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Chamisa to speak at Oxford Union

The Oxford Union, the most prestigious student debating organisation in the United Kingdom whose membership is drawn primarily from the University of Oxford, will be hosting MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa on May 7 to debate Zimbabwe's ongoing political transition.

Chamisa joins countless British prime ministers, three US presidents and top political figures from the Dalai Lama to Malcolm X on the prestigious 195-year-old debating society's archival guest list.  

In an e-mailed invitation to Chamisa from Brendan McGrath, assistant to Oxford Union president Gui Cavalcanti, the union described the youthful MDC Alliance presidential aspirant as "radical and optimistic whose personality and national vision needed to be directed to a global audience".

"In taking advantage of Zimbabwe's current transitions… Chamisa has crafted himself into a radically optimistic, charismatic leader to challenge the sedentary pessimism which has prevailed in the country for so long," McGrath said.

"A visit to the Oxford Union would capitalise on this image, directing his personality and national vision to a global audience, one tuned into Zimbabwe and eager to have their opinions shaped. It would be an honour to welcome him."

Commenting on the invite to address the debating society at the famous university located about 70km north of London, Chamisa's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the MDC was humbled by the gesture.

"We are going to take advantage of the invitation to this prestigious speaking platform to have the president articulate his policy direction. It is significant in that it tells that the whole world has been charmed by the Chamisa moment," Tamborinyoka said.

Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union is a venerable platform for debate at the university. And debating at the Oxford Union takes two forms — competitive debating and chamber debating.

Chamisa will take part in the chamber debating which include debates known as Public Business Meetings with invited guest speakers for which the Union is best known.

This tends to be less formal in format, even if more formal in tone requiring clarification, than competitive debates, and the manner of delivery is closer to public speaking, with audience engagement far more important.

On the other hand, competitive debating is the preserve of a minority of members of the Union.

The Union's best debaters compete internationally against other top debating societies, and the Oxford Union regularly fields one of the most successful teams at the World Universities Debating Championships and the European Universities Debating Championships.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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