SA actress presence in Zim raises eyebrows

South African actress and activist Pearl Thusi took to Twitter (now X) to raise her concern over the “deteriorating” Zimbabwean situation,

ON AUGUST 3, 2020 South African actress and activist Pearl Thusi took to Twitter (now X) to raise her concern over the “deteriorating” Zimbabwean situation, imploring fellow Africans to help Zimbabweans “without measuring” what they have done to help themselves.

She was reacting to the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, a protest that hit the social media networks in 2020 and trended globally.

Locals and outsiders, including international personalities, participated in the protest from all corners of the globe.

#ZimbabweanLivesMatter was mirrored after the #Black Lives Matter campaign, which took place in the United States after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of US police officers in Minneapolis.

Thusi was among a myriad of international celebrities, who included Zimbabwean/American actress Thandiwe Newton, South African stars Zakes Bantwini, Dr Tumi, Boity Thulo and the late AKA, American rapper and actor Ice Cube, Jamaican band Morgan Heritage as well as former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, among others who voiced their concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

“Anyone dying because of the government abusing its power is unacceptable,” Pearl tweeted then.

“Apart from tweeting ... which is also important, what else can we do to put pressure on the Zimbabwean (government) to be accountable?”

She then asked South Africans to pledge their help to Zimbabweans without questioning what they had done to help change their situation.

“You know, this type of thinking is what happens when good people allow bad things to happen," she said.

“Zimbabwean people are so humble and kind that it must be really bad for them to have even reached this stage.

“Just do what’s right without measuring someone else’s abilities.”

Exactly three years down the lane, the South African star is seen dining and mingling with the very same people whom she accused of being behind human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Thusi was among a group of African media and television personalities who were part of a government-sponsored public relations campaign dubbed The True Zimbabwe Tour.

Other top South African personalities on tour included Sonia Mbele and veteran actor Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, who left the country yesterday after touring the Victoria Falls and had visits to farming projects, the African Chrome Fields mining operations, the new wing of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and others.

“The True Zimbabwe Journalists (Media) Tour is meant to showcase the country’s beauty and hospitality, as well as the work being done by the Second Republic over the past five years,” tweeted Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana last Wednesday.       

In one of the pictures that went viral, the South African actress is seen interacting with Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa, musician Mudiwa Hood and controversial pastor Passion Java at a cocktail hosted by the Information ministry on Wednesday evening at the Rainbow Towers Hotel.

On Thursday, Thusi and her colleagues were at State House where they engaged President Emmerson Mnangagwa before they toured various projects linked to Zanu PF on Friday.

It was Thusi’s presence in Zimbabwe that raised eyebrows in view of her involvement in the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.

“Celebrities are so shameless bruh!

“Act like they want nothing to do with corrupt governments, but they turn blind eye when it’s time for gigs. What truth will Pearl Thusi tell about Zimbabwe? Only going to read a Zanu PF script, so detached from Zimbabweans on the ground,” a tweet read.

Another tweet read: “Pearl Thusi can’t tell Zimbabweans the true Zimbabwe because they live there and know it, she can’t tell South Africans about the True Zimbabwe because they see the number of Zimbabweans in their country.”

Ironically in 2016 Thusi featured in the American thriller TV drama Quantico. Thusi plays a teenager, Dayana Mampasi, an accomplished human rights lawyer who came to America from Zimbabwe — a country tainted with cases of gross human rights violations.

Coincidentally, Thusi was then dating Zimbabwean Robert Marawa who was a presenter on SuperSport.

Thusi recently posted a picture of herself on the Zambezi River with an accompanying caption “What a beautiful country and even more incredible people here in Zimbabwe."

However, a local public relations and branding consultant doubted Thusi’s genuineness about her concerns for Zimbabweans.

“The fact that she is now dining and mingling with government officials whom she accused in the first place of abusing human rights makes her sincerity doubtful,” said the consultant who preferred anonymity for professional reasons.

“She was very active during the #ZimbabweanLiveMatter movement, but it seems she is now up to something.”

Media expert Rashweat Mukundu described the propaganda trip by the government of Zimbabwe as a waste of time.

“It’s a waste of money and an old type of public relations in which you try to influence how people perceive and see your performance and your country,” he said.

“This doesn’t work in the sense that we are now living in a world where audiences, citizens and the international community have multiple sources of information and can see things, generate content and share on their own.

"In as much as you have a controlled pack of journalists and celebrities that you tell what you want them to regurgitate that is easily countered by the narratives that show a different story and the best propaganda is to allow the media to report freely and for you to respond on what you have done well and what you are doing to address those things that are not going on well,” he said.

Mukundu added that public perception can’t be moved by paid public relations.

“You cannot create a utopia through propaganda where you pay journalists and celebrities, that works in advertising where you are selling a product and doesn’t work in the real world where you are dealing with national and public perception on how things are in a society,” he said. 

Zimbabwe has in the last five years played host to international stars who have met Mnangagwa and these include D’Banj, Floyd Mayweather, Davido, Koffie Olomide and DJ Tira, among others.

The Nigerian music star D’Banj’s visit, which was facilitated by Java came at a time the Nigerian singer was still being investigated over fraudulent activities back in his country.

However, International star Burna Boy, who once endorsed the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag in 2020, refused to endorse Mnangagwa by wearing  a Zanu PF scarf in exchange of money when he came to Zimbabwe.

The Nigerian singer was in Harare last year for a performance at Belgravia Sports Club.

It is reported that he was offered a scarf which is Mnangagwa’s trademark and refused including the money dangled for him to endorse the ‘scarf’.

Exiled former Tourism minister Walter Mzembi questioned the rationale behind the hosting of foreign celebrities and journalists by the Information ministry.

“Charity begins at home! The brand Zimbabwe (nation branding) project you seem to host in your ministry was a false start,” Mzembi said.

“No one hears of it now. Bringing endorsers is the last stage after all the internal work on the six pillars. You have lots of work to do.”

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