Roots of the anti-Mugabe agenda
How the media have been used to create a counter-revolution
Malcolm X once remarked: “If you`re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
And to a great extent it seems as if this is the tragedy that Zimbabwe has suffered at the hands of the mainstream media, especially in the West, since the land reform programme started in 2000 and more so in the context of the coming general election.
While the whole of the non-white world has suffered from malicious stereotyping since Joseph Conrad penned “The Heart of Darkness”, Zimbabwe`s case is instructive in terms of the ferocity of the well co-ordinated assault on the country`s economy and body politic since the late 1990s.
To get a true understanding of the manner in which the private-owned and Western Press handled Zimbabwe’s politics, it is imperative to trace the manner in which the international media have treated Zimbabwe for the past 10 years.
While President Robert Mugabe`s decision to give land to the black majority was to prove the trigger that sparked the present hostilities, the real drive to get rid of ZANU-PF has its roots in the party’s intervention in the DRC war.
It must also be borne in mind that from 1966 when Zimbabwe`s liberation struggle started, up until Independence in 1980, President Mugabe and his party were classified as Hitlers and terrorists by the Western Press for daring to challenge a status quo that categorised blacks as sub-human.
This only changed in 1980 when President Mugabe made his famous reconciliation overture and called for an end to race-based hostilities.
That was all to change in 1998.
That year, Zimbabwe – along with Angola, Namibia and, albeit briefly, Chad – answered the late Laurent Kabila`s call to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Congo after Rwanda and Uganda-backed rebels that wanted to overthrow the government in Kinshasa invaded the country.
It is common knowledge that Central Africa`s decades-long instability is a result of Western resource-greed, and Zimbabwe`s brave and principled decision to help a fellow country out raised the ire of the military-industrial superstructure that profits from Africa`s misery.
Zimbabwe sent some 10 000 troops to the DRC and it can be said that without this huge outpouring of practical dedication to anti-imperialism and Pan-Africanism, the sprawling central African country would be totally fractured by today.
At the same time, without the same outpouring of assistance, Western conglomerates would still enjoy unfettered access to the DRC`s numerous resources.
Zimbabwe`s decision to militarily tackle neo-colonialism – much in the same way ZANU-PF confronted imperialism in the ‘60s and ‘70s – sowed the seeds for the brutal demonisation campaign that has characterised reportage on the country in recent years.
It happened to Nkrumah in Ghana, to Allende in Chile and Castro in Cuba. It is now happening to Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
While Zimbabwe had been savaged by the Western and the local privately-owned media from 1998 onwards, perhaps nothing could have prepared anyone for the almost feral nature of the onslaught just before, during and immediately after the March 29, 2008 elections.
And that same agenda is being played out ahead of the July 31, 2013 elections.
The country has been authoritatively classified as a disaster by publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
This, of course, was in line with the long-propagated view that Africans are intrinsically incapable of governing themselves and Zimbabwe would have been better off if Ian Smith, the dictator of Rhodesia, had remained in power.
And since it is virtually impossible to have a white President in sub-Saharan Africa today, the attractive option is to promote a black face who does the bidding of the West.
It is no secret that organisations such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (UK) and the National Endowment for Democracy (US) were behind the transformation of Morgan Tsvangirai from a trade unionist to politician, and the line that the international media have consequently pushed is that only he can save Zimbabwe from itself.
Put simply, black Zimbabweans cannot do anything for themselves without assistance from the former colonial master and its allies.
At the core of this long-held belief of many in Europe and America is that what indigenous Africans think does not matter because they do not think right; what matters is what the North thinks.
That is why in 2008 we had a private media push for the United Nations, backed by “the major powers”, to set up a “Contact Group” on Zimbabwe to direct the country`s political developments on behalf of Zimbabweans. This year, the same media are trying to repackage the same stale ideas as a means of “saving Zimbabwe from itself”.
Chris Bickerton, an Oxford doctoral student and co-editor of “Politics Without Sovereignty: A Critique of Contemporary International Relations”, attempted to outline this phenomenon in a paper titled “Using Zimbabwe as a stick to beat Africa”.
He wrote: “Virtually everyone outside of Zimbabwe has been blamed for inaction, yet silence reigns over the role of the Zimbabwean people themselves.
“This reflects an inability to conceive of Zimbabweans as authors of their own fate.”
To this end, the Western media have largely abandoned, nay, rejected, any attempts at balance and fairness when dealing with the Zimbabwe issue and all reportage should illustrate Mugabe as a mindless dictator despite the fact that he has set an election date in full compliance with a Constitutional Court order.
