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Zimbabwe is no country for nice men like Nkosana Moyo

In an angry editorial after the resignation, the Herald called Moyo a lover of “international capitalists”, and said Moyo should have “known what he was getting into when he joined the government”.

Mugabe, realising that the “new thinkers” were losing him the political support of his base, had now abandoned his experiment with nice guy politics for the dirty politics that he had made his forte.

A year after Moyo resigned, Makoni also left government, after Mugabe called his proposal to devalue the Zimdollar “sinister”.

Makoni’s replacement, Herbert Murerwa, another of the nice guys, was to also be later replaced; he was too “bookish,” Mugabe said.

“I want amadoda sibili (real men), people with spine,” Mugabe said at a rally, referring to Moyo.

In one unintended sense, Mugabe was right.

In the political culture that he has bred and perfected over decades, it is only the dirty brawlers that seem to stand a chance, inside or outside government.

Voters are so used to dirty politics that anyone that tries a cleaner brand of politics is viewed with suspicion.

Scars and insults appeal more to voters than fancy policy documents.

And this is what Moyo and his campaign will need to learn, fast.

They may want to sell their man as the “cleaner” alternative to Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

However, they still need him to be sharper in his criticism of ZANU-PF and its leader, to brawl a bit more.

Moyo says “hurling insults at anyone is not a good starting point,” but that is just what voters want.

Those who try to play nice always end up losing.

He should ask Simba Makoni, whose messaging early in his own campaign bears a striking resemblance to Moyo’s.

Makoni refused to openly attack Mugabe, choosing instead to tell voters that he preferred a clean campaign focused on issues.

But in a country used to gore and thunder in its politics, playing Mr Nice Guy is a handicap.

That frustrated Makoni, who in an interview back in 2013 appeared resigned to that fact.

“Maybe that is because our people are used to the culture of politics of denunciation. We must see beyond that,” Makoni said at his party offices in Harare.

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