How serious is “serious news” in Zimbabwe today?

Posted: November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Maybe the question I should be asking is what is serious news? In a country like Zimbabwe, serious news would be matters that relate to how the inclusive government, amongst other actors of society, is intending to fix the country’s problems. Three years into its life, we still have a media that is constantly harassed by certain arms of the law. We still have the usual suspects going around beating and killing people. Hate speech continues unabated – just a few weeks ago Simon Khaya Moyo, the Zanu PF chairman, promoted violence in his address to party supporters – an incitement that was later linked to the killing of an MDC activist in Chitungwiza. The Constitution of the country is still facing an uncertain future with doubts over whether it will be completed in time or not. The electoral system still needs massive, urgent reform, with many saying that in an election held under the current environment (where amongst others, the voters’ roll remains shambolic), Zanu PF will manage itself towards winning another rigged elections. Poverty is still a massive issue in Zimbabwe. For me and many others these are serious issues that I would like to see being put forward as priorities for political parties, who most of the time need our votes.

What happened to the serious news?

The Budget Speech was postponed because the Gentlemen above had some commitments?

My perception is that Zimbabweans are slowly moving away from serious issues and focusing more on competition against each other. This situation could be caused by the fact that we are approaching elections, but I strongly believe that the election campaign should be based on those bread and butter issues I mention above, and on the policies to put them right. Last week the media drew attention away from the most important issues of the week – the budget speech – as everyone followed the story of whether the Prime Minister got married or not, something which is just not relevant to our survival as a nation. As much as one can argue that the media prints what sells, I think there were better ways it could have been reported that would at the same time have propped up the important issues. For example, it would not have been hard to highlight the fact that because of the PM’s engagement with his private affairs the budget speech had to be postponed. Because of Robert Mugabe’s easy Air Zimbabwe flight and waste of taxpayers’ money on his neverending trips to China, the budget speech had to be postponed. I guess this is the way we like it in Zimbabwe.

See how this plays out in our daily lives…

Most of what the world knows about Zimbabwe comes from looking at how we present ourselves on the internet. We have news sites but the most interactive are social sites like Facebook on which “serious news” is rarely addressed. More disturbingly, for stories on news sites like newzimbabwe.com, swradioafrica and newsday, there are a far more comments contributed on stories that dig dirty affairs than on real policy issues.

Not that it’s the media’s fault; I think there is need to change the way how we do politics in Zimbabwe. Our politics is set up in a way that promotes individuals rather than policy. Other political parties have created scenarios where individuals have grown to be a brand that is bigger than the political party itself. The problem with this situation is that it encourages Members of Parliament to spend more time surrendering their loyalty to powerful individuals in their parties instead of the electorate. Also, the electorate has been subjected to politics of voting for people who can make too much noise about their enemies instead of people who have a programme to better their lives. I believe if we as Zimbabweans realize that policy is bigger than parties we will deliver the maturity that is needed for turning around things in our country. The media has a challenge ahead to seek promotion of policy forums by challenging leaders to give people evidence of what their work has done or is going to do to better communities.

Of the budget itself…

A newsday editorial today dubbed Tendai Biti’s budget “pro-poor”. The thing is it could be pro-poor – but so, supposedly, were many of programmes that we have been told about in the past. The Community Development Fund was “pro-poor”; so was the land issue; so too the indigenisation programme. We have learnt from bitter experience of these other programmes that there is nothing really pro-poor in their nature. What could be pro-poor would be the power to stop the corruption in the banks and government departments that seek to distribute and manage the pro-poor funds. What

Mugabe never missed his Budget Speeches

could be pro-poor would be the right of the Finance Minister to stop Mugabe and some Ministers from using state aeroplanes as their bedrooms in their continuous flights to God Knows where. It will be “pro-poor” if the Zimbabwean communities can be given power to recall underperforming MPs who, in the past have been left to their parties to deal with. Unless and until we manage the measures above, Tendai Biti’s budget will be pro-poor on paper only and in a year’s time, if he is still Finance Minister, we will see him on television telling us how the Zanu-PF corrupt landlords are uncontrollable and as a result, we have lost all the money which was directed to help the poor.

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Comments
  1. Rejoice Ngwenya says:

    I prefer budgets that focus on stimulating the creation of wealth, not merely defending the poor, otherwise they will remain comfortable in the ‘poverty zone’. I had a chat with folks on Studio 7. Here’s the link:
    [audio src="http://www.voanews.com/mp3/voa/africa/engl/ENGLISHTOAFRICA_LIVETALK.mp3" /]

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