The strategy being employed is to get the “international community” to stop Zimbabwe from holding constitutionally-mandated elections by July 31.
So the world is being treated to a situation where Morgan Tsvangirai, with a pliant private media in tow, repeatedly claim that a free and fair election can only be possible in October 2013.
We are not told what is so magical about October 31!
Just a few months ago, the country held a referendum to adopt a new constitution. The conditions for that vote were right and Tsvangirai and the pliant media were comfortable, but as soon as that ballot ended, the conditions for a general election had miraculously degenerated.
And so we must all be ready for an upscale in reports from the private media of violence in Zimbabwe because they have to create the impression that a free and fair election cannot be held.
The overriding idea is that President Mugabe cannot win a free and fair election. If Mugabe has won, there was violence and there was rigging.
And the media are playing a key role in perpetuating such an outrageous absurdity.
Tendai Chari, a media studies lecturer at Fort Hare University in South Africa, has said the media have been acting as if Zimbabwe is the greatest crisis the world has seen in the new millennium.
“The reason why the Zimbabwean elections have attracted more attention than … Iraq where American soldiers are dying like flies, and more than the Kenyan fiasco, Somalia and other world hotspots is not difficult to see.
“President Mugabe, a man they hate with a passion, has managed against all odds to keep imperialist sharks at bay for close to a decade by proclaiming the sovereignty of his nation and empowering his people through the land reform programme.
“In the process he has rattled and ruffled imperialists` commercial interests. These Western media organisations are nothing but conduits and proxies of the same imperialist interests that President Mugabe has rubbished.
“The slant,” he goes on to say, “in most of the reports is to say a new era is dawning in Zimbabwe supposedly because President Mugabe has been defeated and a government that panders to the whims and caprices of the West (the MDC) will soon take over.
“Hence, the American and British governments have been allowed by the same media to make predetermined and uncritical pronouncements about the elections before voting started as if they are prophets.
“American and British officials, through the media, have made pronouncements about who should win the elections, who should rule or should not rule Zimbabwe as if they participated in the elections.
“Coverage of the Zimbabwean elections in Western news organisations, therefore, reflects the contours of Western foreign policy on Zimbabwe epitomised by the regime change agenda. And this is hardly surprising because Western news agencies follow the leads of their governments.”
A pliant pro-West, anti-Mugabe media have been at the forefront of trying to shape Zimbabwe`s political and economic trajectory on behalf of all Zimbabweans.
They are trying to fan a counter-revolution to erode the land reforms and economic empowerment revolution that President Mugabe has been spearheading.
On this, Chris Bickerton gives the illuminating example of Ukraine`s “Orange Revolution”.
“International assistance doesn`t bring democracy, it only erects weak political institutions that are not grounded in popular will.
“Ukraine`s much-fleeted ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004 was a media-fuelled affair bankrolled by Western backers.
“They included George Soros` Open Society Foundation and the US National Endowment for Democracy, whose director used to head the CIA.
“The country`s ongoing political crises since the `revolution` suggest how limited and fragile political change can be when it passes through outside-orchestrated acts of `people-power`.”
Interestingly, among the leading private media houses in Zimbabwe, which incidentally have been at the forefront of agitating for international intervention, are Trevor Ncube`s The Zimbabwe Independent and Sunday Standard – both of which have been linked to Soros` dollars.
Furthermore, one of the prime movers for the foreign intervention agenda on the Internet has been an organisation called Sokwanele, which has been described as a bastard-child of the National Endowment for Democracy-created Otpor that co-ordinated the media onslaught in Yugoslavia and then Ukraine.
But the media do not treat any of this as issues affecting Zimbabwe`s elections.
Also worrying is the fact that much of the local private media, perhaps as a sign of deference or as a manifestation of the inferiority complex that plagues Africa, tend to follow the line presented by Western media houses.
What this means is that Zimbabwe has a massive media infrastructure that has no confidence in its ability to find its own story and write/broadcast it with its own voice without seeking guidance from a hack sitting at a desk in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam or Brussels.
Journalists who do not know Zimbabwe`s electoral laws and processes and the various political, economic and social historical and contemporary phenomena that shaped them consequently give “guidance” to local coverage of Zimbabwe’s elections.
Even media outlets from surrounding countries such as Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia rely on footage and reportage shown on BBC and CNN and yet they are right next door and only need to simply cross the border to see things for themselves.
• This article has been re-written on the basis of another by the same author published ahead of Zimbabwe’s March 2008 general election.