The funeral service in December 2018 for the late 41st President of the United States, George H Bush, who was in office from 1989 to 1993 (not to be confused with his son, George W Bush, the 43rd President of the US, who served from 2001 to 2009) was as inclusive as it was instructive.
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Present were all the still living former US presidents, namely Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (all from the Democratic Party) along with the incumbent head of state, Donald Trump (from the rival Republican Party), sitting next to each in the front row of seats on the left with their spouses, while Bush Jnr sat with family members on the front row of seats on the right in a well-organised arrangement.
You have to give it to the Americans that they are the best in coming together and closing ranks at such occasions. That is demonstrable political maturity, which some of us who are disciples of peace journalism do not see that coming together as an existential threat.
Peace journalism happens when editors and reporters make choices — about what to report, and when to report it — that create opportunities for society at large to consider and value non-extreme and non-violent responses to conflict because accentuating conflict often has a value bias towards violence.
“Peace journalism can be described as journalism that offers a more balanced perspective of war and conflict than that provided by the dominant mainstream media. For instance, peace journalism aims to construct realities from all sides, and to reveal less visible causes and effects of war and violence, such as their cost in terms of the dead and disabled, and of the destruction of social order and institutions, while refraining from dehumanising the enemy,” writes Nancy L Roberts in her book titled Peace Journalism.
Does that sound familiar? Indeed, it does because some sections of the media — including in Zimbabwe — have taken it upon themselves to be at the forefront of escalating conflict through toxic headlines and covertly and overtly biased reporting, reducing them to mouthpieces of political parties, becoming part of the problem, not solution.
It has even been suggested that the media created a more conducive atmosphere for the assassination of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Rather than emphasising what divides opposed parties, as is common in mainstream media war coverage, peace journalism seeks to uncover any possible areas of agreement between them. It offers analysis of what caused the conflict and tries to suggest how it may be resolved or transformed in cases where resolution is impossible or too difficult.
As such, it may include peace advocacy journalism, which shares many of its characteristics, but with an explicitly articulated point of view that aims, above all, to persuade, whereas doomsday journalism tends to inflame current hostilities.
In that context, the report this week that the Tsvangirai family had invited President Emmerson (Zanu PF leader) and MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe along with the MDC leadership to the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s memorial service scheduled for February this year, the month he died last year, was most positive news to close 2018, which was a mixed grill of a year, because the nation needs to be at peace with itself — and the Tsvangirai family has shown the way to go about it by tapping into the lowest common denominator — that which is understood,appreciated and accepted by the broadest mass of people — of remembering Morgan Tsvangirai, who, according to his brother Manasa, was “a man who was willing to forgo his personal wishes for the good of the country. That is leadership, and we should open up his memorial to all.
He united the country around the cause of the motherland. That was Morgan for you, and all are invited”.
Naturally, this particular news item has silenced the usual cyber bullies on social media — whose partisanship is the complete opposite of patriotism — showing how far it has disarmed them of any verbal weapons they might have used against the Tsvangirai family, which weapons they unleash on others with reckless abandon.
In that vein, MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume should be called to order and face up to the reality of what happened last year, instead of claiming: “The MDC has never sought to harm Madam Khupe at any point or any event, whether we are present or not.”
Nothing could be further from the truth going by what happened at Tsvangirai’s burial when rowdy MDC youths, baying for Khupe’s blood, nearly burnt her alive in a hut where she had taken refuge.
As a lawyer himself, Mafume ought to know that in the US court system, the parole board does not release a prisoner before the expiry of a sentence unless that prisoner takes complete responsibility for his/her crime.
Manase Tsvangirai was perfectly in order when he said: “The idea of having the family leading the process is to make sure nobody tries to hijack the programme to get mileage. We want to avoid the chaos that characterised the funeral. A lot of people did not get the chance to mourn Tsvangirai, and we want to avoid that scenario.
“We have gone out of our way to make sure that the security of all is assured.”
So the Tsvangirai family has wisely decided to forestall a repeat of any of that violence. There is no place for a code of silence, where there is an unwritten and unchallenged rule that no one speaks out when wrong or evil is being done by whoever under whatever guise.
Likewise, the Bush funeral service was essentially a family affair, thus Trump was not given the opportunity to hijack the occasion and vent his known hatred of Obama. He was put in his place even though he is the current US President.
In the same vein, it is good that Manase has promised to put everyone in their place at his brother Morgan’s memorial service because the last thing the nation needs is a repeat of last year’s uncivilised horror show.
Tsvangirai’s mother was also disrespectfully and disgracefully abused by these yobos, whose crudity, profanity and sacrilegiousness shows that they have completely no sense of occasion. These mixed-up yobos — drunk and drugged up to the eyeballs but claiming to be motivated by religious piety and purity — crossed the line between decency and depravity.
Said Manase: “We have written to the government officially inviting the President (Mnangangwa) and it’s true that we have invited Khupe and all other political formations . . . This is going to be a free programme and everyone is invited.”
Well, by implication, those of a violent disposition and those saying Mnangagwa is illegitimate should be considered as having disinvited themselves because the invitation has the effect of legitimising the President. It doesn’t need rocket science to see that.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org