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Last December, a friend tweeted that he thought then MDC-T deputy president, Nelson Chamisa was the most overrated politician and my response was that I was tempted to agree with him.
By NQABA MATSHAZI
My gripe with Chamisa then was that he and his party seemed to be in a rush to endorse the military intervention that led to the ouster of Robert Mugabe as the President.
I felt and I still feel the opposition were very excitable and missed a golden opportunity to squeeze out some reforms from Zanu PF before beginning the process to impeach Mugabe.
That the motion was moved by James Maridadi, an MDC-T legislator was even more tragic, as they should have demanded such things as electoral reforms and the repeal of draconian laws as a precondition to them agreeing to be part of the impeachment motion.
Chamisa then went on radio and seemed at pains to explain the military’s move and failed to condemn their actions.
I felt that the opposition had let go of the most perfect opportunity to grab Zanu PF by the cojones and demand real reform, as one of the issues that they had always spoken out about was security sector reform and were against the involvement of the securocrats in civilian politics.
So, I responded to my friend that I was tempted to agree with him that Chamisa was overrated, because of my belief that they lacked a strategy in the way they dealt with Zanu PF and seemed to be reactive rather than setting an agenda.
Hours after my tweet, Chamisa called me and we had a lengthy conversation about my opinion about his actions.
His gambit was: “My brother, what wrong have I done to you? If you think I have done wrong or I am lost, you should engage me.”
Without having to, he explained his actions, told me his vision, some of it made sense, some of it was cloaked in legalese and some of it I did not agree with outright, but we had a very frank discussion.
I liked his honesty and his willingness to engage, although I felt the opposition had dug itself a very big hole and would suffer in elections due later this year.
In spite of my reservations and fears, I have watched Chamisa’s stock soar in recent months, with the elections expected to be quite interesting and not as obvious as some had thought they would be.
Before and in the aftermath of Mugabe’s ouster, the consensus was that Zanu PF was cat-walking to an easy victory.
The opposition was divided, they did not have one voice and the prospects of a coalition were dimming with each single day.
After President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over, there again was unanimity that the electorate would elect him because they were grateful for his role in the removal of Mugabe.
Mnangagwa had the momentum and had everything going for him until the death of MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, which led to Chamisa’s fortuitous ascendancy.
Chamisa has dared opposition supporters to dream once again and thousands of them are flocking to his rallies, something that was not thinkable three months ago.
The apathy that greeted opposition politics has all but vanished, as suddenly there is the real prospect of a battle in the next elections. The rise of Chamisa has
renewed, reinvigorated and regenerated MDC-T and once again there is a whiff of change in the air.
To buttress my point; the opposition is more divided now than it was three months ago, the prospects of a broad-based alliance are still as dim as they were a few moons ago, but that indifference that was there is all but vanishing. Critics will point to Chamisa’s tendency of over-promising at rallies, where he tells his supporters that were he to be elected, his government will build “spaghetti roads” and airports in places like Murewa.
This may sound too far-fetched – and it is – but the criticism has been over the top and lacked nuance, as critics fail to take into consideration his message and the audience.
In rural areas, Chamisa is addressing people that have seen their livelihoods waste away, who had lost confidence and are desperate for any message of hope.
These are people, who over the years, have only received mundane electoral messages; that the government would build bridges and roads, but now they are being given a different message of something they can aspire to.
As Miss Kache posted on Twitter: “One of Mugabeism’s biggest tragedies is the fact that we stopped dreaming and believing that we are able to do more for our country!
“A high speed train that actually exists in other African countries is considered far-fetched.”
Zimbabweans have been sold short by their politicians for years and have had to defer most of their dreams, and now there is someone who is daring them to dream again and think of beyond their present circumstances.
Beyond the over-promising, I listened to an interview Chamisa did with fellow journalist, Zenzele Ndebele and I was impressed with his clarity and understand why he is the flavour of the month.
This is not to say he is without fault and many criticise the way he came into power, questioning the way he conducted himself.
Some accuse him of lacking maturity and being too young.
But whatever the case, Zimbabwe’s political landscape is stronger with Chamisa and this strengthens democracy, where one party is not permitted to be too strong and is checked by other parties.
Chamisa has lightened up the political scene and has given the once apathetic a reason to believe that his party cannot only salvage something from the polls, but win it outright.