To hide a lie, a thousand lies are needed. The main opposition MDC was caught totally off-guard when one of their own, the talkative Job Sikhala, revealed the party worst-kept secret: That they want to oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government before the official expiry of its term in 2023.
As a result, the MDC has been to scrambling for a coherent response to distance themselves from Sikhala’s most revealing utterances which are like to “kutengesa base”, as they say in Shona, literally meaning “selling the base”.
Realising that he could be in serious trouble, Sikhala tried to wriggle out of his predicament by saying: “What I meant was that we need to overthrow hunger, intimidation, abuse of traditional leaders, poverty and all vices associated with the current mismanagement of our State by the current government.”
Well, to cover up a lie you have create another lie. MDC deputy national spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka did exactly that, saying: “It is the party’s view that Honourable Sikhala’s views as expressed at the rally and widely quoted in the Press were his own personal opinions, which we believe have been misconstrued and misinterepreted.”
But a party insider, Discent Collins Bajila, gave the game away when he confirmed the existence of a party resolution to overthrow Mnangagwa made at the MDC congress held in Gweru in May this year. Said Bajila: “I was temporary translator at the MDC congress when the resolution to strive to remove Zanu-PF from power prior to 2023 was taken. I, therefore, have a moral obligation to stand with Job Wiwa Sikhala on this particular matter. It’s not his personal opinion.
It’s the collective opinion of congress.” Yes, to hide a lie, a thousand lies are needed.
As if that is not bad enough that a party spokesperson can lie to the whole nation, Bajila, whose only sin could be being too honest to a fault, in the process, also exposed MDC leader Nelson Chamisa as failing the test of truthfulness by responding that he was “not in agreement” with Sikhala (NewsDay, July 9, 2019). One is led to questions: What other deceptions are coming from that direction? Is what you about the MDC what you get?
Some people bent over backwards to try to excuse Sikhala, saying he had used the word “overthrow” without any sinister connotations, saying “overthrow may also be through elections”.
Well, last time I checked in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, it defined “overthrow” “verb: (1) forcibly remove someone from power; (2) put an end to something through force; noun: the forcible removal of someone from power”. What can be more authoritative pertaining to word meanings than the dictionary?
Fellow Zimbabwean Woeshik Mangezi said: “Sikhala’s statement was wrong and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. If you go to a building site blindfolded, you can tell you are among a team of builders because of the language they use. Same thing if you are taken blindfolded to a hospital, clinicians speak a language which clearly identifies them. The language which Sikhala and a few excitable fellows on both sides are using lately does not show people who have offered themselves up to the task of building a better Zimbabwe. It is just not the language which competent builders speak.”
For too long, Sikhala has been over-reckless with his language. On March 3, 2019, Sikhala, one of the most precipitous, overhasty and impulsive people around, posted online the wrong picture of a woman, who, because of mental illness, had wrongly accused Chamisa of raping her. The wrong picture was captioned with this nasty message mocking her physical appearance. “Guys, can you rape this kind of woman nyangwe ukamuwana akashadabura (even if you find her undressed)?
Continued Mangezi: “We need to use language that up-builds our image and cohesion as a nation and discuss our obvious problems (yes, we have many problems) in a peaceable manner without unnecessarily inflaming tensions. Chakashata chakashata (What is wrong is wrong).
Indeed, we need not descend to the gutter level for whatever cause. Bad language is toxic and inflammatory. It clouds and exacerbates issues.
So far, the only senior MDC official who has been frank and honest about the matter is David Coltart. As a lawyer, he has given his honest understanding of “overthrow” and advised Sikhala to tone down – not this obfuscation where some lawyers are now claiming that Sikhala meant to “overthrew hunger”. Is there any such usage of “overthrowing hunger” in common speech, even idiomatically? If we accept such trickery, then any word can mean anything. We should not dishonestly resort to semantics or legalese trickery when the future of the nation itself has to be sorted out.
And people who are being told – openly and subtly – that all their problems will be solved with the overthrow of Mnangagwa and ousting him will be as easy as A-B-C had better think twice. Mass protests have their limit. Writes Ian Buruma: “It is hard enough for streets protests to have any effect in a democracy.
There were huge demonstrations in the United States against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, but it took years before the government finally abandoned that brutal and pointless conflict. Occupy Wall Street in 2011, when young and old protested against economic inequality in the US, was heartwarming, but the gap between the rich and poor is even wider now. (NewsDay, July 10, 2019).
In fact, carrying out protests to the bitter end can backfire — it can lead to even more repression and anarchy. That is why Coltart, who brings maturity and sobriety to the MDC, said: “We fully understand the cause for which Sikhala spoke – some of us have been involved in it for three decades – and indeed empathise with his frustration. But we must understand that #Zimbabwe will be better served by a non-violent struggle. Just look where Libya, Egypt and Iraq are now.”
Wars start when you choose, but they do not necessarily end when you want. You can’t start a war with someone and expect only yourself to be able to finish it.
There is nothing like let me finish the war because I am the one who started it. No — it can be taken out of your hands.