruled by a talker of great repute – people are tired of oratory.
Gone are the days for politicians who promise rockets to communities without roads, schools, hospitals and jobs to sustain their families.
Chamisa is no longer at a point where he can use figures, facts and defend them by suggesting “it was figuratively spoken” as being put forward by some of his supporters on social media.
Using facts and figures figuratively resulted in despondency in this country – the case of $15 billion should be a good lesson for Chamisa.
Chamisa, the nation will not make their choices based on figurative promises, we pray for substance.
It is wrong to excite the electorate with unattainable promises in exchange for votes.
This practice is not only a political malpractice, but an indicator of how much the campaigning candidate disrespects the electorate.
Chamisa had nothing to lose, should he have promised the electorate a bullet train which beats this distance in two (2) hours, was it not good enough?
The mistake the MDC leader made was assuming that the intended beneficiaries (electorate) would not reflect on this election promise.
From this debate, the writer observes that today’s voters are rational and not gullible – after euphoria comes reflection.
Chamisa may have erroneously reasoned that his oratory skills will exempt him from public scrutiny.
Jawbreakers do not translate into facts – what the electorate expects of Chamisa is a cutting-edge campaign which is honesty and worth of earning people’s trust.
On a positive note, this frenzy sets in motion a good precedence for Zimbabwean politicians.
The era for exciting the electorate with unattainable promises is over.
Today’s citizenry has the means at their disposal to evaluate the nature of your undertakings; they are now able to independently weigh the merits of promises made to them.
Zimbabweans now know what forms part of their priorities.
Zimbabweans are becoming progressively rational in their approach to making political choices.
They are no longer taking as gospel truth what politicians promise during electioneering.
It is also their right to subject the claims of any undertakings by politicians to scrutiny – that is what responsible citizenship is all about.
What this writer finds outrageous is the assumption by pro-Chamisa elements that questioning the content of his promise is an attack on his campaign.
Far from it, the electorate is within their rights to reflect on these promises and raise a red flag where necessary.
Taking into consideration the media hype his promise has created, Chamisa’s trustworthiness is at stake – the electorate does not want to be taken for granted pastor!
This statement by Pastor Chamisa can be equated to reading a wrong scripture or quoting a non-existing chapter in the Bible, in return the pastor receives praise from the congregation.
Next Sunday, if one worshipper comes back to the church arguing hearsay for quoting the wrong verse or non-existing chapter, can we surely conclude that the devil is attacking the church?
It would be interesting to observe if Chamisa will give this matter attention.
Will he stick by his story? Or use the figurative defence: was it a slip of his tongue or was he misquoted?
Will he apologize for it? Does he feel the need to even act on this media frenzy?
In whichever way, Advocate, Hon, president Chamisa decides to react, Zimbabweans are watching.