BY GEOFFREY NYAROTA
Businessman Herbert Nkala is a man of significant substance on Zimbabwe’s corporate landscape where he is a highflying leader.
He serves as director or chairman on several important corporate boards.
He is, therefore, a business executive given to making weighty decisions, often on the spot.
He is a trustee of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Scholarship Fund as well as chairperson of the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s University of Zambia Scholarship Programme.
The latter trust fund organised on the night of Friday, November 19, a highly successful fund-raising event at State House, Harare.
It raised, apparently in cash, the astronomical figure of US$800 000 and $16 million from the elite assembly of corporate leaders present.
Rather amazing amounts, given the level of abject poverty in Harare.
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But, notwithstanding this magnificent achievement, this becomes an evening that Nkala will perhaps not want to be often reminded of; this on account of the fallout created immediately thereafter by a stray video clip captured at the function.
The image which was stolen at the otherwise joyful event went viral instantly on social media and threatened to tarnish the otherwise sober image of the president of Zimbabwe.
The image featured the president while engaged in urgent consultation with two persons, identified as Sport deputy minister Tino Machakaire and currently beleaguered businessman, Farai Matsika of Doves Funeral Services and Faramatsi Motors.
The trio is then joined by chairman Nkala and, after further consultation the president allows himself to be led to a podium, with Machakaire and Matsika each holding one hand.
It is clear to anyone watching the video that His Excellency is unsteady in his step and that his demeanour is somewhat arguably not quite normal.
After further discussion at the podium the president is then led away again, but without making the intended speech, leaving viewers somewhat mystified.
To add to the mystery, Mnangagwa appears, perhaps for the first time in public, without his trade-mark multi-coloured scarf.
It is replaced instead by a pink necktie, which is dangling around his shoulders, unsecured at the neck.
To add to the unfolding drama, vicious text is tweeted alongside the circulating video clip.
The author is, fairly predictably, regular Mnangagwa denigrator, Jonathan Moyo, our former favourite minister of information, who now lives in exile in Nairobi, Kenya, from where he daily tweets anti-Zanu-PF diatribe to his heart’s content.
“Far right is Herbert Nkala,” tweets Moyo in the caption accompanying the now controversial video clip, “deeply entrenched in Lacoste politics since time immemorial”.
Lacoste is a faction of Zanu PF that was linked to Mnangagwa when he was vice-president in the controversial final days of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe presidency, while Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Walter Mzembi, Patrick Zhuwao and other Zanu PF heavyweights fought from the corner of the president and his ambitious first lady Grace Mugabe.
Collectively known as the G40 faction they are now all ensconced in exile, from where they tirelessly strategize for the downfall of Mnangagwa.
Their chief and relentless marksman is Moyo.
“NB: None of the above looks sober,” he points out in his provocative and aggressive message.
“Their faces tell a shocking story of VVIP intoxication, which aptly defines Mnangagwa’s New Dispensation and Second Republic.”
The only Very Very Important Person appearing in the video is, of course, the president of Zimbabwe.
Herbert Nkala, normally a genteel fellow, takes umbrage at Moyo’s provocative insinuations.
He dismisses any claim that Mnangagwa was drunk during the fundraising dinner as a creation of the exiled Moyo’s fertile imagination.
Nkala maintains that Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa does not drink alcohol, “a decision he made during the war to avoid compromising his judgements”.
“Anyone who knows him will know that trait, value and virtue. Jonathan would know this as common cause and is being silly,” Nkala declares in a written statement.
“The toxicity of social media has reached unprecedented levels of decay. I sat next to HE all evening. He didn’t touch a drop of alcohol.
“The story about his tie is simple; his scarf and tie were auctioned for US$35 000 during this fundraising dinner.
“In jest, the MC, Gary Thompson, took a tie from some white guest and gave it to HE who loosely put it around his shoulders.
“This was an amazing gesture of philanthropy by HE where around US$800 000 was raised for indigent students.
“This is changing people’s lives.
