Opinion & Columnist

Zimbos love betting their horses

Stir the pot: Paidamoyo Muzulu

Zimbabweans hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil against their favourite politicians even if they blatantly lie or make a guffaw.

The country has been stuck in a political “stalemate” since the July 2018 elections, with the main opposition MDC led by Nelson Chamisa disputing the presidential election results.
Chamisa and his followers contend they won the poll, but have struggled to place the evidence before the public.

Chamisa challenged the poll result at the Constitutional Court without success, leaving him in the political wilderness and fringes of public limelight as the clock ticks towards another plebiscite in 2023.

To keep himself relevant, Chamisa has used every occasion he gets to question President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, call for protests/demonstrations to force the President to the negotiating table. It is not clear what he wants to achieve on the negotiating table as his main demand is the impossible formation of a National Transitional Authority (NTA).


Transitional authorities sound nice, but it is a reality that they only work in countries coming out of civil wars. Zimbabwe is nowhere near that even if we stretch our imagination.
This is in no manner trying to trivialise the State atrocities and excesses over the past two decades.

Chamisa has since July 2018 been threatening to make the country ungovernable by “peaceful protests” and recently he told his followers that he would give a “signal”. However, on Wednesday he played with words and would not give the “signal”.

“I cannot afford to behave like a youth activist, because I am the leader of the MDC. I have lieutenants who are supposed to do what people expect me to do. You want me to set fires; when the nation burns, who is going to extinguish?” Chamisa retorted at the presser.

It is clear, Chamisa would not lead, but have someone take the bullet for him. I will not call him names, but would give examples of revolutionaries of our time the late Nelson Mandela, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Thomas Sankara, Julius Nyerere, Chris Hani, Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko to mention, but a few.

On the political front, MDC has been receiving a drubbing in by-elections since 2018 except in urban areas. In the past two months the party got paltry 16 and 27 votes, respectively in two rural ward by-elections in Masvingo province. The votes were far less that the full ward structure, meaning it either has incomplete ward structures or some members were never bothered to vote for their party.

At the Press conference, Chamisa was asked about the pathetic showing and responded: “You can’t go to Mwenezi and say vote for us, because a simple councillor cannot change life. What will change life is government.”

This was low, a serious low for a serious politician who harbours an ambition to lead the country at some point. If local government elections are not that important, why then field candidates?

Professor Jonathan Moyo, a former Cabinet minister in the late ex-leader Robert Mugabe’s government was gobsmacked by such a response. Moyo tweeted: “#TheBestPoliticsIsLocal The fact that no one has a national address and that everyone, even the Pope, must have a local address is because all politics is local and that’s where the best comes from. No national office, certainly not the presidency, can be won without a local base!”

To my surprise, all who tried to point out the absurdity of Chamisa’s response got a hammering on social media from party fanatics. They would not let facts and rationality get in the way of bubble of destiny. The social media once again proved to be an echo chamber, where people come to affirm and reaffirm their positions, without the inconvenience of interrogating facts.

It is important that the MDC and Chamisa in particular take some words of wisdom he received at a private function in the capital this month.


The party was reminded that it needs to be able to take advantage of political moments, have a strategy and be careful in its deployment of cadres to positions and being able to prioritise the things that it wants to do.

The MDC can still find its bearings if its leaders are more open to criticism, engagement and developing a culture of debate instead of becoming a political choir singing a hymn.

It has to have clear and consistent messaging, not the obfuscation of matters like the diametrically opposed positions it took when Job Sikhala was arrested and acquitted of trying to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.

Principles matter just as much as ideology than defending personalities. Betting for our horses right or wrong is a bad decision, but democracy allows that absurdity.

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.