On the 23rd of October 2021, Honorable Paul Mangwana participated on a Southern African Liaison Office Facebook seminar, as a lone anti-sanctions campaigner debating sanctions against a group of pro-sanctions activists.
On the opposing side were a well-organized and prepared panel of Hopewell, Dewa, Jacob Mapfume and various other opposition members.
From the onset, Honorable Mangwana seemed unfamiliar with the subject matter of sanctions, as he slowly and agonizingly read his points off written notes, which made for a rather boring and rhetorical spectacle.
Secondly, he made the mistake of going alone (humbimbindoga) onto the platform without making an effort to mobilize better-equipped anti-sanctions activists to back him up.
Sadly for him, the pro-sanctions team was organized, united and robust. They put up an army of their best people for the debate, to drive their narrative, and in the process they tore the honorable's argument to shreds.
Exasperated by failing to articulate how sanctions are illegal and affecting Zimbabweans, Honorable Mangwana quit the debate, citing that he was outnumbered.
It was at this point that I received a phone call with a link to the SALO debate, asking me to rescue the Advocate from the disaster he had created for the anti-sanctions movement.
The moment I came onto the platform, I began to articulate how sanctions were an illegal punishment of civilians without trial. This quickly put Dewa and Mapfume on a backfoot as lawyers, because they didn't want to seem to support the collective punishment of civilians by sanctions without trial.
As for Hopewell, he began to parrot his usual unsubstantiated lie that Zimbabwe has no cancer machines and only two maternity wards, which I challenged with numbers and health outcomes that seem to always neutralize this cheap propaganda.
The moral of the story is that Honorable Mangwana was not outnumbered, but he was ill-equipped, lacking in knowledge and skills of articulation.
And with such deficiencies, he made the mistake of going into a hostile battle-of-the-minds without the support of well-informed anti-sanctions activists (who include many others besides ZASM members), because he wanted all the glory to himself.
In this debate, Mangwana epitomized the Achilles heel of ZANU PF and its government officials - gatekeeping in areas where they lack proficiency - while sidelining experts who would have represented the nation, party and government better.
Not only do they sideline experts, but senior officials also steal ideas and sell the ideas as their own, hence they are forced to jump into deep waters on issues they never formulated and as a result, they get exposed.
But more insidious is the fact that they don't appreciate the need for training and coaching on public interest issues like sanctions and laws associated with them, to improve their articulation.
As a result, after 22 years of sanctions in Zimbabwe, the bulk of Zimbabwean officials are still clueless about sanctions or the laws related to sanctions, but they insist on talking about sanctions and their laws in public, misrepresenting these issues without training, and thus most Zimbabweans think sanctions are an an ill-conceived ZANU PF political gimmick.
These are ZANU PF own goals, led by mediocre politicians who try to close out experts and smarter people than them, for their own personal gain and not the national interest of Zimbabwe.
This is why you see people like Honorable Mangwana and the Minister of Communication putting up poor performances on international platforms because they are not embracing the best-of-the-best or experts to represent them or coach them to articulate national issues in a credible manner.
By doing so, they give anti-Zimbabwean global media the ammunition to sully Zimbabwe's image by portraying our leadership [them] as clowns.
Zimbabwe gets very few opportunities to speak on international media, so when we get the platform, we should have our best orators to articulate our national story effectively to shift perceptions.
Watch full video of debate on: https://fb.watch/lnZ6mwW9Sg/?mibextid=qC1gEa