And so it was this week during the official opening of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe. Government strategists thought they had pulled all the stops to ensure President Robert Mugabe would not be ambushed and humiliated “live” on TV and radio by opposition MDC-T MPs as happened during his State of the Nation address three weeks ago.
As the first precautionary measure, this time around there would be no ZBC coverage to deny MDC-T MPs another chance of heckling Mugabe “live”. Second, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda sternly warned the MPs that they would be charged with contempt of Parliament if they dared to exercise that democratic option of vocalising against Mugabe. Third, anonymous death threat messages were sent to those MPs on their cellphones that once they stepped out of the august House, they would have no immunity; all manner of harm would descend upon them. The chilling message sealed it all for the avoidance of doubt about the grave consequences of going ahead with their planned heckling. They were not going to take any chances in view of the abduction and disappearance of journalist-cum-political activist Itai Dzamara in March this year.
As one can see, the government strategists used everything at their disposal — including intimidation — to ensure an easy ride for the President in Parliament. Who could not have noticed the visibly petrified MDC-T MPs as they sat cowed in the House? The system deployed all the resources and force — legal and illegal — at its disposal to ensure smooth sailing for Mugabe. They must have been satisfied that they had pulled all the stops (kuti vavhara maburi ese).
“If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something,” so sayeth Cde Murphy.
It went according to script until the moment everyone was waiting for: Mugabe’s speech outlining his legislative agenda for the next 12 months.
But — horror of horrors! — Mugabe went on to read a completely wrong speech for the occasion. Not only that, he read all of it and for a whole 25 minutes. Says Murphy’s Law: “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the first one to go wrong.”
That is exactly what happened on Tuesday. These somewhat fateful things do happen. Remember in 2003 when ZBC-TV announced with much hype days before that it would broadcast footage showing MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai talking clearly about assassinating Mugabe, but when the moment arrived for screening the video, all we got was an inaudible grainy black and white film? That was the last we heard of that footage. Nature always siding with the hidden flaw? That’s Murphy’s Law for you.
Mugabe served the worst for the last, not consciously, not intentionally, of course, because his demeanour throughout didn’t for once change at all as he regurgitated his State of the Nation address from three weeks ago word for word.
Some years ago when Mugabe was handed a wrong prepared speech, he quickly noticed and got extremely angry with his aides, including or particularly his spokesperson George Charamba, and quite rightly so because the buck stops with Charamba. The responsibility for such a blunder cannot and should not be passed to someone else to avoid a sticky situation.
But, to his credit, Charamba was this week seen rushing to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa apparently to alert him of the embarrassing blunder, but no effort was made to stop Mugabe from carrying on with his speech, possibly to avoid further embarrassing him in public.
But, of course, all this was lost on the Joseph Chinotimbas of this world, who — blindsided as they are by sycophantic loyalty — enthusiastically embraced Mugabe’s repeat performance as a moment of brilliance, genius. Talk of people hearing without listening!
Expectedly, the Zanu PF-controlled State media buried the story in inside pages, but that didn’t make it any less a blunder.
Predictably, they cited other prominent world leaders such as United States President Barack Obama who have had their own Murphy’s Law moments through reading entirely wrong speeches. But what they omitted to mention is that these politicians realised midway their blunders and apologetically stopped.
However, not only did Mugabe read a completely wrong speech this week, but all of it.This time around he went all the way unlike previously when he quickly noticed that something was wrong, something was out of place.
Not only that, this time around Mugabe repeated his own speech word for word from only three weeks — not three months, not three years — ago in its entirety. Something should have rung a bell, but it didn’t. That is the most worrying aspect of it.
That is what makes a crisis — and it is. But some people are just looking without seeing this.
And, according to Cde Murphy, everything could go wrong — all at once.