Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has once again been caught offside after claiming at a rally in Beitbridge that he had helped grow the economy of Rwanda.
“I helped President Kagame Turn Rwanda into Economic Success”, was the headline on one of the traditionally pro-opposition news sites.
The claim was backed by some kind of video of Chamisa addressing the crowds in his now infamously flippant, rustic way.
For the eagle-eyed, there seemed to be something wrong and cynical about the claim and Zimbabweans started flagging the offending story, ensuing a massive debate on online platforms, especially Twitter.
By Tuesday evening, people of Rwanda, including top officials, were challenging, nay, pouring scorn on Chamisa’s claims.
By midnight, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, issued a statement on his Twitter account, dismissing Chamisa’s claims, clarifying that he had not met the Zimbabwean politician, much less got the revolutionary service that the latter claimed.
Kagame clarified that Rwanda’s ICT policy actually pre-dated the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, Chamisa’s party.
On Wednesday, the debate had grown in ferocity and the Chamisa public relations machine had managed to dig up some pictures of Chamisa greeting the Rwandan President to confirm that the two had indeed met!
On the other hand – “nerrorists” – the fierce supporters of the MDC faction president came out in full force to defend the indefensible and started attacking Rwanda and its people.
Someone described them as the “Online Vanguard”, a reference to the notorious and violent militia controlled by the party to unleash terror on internal and external opponents.
But it all carried the air of a farce.
Chamisa has just become a farce himself through a series of such incidents: they call it name-dropping as a propaganda technique when someone mentions the name of a person to claim association and credit.
In the last few months, Chamisa, while addressing rallies, has made it his technique of choice.
He has claimed that he met Donald Trump, the United States President, and got the promise of $15 billion funding, but the US denied that the two ever met, nor was such promise made.
Chamisa claimed that he met the family of the late national hero Joshua Nkomo and was given Father Zimbabwe’s walking stick, only for the family to refute that. Quite angrily. He claimed, too, that he went to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the Queen of England.
There, he claimed to have met UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the halls of the UK parliament. None of the above is true.
Chamisa has become a habitual liar, in that pathological and compulsive way.
That is on top of making improbable and outlandish election promises.
Two things, on close analysis, may inform this extraordinary and cheap lying streak.
Chamisa thinks lowly of his audiences – at least those at his rallies – who dutifully cheer him on.
He does not care about what his more sophisticated audiences, and critics included, may think.
This is politics, and politics of the post-truth era!
To stave off scrutiny, he and his supporters will dismiss critics as belonging to Zanu-PF.
Which is a low blow, of course.
Interestingly, during the BBC Hardtalk programme a few weeks back, he was caught out by the interviewer.
Not to mention that the “Online Vanguard” and “nerrorists” in general had a lot to say about the Hardtalk being allegedly bought off by Zanu-PF!
After the latest incident, Chamisa will have no doubt a lot to reflect on, especially in a quieter moment, probably in the company of his beautiful wife, barely disturbed by the “Vanguard” that he has surrounded himself with, which no doubt is making things difficult for him.
With each display of this nature, Chamisa is losing the respect of serious people from the level of the voter to diplomats.
Many in opposition entertained hope and optimism in Chamisa’s charisma and articulation.
He has apparently veered off course, to play a low-level populist with comedic tendencies.
It was a characteristic that was noted by that UK academic, who was most unfortunate to catalogue a number of Chamisa’s weaknesses before the “nerrorists” and “Online Vanguard” turned on her with fury.
But Chamisa would do well to reflect seriously on his oratory and statesmanship with a view of giving the nation a better opposition.
One begins to miss dear old Morgan Tsvangirai, who died on Valentine’s Day (May his soul rest in peace!)
For all his weaknesses, limited education, his faux pasand questionable meetings that sometimes bordered on the treacherous, Tsvangirai met real people and practised some kind of respectable statesmanship.
His successor has run into an embarrassment fast.
He will need to learn a lot – and that is not in time for 2018 elections which are just about 60 days to go.
He will need to learn to refine his art of propaganda.
According to Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan in their “Concise Dictionary of Politics” (2009), the word (and idea) of propaganda originated in the office of the Roman Catholic Church with an office charged with spreading of the faith, known as “propaganda de faith”.
The word would enter common usage in the second quarter of the 20th century, employed by fascists, Nazis and Bolsheviks to develop legitimacy and social control by overcoming the broadly based cultural hegemony of antecedent regimes.
According to the authors, propaganda would soon be directed toward populations of other states, in particular during the World and Cold Wars.
In recent years, it has become a “fine art” as part of sophisticated marketing both for state policy and consumer goods in the commercial world.
Chamisa is not there yet and is marketing himself so poorly it is embarrassing to his fair-minded supporters while he obviously will not win any support for this shameless crap.
It’s a failure of, and in, propaganda de faith!