Charamba’s reflection– birthday message, or farewell speech?

GEORGE Charamba’s discerning message on the occasion of president’s Mugabe’s 87th birthday couldn’t have gone unnoticed.

"The Joy of being Mugabe’s Spokesman", was the heading of the article which paradoxically appeared in one of the major online publications that Charamba would traditionally regard as antagonistic. Disguised as a birthday message, there appears to have been more to it.

"To work with the President can be great fun. You meet a legend who is so ordinary, a myth which is so human", says the loquacious and longest-serving presidential spokesman. Reading through the well-thought-out accolade, one could wonder if Charamba was delivering a valedictory speech, some kind of eulogy or both. Some of the mesmerised readers were made to recall one of the most recycled quotes in ancient literature "I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him". In his own words, Charamba said "I have worked with the President for slightly over two decades, clearly his longest serving Press Secretary to date, possibly ever" It will be interesting to know your own inference of this bold but unusual statement.

Reading between the lines, one gets the impression that something might be brewing in the corridors of power. Of late, the articulate Charamba whose command of the English language is by any measure impressive, has curiously eased from his seemingly radical stance and adopted a style which has a semblance of professionalism, proactivity and accommodativeness. He surprised as well as won the respect of many when he recently disclosed that the president had gone to Singapore for a post-operation review. Considering that the president can never be a private person, this information was plausible and literally killed the rumour machine. Interestingly, this was after those talented with hiding the truth thereby causing unnecessary speculation had gone on rooftops assassinating every media that had covered the story. Unsurprisingly, one of them was the shameless architect of the Daily News bombing who is still frantically trying to find a lucrative office in Harare, but in vain.

The speculation now is that the same sycophant, having realized that both Webster Shamu and Rugare Gumbo are firmly entrenched in their respective positions therefore cannot be dislodged any time some; may have shifted his focus towards Charamba’s office. The other supposition is that Gushungo may have confided in Charamba that time to relinquish power, retire peacefully and focus on memoirs and farming was now fast approaching. What else could have led the typically defensive presidential spokesman to circulate such an article as the one in question?

Nevertheless, if you were to ask people the difference between Jonathan Moyo and George Charamba, the common response would probably be that the latter engages his brains before opening his mouth while the former does the diametric opposite. Like him or hate him, Charamba seems to have some kind of a congenital gift of oratory that no one can take from. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, I would probably equate him with Nelson Chamisa, Obert Gutu or a few others. We expect more of this kind of truthfulness in the coming months.

Reflecting on the past including the Willowgate scandal, Charamba dispelled the one notion that has been around since independence, being that the president is an infallible human being who is only unlucky to be surrounded by ministers who mislead him from time to time.

Charamba says there are some who see the president as "a leader who does not know, who is misled and smothered by a parapet of official duplicity. That, too, is another variant to the same myth of vulnerability. I have always thought the President often brings that upon himself" What this statement confirms is that the president is equally culpable for the errors of judgment or sins of commission or omission by his trusted lieutenants over the three decades he has been leading the nation for he alone had the power to hire and fire.

Delivering the kind of praise characteristic of a funeral speech, Charamba goes on to describe the president as "A long-time teacher, a commander, a skilful negotiator, a husband, a father, a Catholic, he has met humanity in its diverse frailties"

On awareness of everyday issues, Charamba tells us that the president "can look detached, even oblivious to developments around him, while actively taking in the outrage, understanding it before finally taking a position" So here you are, those who have always argued that Gushungo was surrounded by people who ill-advise him. The truth is he knows everything that happens around him though he may take time to act. So the recent postulation by some that he wasn’t aware of the violence happening around the country particularly the poor township of Mbare, simply falls away, unless if his spokesman got it all wrong.

On Willowgate, we are told that Dr. Elleck Mashingaidze, then CIO boss, said in one of the routine briefing sessions "Aa-ah Shefu ngazvichipera izvi. Zvanyanya kani. Chistoppai izvi Shefu." Gushungo’s response was "The process will continue and remedial action has to be taken-ka, Dr Mashingaidze,". This is clear demonstration of the fact that the president is informed of and makes decisions on any major event or process affecting his party as well as the country. Also, the presidential spokesman hints that those who break the laws of the land can only be prosecuted or let free on the orders of the president. Whether this is in tandem with the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, your guess is as good as mine.

Mashingaidza is said to have gone on pleading "Shefu, how far do you want to go? Zvakwana kani shefu. Mavakudestabiliza system. Mavakuwuraya party kani Shefu." This is the very kind of mental model inherent in most of our current security bosses; they put the interest of the party ahead of that of the country. Is it then unfair to say in its current form, the security service is undoubtedly partisan and terribly compromised?

Another interesting point Charamba makes is that president Mugabe never signs a document before scrutinizing it. To demonstrate this, he says that the late Dr Jokonya once brought a pile of paperwork to the president for signing and only flipped to the pages that needed the president’s signature. After a bit of pestering for a signature by Jokonya, Gushungo is said to have said "Dr Jokonya, my name is Robert Mugabe; not Robot Mugabe! Do you hear?" This again shows how informed the president is and has always been.

Thanks Charamba for seemingly opening up of late. At least the nation now appreciates that we have not had a semi-god at State House for three decades. You have effectively portrayed the president’s human side many of us did not know about. Coincidentally, there seems to be a bit of toning down in some sections of the state media. This is great for our nation. However, the big question remains; was yours simply a birthday message or farewell speech?

Views expressed in this article are the writer’s personal opinion – chambokom@gmail.com