AS a little boy in the rural Chiwara area of Gutu, south of Zimbabwe, Nelson Chamisa probably never dreamt of leading a major political party, the MDC-T, let alone be among the favourites to win the country’s presidency.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA/ TAPIWA ZIVIRA
Awe-inspiring could be the only phrase that can describe Chamisa’s rise from being a little boy in swampy Chiwara village, perhaps looking for a stray cow or goat, to becoming a national political figure.
While seemingly improbable, his journey could have been made easier by his effortless charm and charisma.
While the bright lights of Harare and the popularity could have changed him, Chamisa seems to always look back to his roots, which somehow acts like a compass which directs his endeavours.
Surrounded by scattered settlements, his rural homestead, which boasts of two rondavels and three cottages of different sizes, all painted in pink, stands out from the rest of the community.
Upon visiting the homestead, NewsDay was immediately drawn to the massive livestock-rearing projects – from a large cattle pen and a goat shed to dozens of chickens roaming the yard.
Visible from many angles kilometres away, the homestead oozes affluence that is not common in rural areas – boasting a fitted water tank that provides running water, electricity, and well-kempt vegetation.
For the rural folk from within the area, and even beyond Mungezi River, which is situated about three kilometres away and separates Gutu South and Masvingo North; this is the home of the country’s aspiring president.
Coincidentally, while the Chamisa homestead is on one side of Mungezi, his main rival in the coming presidential elections, Zanu PF leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly has a farm on the other side of the river.
As a result, the local folk here believe they are spoilt for choice.
“I am still to decide who to vote for in the (July 30) elections because, as you can see, we have two presidential candidates from this area.
“Mnangagwa is this side and Chamisa is that side,” one elderly woman said sweepingly.
Mnangagwa is from Midlands, but has endeared himself to the locals, who treat him as one of their own from Masvingo North.
Even Chamisa’s father, while chatting with NewsDay, referred to the other side of the river as “kwaMunangarwa”, in reference to the President’s farm.
A simple peasant who drives a Mazda pick-up truck, and appears content with his daily routine of farm work, Chamisa Senior also exudes charisma, showing Nelson is a chip off the block.
When NewsDay arrived, Chamisa Senior had just travelled from Nyika growth point, several kilometres away and was delivering goods to fellow villagers’ doorsteps.
Soft-spoken and kind, he offered to drive NewsDay across the swampy plains to where the crew had left its low-clearance vehicle, but as fate would have it, Chamisa Senior’s car ended up stuck in the mud in his bid to give a helping hand.
Maybe, Chamisa’s dream of “spaghetti roads” is borne out of his frustration with the road network in his own backyard.
The area is connected by dusty roads, pathways and driving through these is a nightmarish experience.
This is a microcosm of how bad roads are in the country, where underdevelopment, poor infrastructure and lack of service delivery are the norm.
While there is general freedom in political campaigns across the country, the ghost of past elections haunts villagers in Gutu South, with a worker at Chamisa’s homestead appearing nerved by NewsDay’s visit, and he made his fears known.
“Some strange people are visiting us. Recently, two men came here and left without saying anything.
“I then saw them writing something in their notebooks as soon as they left the yard,” he said.
“Knowing that Chamisa is a serious contender to the presidency, and that this is where his home is, there are bound to be security issues that need to be taken care of.”
Whatever happens on July 30, the people of this area seem destined to give the country the next President and many are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that their son, whom they birthed and nursed, could land the highest office in the land.