via ‘Rhodesian economy was better’ – DailyNews Live 15 July 2014 by Conrad Nyamutata
HARARE – Does anyone dispute that the Rhodesian economy was better than the current one?
So what is the hullabaloo about MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s reference to a better economic past?
Anyone who heard or read Tsvangirai’s comments would notice that suggestions he was nostalgic about Rhodesian “rule” amount to deliberate distortion.
“When I was a worker in the mine in 1975, I was being paid Z$450 but those were equal to pounds. Takamwa doro tikange ticharutsa nemari iyi (We drank beer until we felt like vomiting) but, of course, those were the old days, handichamwi zvangu (I no longer drink) but we recall those days with nostalgia,” Tsvangirai said
What Tsvangirai states here should be uncontroversial. It is borne out by historical facts and anecdotal evidence.
As any credible historian would tell you the Rhodesian economy lived through sanctions without visiting the level of poverty witnessed today.
At independence the Zimbabwean dollar was at par with the pound.
However, post-colonial Zimbabwe has witnessed alarming economic collapse, widespread unemployment, record inflation and grinding poverty.
A comparison between the current state of the economy and the past does not itself translate to a nostalgic desire for Rhodesian “rule” and its attendant repression.
Tsvangirai’s remarks have only been made controversial because of media that have anointed a leader and party as infallible and his opponent and group, permanent targets for abuse.
Such media will ignore historical facts or distort issues to suit an agenda. The objective was to whip up negative sentiment about Tsvangirai as someone desirous of colonialism.
Yet his comments were only restricted to the economy.
Attempts to end so-called polarisation are hopelessly futile when you have such dishonest journalism.
That dishonesty not only manifests through the twisting of facts but operates on a false presumption that Zanu PF and Mugabe do no wrong and the MDC and Tsvangirai do no good.
To their credit, privately-owned media have praised and criticised Mugabe. I have slaughtered Tsvangirai on this page; praised him when he deserved it.
I do not ever recall reading an article in the State media criticising President Mugabe.
Is it honest journalism that portrays a mere mortal as infallible?
It is this dishonest editorial monoculture that finds no wrong in one human being and permanent fault in the other, which is at the root of polarisation.
Two weeks ago, George Monbiot, one of the UK Guardian’s leading columnists, wrote quite a riveting article titled: “The real enemies of press freedom are in the newsroom.”
He referred to the UK Daily Mail’s predilection to publish stories that are anti-Labour Party:
“This suggests either that any article offering dissenting views is purged with totalitarian rigour, or general secretary Paul Dacre’s terrified minions, knowing what is expected of them, never make such mistakes in the first place.”
Dacre, cynically referred to as “general secretary”, is the editor of The Daily Mail.
Monbiot concludes: “Yes, let’s fight censorship: of the press and by the press.”
What Monbiot describes is what occurs here.
Journalists at our own State media have been reduced to hapless and terrified automatons.
A story that praises Tsvangirai would be purged with similar totalitarian gusto. Or such story would never enter the editorial calculus in the first place.
Deviation from this monoculture invites consequence.
Soon after the elections, the State press came out roaring: “We are not anyone’s lapdog.”
For a while they displayed unusual candour, branding a senior Zanu PF official “a dwarf in a giant’s robes” and most recently uncharacteristically declaring the government had made a major climb-down on indigenisation.
But the consequences were soon clear; the State press have since been slapped down into pusillanimity, reverting to type.
That type is illustrated in the Tsvangirai story; the brand of journalism does not let incontrovertible fact that the Rhodesian economy was better stand in the way of the agenda to tarnish an opponent.
This article I write is in itself evidence of so-called polarisation. But should falsehoods remain unchallenged? It is impossible to end media polarisation with systemically dishonest journalism.