MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has told the BBC’s HARDtalk programme that he will defeat President Emmerson Mnangagwa in elections this year, and defended his campaign pledges to dramatically transform Zimbabwe if he wins.
Chamisa has been making what critics say are exaggerated promises during some of his rallies. He has promised to end long-running cash shortages, and build new universities, airports and even introduce a bullet train between Harare and the southern city of Bulawayo.
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On Friday HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur dismissed some of those promises as “fantasy”. He asked whether Chamisa was “striking the right balance between populism and credibility”.
But Chamisa defended his vision. “Zimbabweans are going to vote for us, they are believing our message. They know that what we are promising is not beyond our reach,” he said.
He was also grilled by Sackur over a claim he made at a rally in January, that US President Donald Trump had offered to give Zimbabwe $15 billion if the MDC wins this year’s election. The US embassy denied Washington made such an offer. Chamisa told HARDtalk he made the comment in the context of what the MDC would want to see in place “when we form the next government”.
Chamisa was in the UK this week to meet government officials as he ups his profile three months after assuming leadership of the MDC from the late veteran party president Morgan Tsvangirai. But Zimbabweans were on Friday divided over whether or not the HARDtalk interview damaged Chamisa’s credibility.
‘More harm than good’
Former state newspaper editor, Edmund Kudzayi said Chamisa did himself no favours. “There is a reason why (Mnangagwa) has not gone on HARDtalk. He has advisers. They know his strengths and weaknesses. The sycophants surrounding Chamisa are probably telling him he did a great job. He didn’t. While the interview wasn’t fatal, it did him more harm than good,” Kudzayi wrote on Twitter.
Others were more charitable.
“It’s his (Chamisa’s age). You become a CEO of a big conglomerate at 24 people will definitely want to find out what you are made of. He is aiming for the big crown at only 40, that’s unprecedented in this part of the world!” wrote @chabvamate.