ONE of the eagerly hoped for things when President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over power in a military-assisted operation was a reform of the media in its entirety. People had hoped for a total shift from the propaganda days when the nation could be fed with land reform jingles after every 30 minutes on both radio and television.
By Learnmore Zuze
The recent deliberate falsification of Nelson Chamisa’s statements by The Herald that he had said something to the effect that he can impregnate any woman is quite disturbing. In essence, what The Herald succeeded in doing is to depict Mnangagwa’s electoral campaign as based on unfounded attacks on opponents. With a huge responsibility placed on its shoulders ahead of the watershed Presidential elections, the State media is dismally failing by choosing to malign other candidates while propping up Mnangagwa in what is even clear to a kindergarten child. ED will still win if he would, without the near-ludicrous reporting seen in State media these last few weeks, especially.
The nation had reeled from years of media abuse where seasoned broadcasters like Obriel Mpofu were embarrassed by politicians and openly threatened as they sought to ask pertinent questions on national television. Year in, year out former President Robert Mugabe had a birthday interview done were the timid interviewers in the form of Tazzen Mandizvidza and the slightly courageous Supa Mandiwanzira were more of apologists rather than aggressive interviewers. Mugabe got away with a lot of things because of a subservient and docile State media. Unfortunately, it would appear Zimbabwe has ages to go before we can talk of a vibrant and responsible State media.
Under Mugabe, State media saw no government evil and would even praise the ridiculous appointments made by him. Again, State media would applaud such comic ministries like the infamous short-lived Psychomotor services ministry. To the State media, it had become a matter of seeing things in black and white. Precisely, whatever had traces of government had to be praised while the opposition had to be trashed? Among other things, strictly speaking, Mugabe’s administration ought to take the blame for destroying the credibility of the ZBC. It was politics, especially the emergence of a vibrant and united MDC that saw the ZBC losing credibility to this day.
Honestly, how could a national broadcaster award four hours to an inane rally where the First Lady gets even with her perceived enemies. A whole lot of evil tainted the image of the national broadcaster in the last 18 years.
The coming in of Mnangagwa seemed to breathe new life or at least was expected to inject new enthusiasm in the State media but it’s becoming apparently clear that the wait for a sound State media is not yet over. A quick rundown of most State media headlines is living evidence that the sick editorial policy of praise-singing the incumbent still has an octopus grip in the running of State media. Much as MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has been lampooned for ‘bullet trains’ campaigns, the State media is equally guilty of trying to sanitise a situation that is insane on the ground. The truth of the matter is that cash shortages are still with us seven months after Mnangagwa took over power.
It is very crucial that State media reports responsibly rather than tell Zimbabweans who face the difficulties every day that things have improved. Zimbabweans want to see things happen instead of promises. In essence, promises are understandable coming from an opposition as it has not assumed power. ED enjoys the power of incumbency and, as such, must be action oriented not so much on the talking side.
The maligning of Nelson Chamisa may work well only if to have the electorate hate him but what Zimbabweans eagerly anticipate is an improvement in national affairs. Mugabe travelled down the same path, denigrating the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai at every turn. Mugabe even set up false treason charges against Tsvangirai, with the ZBC being the major player in the whole fiasco. At the end of it all, Mugabe won but could not fix the economy up to the very day of his ouster from power.
Probably no one could have put it better than Hopewell Chin’ono when he said, in regard to the statements attributed to Chamisa: “In their quest to try and please, cozy up and bridge their proximity to the political elites in government, The Herald has lowered its professional and ethical obligations from the gutter into the sewer.”
Zimbabweans want to hear how, on a practical and truthful front, ED will ease the suffering of the masses and stop cash shortages. Even painting Chamisa as the devil incarnate won’t improve the lives of Zimbabweans.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail email@example.com