I remember a debate we had with a learned friend, on social media a couple of months back, on whether an individual, as self-proclaimed prophet Passion Java, could be considered an influential person.
I was of the opinion that Zimbabwe as a whole, did not have any one who could strictly be called as such – since we had more of “popular” individuals, than “influential”.
My submission was that, a truly “influential” person was someone who could convince you to do something that you would normally not do – for instance, those occultic leaders, who can make their followers willingly and knowingly drink poison and die, after giving away all their worldly possessions to those same leaders.
Of course, he was of a different view – since he was totally convinced that the likes of Java, and other so-called “celebrities” carried with them a huge influence on how people, especially the youth, thought and behaved.
The debate, though, did not go far, as, due to a lack of any concrete evidence to either prove or disprove these varied assertions, there was really no logical need to continue arguing in a vacuum – because that would just be merely senseless quarrelling, which my beloved late father loved calling, “nharo dzemubhawa” (drunken pub arguments).
I normally love engaging in debates that are driven by evidence-based facts, rather than personal beliefs.
Whether Zimbabwe actually has people who can genuinely be referred to as “influential” or not, I, nonetheless, completely believe one thing – no one can be influential enough to convince someone suffering immense pain from abuse, to love his tormentor, unless he is some depraved masochist.
Surely, if a psychopath is torturing me – subjecting my body to treacherous anguish, and merciless affliction – can there be anyone “influential” enough to convince me that my tormentor was actually a wonderful loving kind person, whom I should like?
This is the question that always comes into my mind when I see the increasing number of so-called “celebrities” and “influencers” that the ruling ZANU PF party, and its government, continue roping in to assist in its campaign drive.
Of late, we have witnessed social media comedians, musicians (some from far afield), wealthy personalities (mbinga), and so many others flocking to meet with president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, or being incorporated into various pro-ZANU PF organizations and initiatives.
Honestly, do those who come up with these wild ideas truly believe that there is anyone out there who can persuade a population that is enduring immeasurable pain and suffering – through unimaginable poverty and lack, primarily authored by the country’s power-greedy and kleptomaniac ruling elite – to suddenly endear themselves to those causing their unbearable anguish?
Is this not taking this belief in “influential” people a bit too far – by bestowing on them too much credit, and overestimating their powers?
Let us not forget that, when these same “influencers” make guffs in their sometimes senseless and thoughtless comments – their followers, whom we mistakenly believe to be under their enchanted spell, never hesitate to call them out by openly castigating them.
That, to me, does not appear like holding some alluring power over their followers.
Just because someone has a million followers, or receives thousands of likes on whatever they post on social media, or can even draw huge crowds wherever they go – does not automatically equate, and has never equated, to possessing an immense captivating thaumaturgy upon them.
People, especially the youth, are drawn to these people for various reasons – which can range from purely enjoying their comedic skits and sketches, or entertaining music, or attracted by the bling and opulence…maybe, even expecting to be given a few dollars in the process of flocking around a “mbinga”.
However, it is a totally different thing translating that attraction into influencing the poor and suffering – mainly, the youth who can not find jobs, are failing to financially stand on their own, and are finding it difficult to even sustain their little business ventures – into believing that the very same people, who have caused their misery, are loving saints, who should actually be supported.
Our unbelievably naive leaders can not distinguish what they witness in more developed countries, and our situation here in Zimbabwe.
Indeed, when a people are living relatively comfortably, and seemingly without a care in the world – it is easier for “celebrities” and “influencers” to convince their fans to vote for particular candidates, of which they would have endorsed, because these are people who would not have been abusing and tormenting them.
It would be a matter of simple policy differences between political parties and candidates.
Yet, in our Zimbabwe – the scenario is another story.
Yes, our youths will gladly take these mbinga’s monies, laugh at jokes by these comedians, dance to the latest vibes by popular musicians, and even scuffle for selfies with their favorite “celebrities” – but, they are certainly not fools, and perfectly understand who is responsible for their sad untenable plight.
Unless these so-called “celebrities” and “influencers” are afflicted by some serious case of delusions of grandeur, they fully comprehend these truths – and, are possibly only playing along with the ruling establishment merely for the sake of financial mileage, as they are surely being rewarded quite handsomely.
If there is a desperate and unpopular ruling elite – that is too anxious and needful for public support, and naively believes that “celebrities” and “influencers” can wave the magic wand – then, why not take advantage of that gullibility?
Furthermore, in our corrupt country, it would not be surprising at all that being pictured with the president will certainly open some doors that would normally be firmly shut for these individuals.
Has name-dropping not become the key to so much fraudulent and nefarious activities in Zimbabwe – and, what can be more powerful than a picture with the highest office in the land?
However, they are fully aware that, as far as influencing anyone to support their own tormentors is concerned – that is a different cup of tea, altogether.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: email@example.com