WITH the harmonised elections coming in just a few months’ time, we are now in the familiar — not uncharted — territory of lies.
By CONWAY TUTANI
But even more sinister are the half-truths — statements that convey only part of the truth, especially ones used deliberately in order to mislead someone — where people use numbers and others devices to bolster their weak, false and unsustainable arguments to attack and disprove their opponents.
So, is there a better time to expose the type of lies being peddled as facts to further political agendas by whoever? I have come across shocking lies accompanied by unimaginable ignorance I never thought possible in this day and age. The most tragic part of it is that many ordinarily astute people are, because of their political leanings, not bothering to scrutinise and interrogate the factualness, truthfulness and validity of what is being said.
Recently, there was this classic from one Mhazi Shumba on Facebook: “Dai mari yekukwira ndege kuenda kuDavos yakashanda hayo pacloud-seeding (The money spent by the government on air fares to Davos should have been used for cloud-seeding).” This was in reference to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his delegation flying to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum summit.
At face value, this sounds like innovative advice for, as it were, industrial production of rain on demand, like placing orders for rain. But how practical is that? How scientifically valid and sustainable is that?
Cloud seeding is a way to enhance the amount of precipitation that falls from the clouds and helps generate 10 to 30% more rain. But cloud seeding is not an exact science and uncertainty about whether rain can be produced on demand remains. Despite more than 60 years of research, there is a lot to be understood about rain and clouds because of their differing properties.
Something might seem simple at first glance, but, in actuality, achieving that is a much more complicated and involved process, not as easy as A B C. Some things are easier said than done. The devil is in the detail. If it was all about cloud-seeding, there would not be any drought anywhere in the world. Africa’s largest desert, Sahara, or any other desert for that matter, would by now be blooming with lush vegetation. Can cloud-seeding avert an El Nino-induced drought? Not all all.
Not all types of clouds can be seeded, only the ones that are ready to generate rain. And before you even get to talk about that, there should be clouds in the sky in the first place because without clouds there cannot be any seeding to do. Those with memories which serve them right will remember that before Mnangagwa left for Davos and during much of his time there, most of the country was cloudless.
But Shumba would have us believe cloud-seeding is the magic bullet, when it is far from that. Only a person with, pardon the pun, his head in the clouds would believe or insist on that.
And should everything come to a standstill to focus all energies and resources on one crisis: drought? If that was so, South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would not have been to Davos on the basis that his country is facing a disastrous drought with the Western Cape about to completely run out of water.
That Mnangagwa has been accepted on the international stage might have proved too much to stomach for some partisan people — people exhibiting blind, unreasoning allegiance to a party who see only one side of the problem — but this does not justify their lies, which have nothing to do with science, but everything to do with politics. These people will go out of their way to politicise something as unpoliticisable as science whereas the chemical formula of water is H2O whether you are in Zanu PF or MDC-T and it boils at 100 degrees Celsius whether heated by a Zanu PF supporter or MDC-T supporter. These people are no different from United States President Donald Trump who denies the reality of climate change merely on political and ideological grounds when scientific evidence of global warming and other catastrophic swings in weather is there. People should not be allowed to get away with reconfiguring facts to suit what they want.
As if this politicising of science was not enough, I will give two examples — one from past and the other recent — of making spurious linkages, of making a connection — far-fetched and ignorant at that — between unrelated matters.
In the 1990s, Highlanders Football Club official Ndumiso Gumede had a spat with the domestic football authorities. Such things happen everywhere in the high-stakes game of football, as those who follow the sport will testify. Coincidentally, at the time of the fallout, Gumede happened to be featuring in a local TV drama in the role of a mean-spirited character. A senior journalist then wrote, in all seriousness, that Gumede had been chosen for that role because the character resembled him in real life, basing this on his spat with the football authorities. That was a most preposterous and absurb inference which had no bearing on Gumede’s ability as a football administrator.
After Justice Priscilla Chigumba, a High Court judge, was appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson last week, the “best” that one Samuel Mahachi could post on Facebook was this: “She couldn’t manage her own marriage, I wonder how she will handle Zec.”
Is divorce a disqualifier for such a post like a past criminal conviction is? What does being a divorcee have to do with aptitude and competence for a job or occupation? Does divorce incapacitate a pilot from flying planes? Does divorce render a doctor incapable of treating patients? Will the impending divorce of opposition People’s Democratic Party leader and MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti make him unfit to continue practicising lawyer and holding political office? MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has had his own share of romantic liaisons, but has this in any way rendered him unfit to lead the biggest opposition party in the country?
Let’s beware of peddlers of lies and, more sinisterly, half-truths — statements that mingle truth and falsehood with deliberate intent to deceive.
Half-truths being propagated on social media and elsewhere are as much a threat to free, fair and credible elections as voter intimidation.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org