Youth, politics and ideology…think before opening your mouth

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THE departure from office of former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017 and the death of the leader of the MDC-T, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February 2018 has created space for leadership renewal for both ZANU-PF and MDC-T political parties.
Of particular interest to note is that the changes of leadership by both parties were dramatic and unscheduled affairs, with each party having to adjust accordingly.
It is significant that ZANU-PF opted for a leader who is a tried and tested cadre of the liberation struggle, someone who has also held different ministerial portfolios over many years and is thus an experienced political veteran.
President Mnangagwa is someone who knows inside-out how Zimbabwe came about, how it has fared both in terms of politics and the economy and what needs to be done if Zimbabwe is to achieve a higher level of development.
On the other hand, it looks as if the bulk of members of the MDC-T have opted for Nelson Chamisa, a young and untried 40-year-old who is yet to cut his political milk teeth as a leader.
So the natural question that arises is: What is it that most members of the MDC-T have seen in Chamisa?
One of the moments that the general public got a hint of what Chamisa stands for is when he addressed a rally at Chinhoyi. He made many promises, including the following:
l MDC-T will ban Bond notes and sort out the currency crisis that Zimbabwe is facing in 90 days. But he did not reveal how this would be done!
l MDC-T will get rid of bank queues in 14 days. But again, he did not reveal the magic formula which works wonders in two weeks;
l MDC-T will replace Command Agriculture with Smart Agriculture. But, again, he did not spell out the specific features of the ‘smart’ part of this kind of agriculture.
So, the question remains: Is Chamisa objecting to the terminology or is it on substance?
l MDC-T will replace the current indigenisation policy with localisation. But, again, he did not spell out what his kind of ‘localisation’ entails.
l MDC-T will pay full compensation to all war veterans. Yet again, Chamisa did not spell out the nature, scope and modalities of the said compensation. Neither did he spell out when and how his party has been converted to the liberation cause!
The list of promises is a long one and the main problem in each case is that each promise remains sketchy and vague.
There is not much in each promise for us to digest and to convince us.
Notwithstanding the vagueness, one can sense a mind trying hard to grasp and grapple with some of the problems that the country is facing.
These attempts are commendable.
What is disconcerting, however , are some promises which he goes on to make during the same rally, promises and suggestions which, unwittingly, begin to suggest bigger problems concerning the candidate himself.
For example, Chamisa goes on to suggest that instead of acquiring diesel locomotives for the National Railways of Zimbabwe, we should be acquiring bullet trains.
While indeed other countries such as Japan, France and China, among others, use bullet trains, the point here is, even in these countries, the majority of trains are not bullet ones at all.
Do we in Zimbabwe need bullet trains simply because other countries in the developed world have such trains?
Do we have the kind of population density and urban conurbations which these other countries have to justify the introduction of bullet trains?
Does our economic situation right now justify such a highly expensive undertaking which would gobble up hundreds of billions of dollars and leave us indebted? In other words, are bullet trains a logical starting point for our economic recovery?
While Chamisa’s desire to develop our railway system is understandable, the point here is whether, as a leader, he has a firm grasp of where we are economically and what we need to do first in order to resuscitate our economy.
The impression he creates, without wishing to do so, is that he is a highly impressionable and excitable character who, after being exposed to some commercial images of modernity, can become so giddy that he easily loses his common sense.
Dreaming big, as he is doing here, is not necessarily a crime; in some instances it is even good but not right now!
First things first Mr Chamisa!
The same applies to road construction that he talks about at his rally.
We need to ascertain first whether our demographics and vehicular needs justify the four-to-eight-lane highways that he is talking about; whether our urban centres need the many lanes looping in and out of our big cities, many running on top of many others, many running alongside many others, like the spaghetti stuff to which he refers metaphorically.
In the same vein, his suggestion that Victoria Falls should become the Las Vegas of Africa invites more questions about him as a presidential candidate. And this has the unintended effect of undermining the answers he is desperately trying to provide in light of our economic challenges!
The first thing which worries the listener is whether Chamisa understands at all what Las Vegas symbolises in the US; whether he knows that it is the American citadel of decadence, a place where gambling, rampant prostitution and unbridled homosexuality are the drivers of the economy.
Is Chamisa serious in suggesting that we should go for a casino driven-economy?
For someone who goes around claiming to be a pastor of some sort, this suggestion is surely at odds with his alleged profession. Where is his pastoral holiness in all this?
Is he a pastor whose god is mammon; a pastor to whom social and cultural values have ceased to matter at all?
And to question this immoral swamp that is Las Vegas is not to imply that here, in Africa, we do not have moral problems of our own— far from it!
It is simply to suggest that as a leader, Chamisa needs to reflect deeply on what he wants to say first before opening his mouth at a rally.
Many of us are bound to remember him for his reference to Las Vegas — the American version of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.
More seriously, Chamisa’s reference to bullet trains and Las Vegas raises a far more fundamental question about the model of development that we should follow.
More specifically, do our dreams about developing ourselves simply amount to imitating and mimicking what Western counties have already done?
Is this all there is to it in our development dreams, to simply follow what others have done, even if what they have done may not be always relevant and helpful to us?
Part of the dilemma which Chamisa is facing and may not be aware of is that he has no clear ideological standpoint from which he can relate to the rest of the world.
Why?
Because he is not firmly anchored to any place, to any culture, to any ideas which should inform his vision!
He is still at that stage where he confuses the superficies of the post-modern world with the substance that should constitute our lives.
In his understandable attempt to inspire all of us, more so his fellow youths, he ends up importing lock, stock and barrel, Western models and even Western dreams which can easily turn out to be a nightmare for all of us.
And to say this is not to insist that there is nothing positive from the West — far from it!
We all need to be discriminating as to what we go for, what we buy and what we emulate from the West and from the rest of the world.
But in order to opt for what is good for us in everything we do, we need to do so from a point of view that is firmly located in Africa, not Las Vegas.

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