PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has declined to be drawn into a public presidential debate on national television with opposition MDC-T’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa to thrash out their election manifestos ahead of this year’s crucial polls.
Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba yesterday said his boss was not keen to engage his political opponents in a public debate, arguing that the ruling Zanu PF party did not attach much value to such engagements.
“I don’t think we are likely to get it at all because we don’t find any value at all. One key component in political communication is go straight to the voter and they are many ways of doing it outside a presidential debate,” he said.
Televised presidential debates ahead of general elections have become the hallmark of democratic nations, with candidates given an equal platform to defend their manifestos.
But Charamba said Mnangagwa would not be lulled into exposing his election strategy by the opposition.
“If you are a clever political player, you don’t fit into the strategy of your opponent, it’s up to the President and Zanu PF to decide whether or not the presidential debate does advance their own communication strategy. If it does, you will have it and if it doesn’t, you won’t have it,” he said.
He dismissed Chamisa as a “juvenile” who was excitable and renting roving crowds to create an image that he was a popular figure ahead of the polls.
“Zanu PF is visible, but not in opposition terms. We are fixing the economy and dealing with bread and butter issues, which, at the end of the day, determine how the voter behaves on the day, but more importantly, we have our schedule. We don’t copy an opponent’s strategy, you pursue your own. What I see really is a juvenilian response to an election that looms large, but a mature party is not excited and excitable, but takes its sweet time and as we move towards the election, the mighty machinery of Zanu PF will be unleashed,” he said.
But through his spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, Chamisa yesterday said Charamba’s statements showed that Mnangagwa and his team remained in the “analogue” era and had not embraced trends in the world of civilisation.
“It tells you that you are dealing with an analogue lot in the digital age. This is what the rest of the civilised world is doing, that the electorate is allowed to make their own choice after presidential candidates go live and they debate their own programmes, their own policy ideas and manifestos so that people can make informed choices,” he said.
“President Chamisa is not only a pastor, he is an advocate of the superior court of the land and according to the Constitution, his age is such that he is allowed to contest for a presidential election.
“Is he saying that there are 40-year-old juveniles? For a party of geriatrics, for a party whose politburo is replete with characters who are over 80 and 90 years old, certainly someone who is 40 years old is a juvenile.”
Mnangagwa is 75 years old and Chamisa 40.