Chamisa is not a toddler.

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Just a few days ago, at a rally in Chinhoyi, Nelson Chamisa, the new leader of MDC-T and the candidate for the MDC Alliance, made the bold remark that, with the right leadership and the right investment acumen, Zimbabwe could have a high speed rail connection if it wanted. It is a worrying sign that the greatest criticism he got for even daring to dream so ambitiously, came mainly from the young people who would be the main beneficiaries of such a long-term project.

By: Shadreck Dhuvai

People were quick to point out how impractical his idea appears, and how it is apparently out of touch with current needs. This is precisely the mechanism that has kept the current ruling party in power. They want to rule a society of people that is so focused on daily survival that to aspire to any better is almost taboo. As long as you maintain that “bread and butter” issues take precedence, you set the bar for delivery so low that leaders get away with offering the bare minimum- or failing at that even.

Lord knows that Zimbabwe has already lost billions to the current corrupt cabal that is still pulling the strings of power. All we have to show for it are a couple of tin shacks in Gwanda, some refurbished old steam locomotives, and snow graders!

I personally applaud Chamisa for daring to see a vision of Zimbabwe that goes beyond what we have been led to believe is possible. Is that not the very aspiration that should drive us as a nation, to aim for the stars and land for the moon if we fail? Now is the time to free the children of Zimbabwe from the limits of imagination that have allowed us to wallow in the quagmire for decades. Now is the time to re-ignite the dreams that we had hitherto put aside.

Here is the honest truth: inept old old men have presided over Zimbabwe for so long that our collective perceptions of age and capability are seriously skewed. That is the origin of the narrative I keep hearing; that Nelson Chamisa is too young to run for president, that he is but a “toddler”, that he is a student politician. There are even memes circulating that express this very viewpoint.

What the purveyors of this world-view fail to realize is that the younger people of Zimbabwe are tired of being in the back seat and letting myopic old men drive. What they fail to see is that Chamisa is the tip of a spear that bears the aspirations of a cross-generational consensus. He represents the generation that chooses to let loose the imagination, and not to shackle it like the legacy of Robert Mugabe has done.

He is the political vehicle for the cohort that is tired of being told that participation in a war that ended decades ago should determine who takes our country into the future. He represents those who are tired of being told that they are too young to take an active role in determining the future they want to see.

To say that Chamisa is too young to lead is to tell all the active and adept young Zimbabweans across the world that their skills and capabilities are not recognized. Many of these people live in countries with dynamic young leaders, some of whom are even younger than Chamisa and yet are achieving great things. To say that Chamisa is too young to lead is to remain stuck in the era of Robert Mugabe, where youth leaders are in their 60’s, and 93 year olds are touted as architects of the future.

If the only counter-message that ZANU PF has is that Chamisa is too young to lead, then fair warming, they have definitely not read the wave of Chamisa the right way. As Themba Mliswa rightly says in a video circulating on whatsapp, trying to stop the MDC Alliance #generationalmandate is like trying to stop an oncoming wave with your open palms.

The generation that makes up the majority of voters has never been readier to seize the mantle of leadership, and to do what it takes to free the country from the generational curse that is ZANU PF. They choose to re-ignite our dreams for a Zimbabwe that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the world, speed trains or not.

If we cannot rescue ourselves from the limited vision of the current regime, then surely, ZANU PF has won already, for they have not only stolen our generation’s dreams, but our imaginations as well.

As J.M. Barrie said in a tale that I doubt many of E.D’s generation will know:

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan