HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsECHOES: Peter, sup with a long spoon

ECHOES: Peter, sup with a long spoon

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We are again into that season of political propaganda coups where lies, exaggerations and distortions can overshadow everything else.

Echoes by Conway Tutani

In other words, welcome to the campaign season with all the political parties predicting a landslide victory for themselves. Where and how on earth is that possible?

The latest to be roped in or “lured” is football legend Peter Ndlovu, who Zanu PF claims to have “captured” to represent them in Makokoba constituency in Bulawayo, where he was born and bred.

If ever that happened, that would be a masterstroke. Ndlovu would be a big prize to catch for anyone. He doesn’t need to reinvent himself. His brand endures; his CV is established and firmly etched in people’s minds. What other frontiers does he need to conquer?

But is Ndlovu made of political stuff? Would his image tally with the rough and tumble world of politics? The salvos, backstabbing and backtracking?

Zanu PF politburo member Tshinga Dube told the NewsDay Southern Edition this week: “I have spoken to Peter myself and he agreed to be our candidate, but that remains with the party to decide whether or not to field him.”

But Ndlovu’s lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, immediately and categorically refuted this, saying: “There is nothing like that. I spoke to Peter after your enquiry earlier and he denies everything — it’s lies.” Now, now, welcome to the world of politics!

It’s well-nigh possible that Dube and Ndlovu are close because of their links to Highlanders Football Club, the former’s family as a financier now and then, and the latter as Bosso’s greatest ever player and loyal son. So, where on earth could the miscommunication — if we may call it that — have happened? Now, who to believe?

But something must have happened; some contact must have been made, whether concrete or tentative. The truth lies somewhere in between.

I say so because Dube couldn’t have created this out of the blue. He is not a loudmouth who craves the limelight and thus would not be inclined to lie and distort.

There is something about him which says he is not an outright liar. There is an air of avuncular decency and respectability about him. In the same breath, somebody could be backtracking — and it could be Ndlovu himself. It’s Ndlovu’s word against Dube’s. I stand to be corrected.

Having said that, everyone has a right to hold political views, but there are consequences — whether negative or positive — especially if one has been a public figure in the non-political realm. Is Zanu PF Ndlovu’s natural home? If I were Ndlovu, I would think twice — even thrice — before nailing myself to an apparently unpopular cause where there is no swimming, but sinking with it. Zanu PF is about as least popular as it can be, so being associated with such a party is a lose-lose situation.

It’s known too that the system has put its people at the helm of Dynamos, but they haven’t reaped any political dividend — none at all. This hasn’t translated into votes for Zanu PF and will not — now and in the forseeable future.

It’s again a fact that people from the system have also funded Highlanders with the ubiquitous Zanu PF secretary for economic affairs Obert Mpofu, who is also Mines minister, featuring prominently. Mpofu made a public show of paying Ndlovu’s medical bills after the tragic accident which claimed the lives of his elder brother Adam and a female companion Nomqhele Tshili last December. Cynics said it wasn’t exactly out of altruism, but this hasn’t in the least made a political dent.

It can also be most risky to one’s brand and image to go overtly political in a polarised nation like Zimbabwe, where there is virtually no middle ground to talk about — you are either MDC or Zanu PF.

That is the sad reality of this nation and Zanu PF has in no small measure contributed to this through its open hostility towards the opposition from soon after independence in 1980 when it went all out for a Marxist-Leninist one-party State.

Yes, they have since abandoned Marxism-Leninism and the rigorous leadership code of 1984 after greed and self-enrichment took over, but the one-party mindset is still there, particularly to protect the ill-gotten wealth. People are not fooled; they can clearly see through this.

Simon Chimbetu and Andy Brown, prodigiously talented as they were, saw their careers come crushing down as soon as they hitched onto a hated system. By the time they died, they were remembered more as mere propagandists than the multi-talented artistes they undoubtedly were.

Now the system wants to hitch Ndlovu — who has so far been untainted — onto it to give it a veil of acceptability and respectability.

But is it in his best interests? What will it do to his stock which rose even higher after the tragic death of his elder brother Adam in the vehicle he was driving and soared further after his acquittal when he said it wasn’t a victory for him because two lives had been lost? This was a most contemplative response. Now, can he afford to throw all this away by descending into partisan politics instead of keeping above the fray?

Peter, if you have to deal with politicians — as you will inevitably have to as a public figure with high stock — don’t get too close to them. If you agree to partake of their over-generous hospitality, you are on dangerous ground and need to beware. Distance is necessary to keep you from potent contamination.

“He needs a long spoon who sups with the Devil.”

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