HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsYou can lie, but don’t use other people’s names

You can lie, but don’t use other people’s names

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I AM not an obsessive pursuer of anyone because I am not a serial stalker. Pursuing a serial liar does not make me a serial stalker, but I am forced — once again — to write about MDC-T leader, Nelson Chamisa, who is also the MDC Alliance presidential candidate, who seems to have a troubling relationship with the truth.

By Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani

I had been holding my horses to give Chamisa respite in furtherance of not appearing to be unfairly and relentlessly pursuing him with an ulterior motive.

This has not been in deference or submission to a rabid and fanatical section of his supporters — the half-educated so-called MDC-T vanguard with half-baked, cranky conspiracy theories against anyone who criticises Chamisa — but to avoid appearing as if I have a personal vendetta to derail his campaign.

Yes, Chamisa is a politician, but we should also consider the human element to it that it privately hurts when he is bombarded with criticism no matter how thick-skinned he might profess to be.

But, barely a month after being caught by BBC HardTALK host, Stephen Sackur lying about meeting United States President Donald Trump in person, he was entangled in another terminological inexactitude, as 20th century British statesman, Winston Churchill famously euphemistically referred to lying. This time, Chamisa incurred the wrath of Rwandese President Paul Kagame.

Sackur asked Chamisa last month:

“. . . is it’s not true that you said you had seen Donald Trump and Donald Trump indicated to you that he would provide $15 billion if you won the election?” Chamisa replied: “All those statements were said by other people, not what I said.” Sackur: “But look, because there is a video that you at a rally in January back home, you said that you met Trump?” Chamisa: “I said that I met the Trump administration.” Sackur: “You are telling me you did not meet Donald Trump?” Chamisa: “We did not, we met the Donald Trump administration and that’s the point I made.”

Well, Chamisa said the following in the video shot at a rally in December 2017: “When we met with President Trump in America alongside (MDC Alliance Tendai) Biti, he asked us how much we needed to move the country forward and we told him that we needed $15 billion.”

Any further proof that Chamisa lied at the rally and on HardTALK? Before that, he had incurred the wrath of the revered late Joshua Nkomo’s family by claiming at a rally again that he had met Nkomo family members and they had offered him Nkomo’s sceptre (intonga in Ndebele), when none of such never ever happened.

This week Chamisa was at it again, making this startlingly improbable claim at an MDC Alliance rally last week: “Look, what my brother Paul Kagame is doing for his country. I helped him on his ICT policy, on how to turn around the country when we met in Geneva, Switzerland, and he was happy with my presentation.”

Rwandese Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo tweeted: “Woooow! It is that bad? So, lemme get this straight: this man actually went to Geneva (if it ever happened), without any plans to meet the Prez of #Rwanda, somehow ran into him, and happened to carry with him an ICT plan for Rwanda?”

Chamisa’s tendency of claiming individual credit has many times resulted in him being on a collision course with the truth.

Observed award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, Hopewell Chino’no: “This is exactly what happened between President Kagame and Wamba (Chamisa’s nickname): They met in a room full of people and to claim that he then helped Kagame with his ICT policy in that room is quite incredulous . . . the small detail he decided to add in order to put some flesh to his story and personalise it is what sunk it.”

And Kagame himself would not accept such effrontery or overfamiliarity (or kuganhira in Shona), and so shot back: “1st — My name is Kagame, not Kagama; 2 — I don’t know this man and no discussion ever happened with him anywhere . . . Rwanda’s ICT policy, projects and programme started before MDC formation and politics! I wish the people of Zimbabwe well!”

Former Rwandese ICT minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana, who was centrally involved in the establishment of ICT in the country, confirmed this, saying: “The execution of Rwanda’s ICT policies has involved many institutions and leaders since the late 90s.”

After Chamisa’s camp produced a photograph showing both Kagame and Chamisa to refute the Rwandese leader’s tweet, fellow Zimbabwean Sibongile Harvey succinctly put things into perspective: “If you are invited to an occasion where presidents are and by some chance you are allowed to greet one that doesn’t mean you’ve met with them. Meeting in that pic was just a handshake, a smile and a goodbye. As you can see from the table set-up clearly, Chamisa was just passing by that table and said hi. Presidents see millions of people that way every single day. (But) when presidents ‘meet, it means it was in an official capacity and can actually remember a conversation and their state can actually table it that you met. This Wamba and Kagama — sorry Kagame — pic was a pass and greet.”

Yes, presidents come across many people in passing and get photographed with them, but that’s as far as it goes because they don’t get to know such people personally. I shook hands with the late Nkomo in 1975, but I cannot claim that he knew me personally from then.

But Chamisa does not seem to have got his act together. One can now detect a desperate tone even among his staunchest but sane and rational supporters, of which there are many, who are capable of viewing things in totality, unlike the rabid so-called vanguard. Many supporters are now very sad and upset about it all because it’s very bad and difficult to deal with. I know that because they contact me confidentially expressing their reservations because doing so publicly would result in them being verbally abused and physically attacked by the so-called vanguard, a ragtag MDC-T outfit with puerile, but dangerous military pretensions.

Observed Chin’ono in a stinging rebuke: “I will say this again: Wamba . . . is bleeding middle class voters . . . He can’t win an election by throwing these (lies)! They will be fact-checked and each time they fail to meet the truthfulness test, it is a dent to his stature and leadership . . . This is a real low for Wamba and his team to have a President of another country call you a liar ”

Well, since Chamisa appears to be hellbent in his ways, can he, at least, accept this one piece of advice: You can lie as much as you want, but don’t throw in other people’s names to spice up those lies. It’s a much safer option to lie in your own name only.

lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com

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