As a youth, one of the things that thoroughly infuriated me was when either my parents told other people, especially my relatives, when I had done something irresponsible and misbehaved, or when those in my community, whom I would have offended and wronged, reported such deliquency to my parents (or, even talked about it within the neighborhood).
According to my still immature young mind, there could never be any greater betrayal than this, and I would be so enraged with anyone I learnt to have been involved – of course, being overly defensive, and denying all and any such allegations, to whomever would care to listen.
Not that any of them would actually believe me, but that never stopped me trying – in spite of making a complete fool of myself in the process.
As I grew up and matured, I learnt one of the most defining lessons of my entire life – that, if one desired a positive image, and people saying good things about him or her, then that person had to change their behavior, become responsible, and respect and honour those around him or her.
In the process I also leant that, wayward behavior, in itself, was gravely counter-productive and detrimental – not only to the person involved, but to those around…if not the entire community.
That is why today, as a grown up forty-seven (47) year-old man, I find it extremely unbelievable and perturbing that a whole (Zimbabwe) government – presumably, comprised of mature adults – would be so outraged at the negative reportage that it is constantly receiving at the hands of media (mostly, independently-owned), and on social media platforms.
What I find seriously troubling is that, this was exactly how I would have reacted had I still been a 25 year old immature, mischievous, and wayward youth – yet, these are men and women largely in their fifties, sixties, and seventies (from whom I would expect better), armed to the teeth with PhDs of all manner and classification.
We have whole cabinet ministers, and even the presidium, loudly and repeatedly whining and lamenting over how the media should provide positive and favourable coverage to the Zimbabwe government – under the disingenuous veil of “patriotism”, and safeguarding “national interests”, which are nothing more than selfish, partisan, and ruling elite interests.
In fact, it does not stop with mere moaning and whinging – as that would have been simply dismissed by most of us with the contempt and the occasional laughter such statements truly deserved – but, when media practitioners find themselves working under the fear (real or imagined) of government reprisals, (possibly, through arrests, persecution, or sacking from their jobs, especially for state-controlled journalists), then this ceases being a laughing matter.
During the recently commemorated World Press Freedom Day, on 3 May, quite a substantial number of media practitioners expressed this real apprehension – with some going as far as asking, “If the government claims that there’s freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, what we’re more frightened of is that, is there freedom after expression?”
No one could have easily forgotten the continuous persecution by prosecution that journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono have been subjected to over the past ten months – as most suspect, due to his fearless criticism of state-censured repression, and high-level unfettered corruption – as he has never been tried and convicted on any of these allegations leveled against him…as a matter of fact, only a few weeks ago he was exonerated by the courts, after being arrested for a crime that no longer existed in the country’s laws, despite numerous protests to that effect by most human rights defenders.
Of course, he is far from being the only one – as others as Mduduzi Mathuthu, editor of ZimLive.com, had a similar experience, as last year, he was allegedly hunted down for publishing stories not favourable to the state.
Let us also not forget that this is the same government that has, over the course of time, attempted everything in its power to enact various laws that considerably curtailed, and even criminalized some of the integral parts of journalists’ work – through such draconian legislation as, AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) which sought to gag the media.
It is time that the government of Zimbabwe grew up and matured – the way I also eventually did – and realized that the onus for positive and favourable reportage is not on the media, but rests squarely on those running the country.
The rule of nature is very simple – you behave like a rogue, then you are portrayed as a rogue…you behave responsibly, then you are reported as a responsible person(s). Period. It is not the media’s role to lie on the government’s behalf.
There are no shortcuts or substitutes to this rule. And, the powers-that-be in Zimbabwe would be better served if they expended most of their valuable time and energies genuinely reforming and transforming themselves into a truly people-centred and people-loving establishment, that is extremely aversive to corruption, and human rights abuses, as well as implementing policies and programs that put citizens ahead of selfish political power and wealth-attainement ulterior motives.
If the government of Zimbabwe were to do that, I promise to the whole nation that, I would be one of the very first people to change my tune, and start writing considerable positive and favorable articles about their phenomenal work.
One thing those in power need to fully understand is that – no one in his or her right mind is out to get them (at least not most of us, who do not harbor any political ambitions), and would never wish, or pray, for our own suffering, but are genuinely concerned about the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe, who have been subjected to untold suffering and unspeakable repression for far too long…thus, we will never shut up, and cover up the government’s roguish and miscreant behavior.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: email@example.com