πŸ”’ Biznews Confidential: Let’s hope the real Nelson Chamisa gets the chance to stand up.

By Alec Hogg

Any outsider trying to get a line on Zimbabwe’s young presidential hopeful Nelson Chamisa would be easily confused.

The ghost of Bell Pottinger lives on in Zim social media. Ahead of Monday’s vote, typing #ZimElections2018 into the Twitter search bar spat out a fake news tirade worthy of Gupta bots at their peak. It created the impression that Chamisa is a young fool, a front for an embittered Mugabe, funded by his high-living wife Grace, and, should he succeed in displacing president Emmerson Mnangagwa, is poised to do their bidding.
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Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), center, arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in the Kuwadzana township, in Harare, Zimbabwe on July 30, 2018. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Zimbabwe’s doddering 94 year old former dictator did his best to fuel the arson with a typically rambling two hour press conference where he reluctantly (but willingly – geddit?) endorsed the young man. The government’s mouthpiece, The Herald, even claimed Chamisa flew to Dubai for a secret meeting with Mugabe and if elected will appoint Grace as his deputy. These commentators clearly believe Zimbabweans have forgotten how Mad Bob drove Chamisa’s predecessor as MDC leader into an early grave.

Some people doubtless swallowed this codswallop. As they tend to so when the highly paid imported spin-doctors are involved, doubtless with the carrot of some chunky “success” bonuses. And that these cretinous creatures are in the mix is certain. Much of what I have seen in the public arena comes straight out of the annals of Ryan Holiday’s book on the dark media arts called Trust Me I’m Lying.

To win the election, ZANU-PF simply had to discredit Chamisa.

By any rational standards, the election should be a shoo-in for the opposition. The ruling party has smashed the economy, destroyed jobs, killed the currency and robbed current and future citizens blind, leaving a relative mountain of debt. Even those heavily infected with the Dunning-Kruger effect will have lost hope in Zim’s incumbent leaders.

My usual go-to guy on Zim is my pal, newspaper owner and my former Moneyweb co-director Trevor Ncube. But since he returned to Harare Trevor has been quoted out of context so often he’s stopped offering any opinion. So I needed to look elsewhere for some rational insight.

Thankfully, some very courageous people are still around Zim’s political circles. Among them is the Gweru-born 60 year old human rights lawyer and MDC senator David Coltart.

Elected almost two decades back as MP for Bulawayo South (a mostly black working class constituency) Coltart shatters every imaginable pre-conception. As you’ll see when you read of his bio here.Β You’ll have to scratch through a lot of profiles to discover a better example of a life of service by one who has forever spoken truth to power.

Last Thursday, Coltart published a blistering insightΒ on contemporary Zimbabwe. Titled “It’s the junta, stupid” he shares the back story of how Mugabe was able to retain power far beyond his sell-by date – and how a promising young democracy was hijacked by mobsters in uniforms who deployed 15,000 of the nation’s battle hardened troops in neighbouring DRC to extract mineral wealth beyond even Belgian dreams.

Coltart’s tour de force is long and detailed. But to the point of this missive, it paints a very different picture of Nelson Chamisa to the one many Zimbabweans have been sold.

He explains that until MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s untimely passing in February, 40 year old Chamisa wasn’t even in the presidential frame. Hindsight suggests Tsvangirai would have romped home. But his low profile young successor has been a lifeline ZANU-PF’s spin doctors. An easy target against which to spew a barrage of fake news.

Coltart writes that he has known Chamisa since 1999 when the MDC was formed as “we were both elected to parliament in June 2000 and have been firm friends ever since…we both went to Washington to lobby Congress in November 2000…I was in Cabinet with him between 2009 and 2013 – his contributions were always on point and witty.”

Most critically, Coltart reminds us that Chamisa “has never been caught up in any scandal in his 18 years in public office.” Given the resources of the MDC’s heavy handed opponents, that’s quite a feat.

Among the sensible ideas Chamisa has for the economy is to request the South African government to ditch the US Dollar in favour of the Rand; to grant land title to individuals (something socialist ZANU PF has steadfastly rejected) and to conduct an audit of mining contracts granted to what Coltart describes as “corrupt multi national companies in the extractive sector.”

The final paragraphs of Coltart’s impassioned plea for his fellow citizens to “vote wisely and bravely” focuses on how what he describes as a sophisticated western PR machine has worked hard to persuade Zimbabweans that Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new regime is actually a new dispensation. While simultaneously they “have done everything in their power to portray Chamisa as a clown who is unfit to govern.”

We’ll know soon enough whether the spin doctors have succeeded. My bet is that they have not. You can fool some of the people all of the time. But not for 38 years. Let’s hope the real Nelson Chamisa gets his chance to stand up.