“There are desperate criminal minds out there who are angry with themselves and will demonise everything to feel better about themselves.
“To hell with them.”
Tough words, especially coming from Nkala on such a philanthropic occasion.
But Moyo can be a pain in the neck, to put it mildly, and I speak from personal experience.
Speaking personally, if the host at a fund-raising event gets somewhat inebriated in a moment of levity, assuming he is given to quaffing the holy waters, I am instinctively given to forgiving and forgetting.
I would do this while keeping my eye on the magnitude of the contribution made by the well-wishers present, while making a mental commitment to make my own modest contribution.
Again speaking personally, my advice to those who led His Excellency to the podium to make a speech in the incongruous circumstances depicted on the video, to the delight of the Prof, is that they had two options open to them.
They should have either left the president to rest in his seat, whatever the cause of his discomfiture, or they could have led him away from the function altogether, perhaps outside for a breath of fresh air.
As for Moyo, perhaps the success of the event was too much to stomach for a man who seems to derive maximum comfort from a daily prediction of imminent disaster back in Harare, so that he can return as a black knight in shining armour.
Sadly there are still some who have absolute faith in his cantankerous pronouncements.
On a lighter note, while enjoys the hospitality of his Kenyan hosts for the second time in his life he must be having a veritable field day, being one who strictly moralises over matters of appropriate presidential deportment at banquets.
His host, President Uhuru Kenyatta, has literally driven many of the citizens of his country right around the bend over his alleged imbibing escapades, often in public and in broad daylight.
“Sober up,” official urges Kenyan president” a rather bizarre headline on September 4, 2017, met the wandering gaze of Nairobi residents.
The accompanying article disclosed that the Kenyan president mercilessly referred to by some frustrated citizens as “Commander in Drinks”, had been urged by a top union official to stop drinking alcohol and “sober up”.
The trade unionist in question, Francis Atwoli, head of Kenya’s Central Organisation of Trade Unions, the umbrella body for the country’s trade unions, actually convened a press conference in Nairobi for the sole purpose of making this desperate plea to Kenyatta.
“I am appealing to the president to be (a) little bit sober,’’ Atwoli said.
“Even the way he is addressing the public he appears not sober. You still have a large following in Kenya, sober up!”
Another headline, this time of 2018 vintage, declares: “Visibly drunk Uhuru leaves Kenya after deporting Miguna Miguna”.
In mitigation, it turns out however that the Kenyan Head of State might not be quite as regularly intoxicated as the circulating videos are meant to suggest.
A video of Kenyatta has gone viral after a cheeky Kenyan edited the clip to make the head of state appear drunk while making his remarks.
Meanwhile, official announcements such as the following appear regularly in the Kenyan media:
“The clip was manipulated to slow down the president’s speech into a slur, the stereotypical sign of being drunk that oftentimes is used by doctors and the police as an indicator of a very drunk person.” (3 September 2019)
“PesaCheck has looked into a video that claims to show President Uhuru Kenyatta sloppy in his speech and finds it to be FALSE.
“The original video published by NTV shows it was digitally manipulated to show the president sloppy in his speech.” (June 7, 2020)
The last word on the matter of alleged high level intoxication went to Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto.
He was reported in the Nairobi News as having sensationally disclosed on April 17,2021 that he was considering dumping the country’s ruling Jubilee Party because the political party was currently managed by alleged drunkards.
“(That’s) because the people who call the shots at Jubilee are hardly sober,” Ruto said.
“They appear on national television drunk. That is the level of impunity they have.”
Back home, in Harare, I want to propose that Herbert Nkala organises another fund-raising event, with Gary Thompson as MC.
To be dubbed the “Adopt a Pothole Campaign” it will seek to raise funds for the very necessary repair of our multitude of potholes.
- Geoffrey Nyarota is the winner of the Golden Pen of Freedom, (World Association of Newspapers, 2002), The Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Award, (Unesco, 2002) the Percy Qoboza Foreign Journalist Award, (National Association of Black Journalists, Atlanta, 1990 and 2003) and five other international journalism awards.)