ZBC, a national embarrassment and huge shame on journalism!

Source: ZBC, a national embarrassment and huge shame on journalism!

Who can still remember the late great Bornwell Chakaodza?

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

I can still see the images of the fiery no-nonsense renowned journalist and media lecturer – as he bombarded government officials on pertinent issues affecting the country.

He would make any cabinet minister sweat and think twice about being interviewed by this veteran media practitioner.

Then, there was another legend – Dr. John Makumbe – an academic par excellence.

The man was endowed with exceptional intellect and knowledge – which was also a handy tool when interrogating and scrutinizing government policies and programs – without fear or favor.

I cannot do justice to this article without mentioning Drs Ibbo Mandaza, Kempton Makamure and many others – who ensured that those presiding over Zimbabwe were kept on their toes and made accountable to the people they led.

Yet, there is something very interesting about all this.

The first time I knew of these phenomenal men was not through the independent or privately-owned media.

No, not at all.

They appeared on our very own State-owned broadcaster, ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation).

Yes, you read correctly!

One of my favorite programs on the station was called, ‘The Nation’ – that was aired on Sunday evenings – in which, a senior government official, or other topical individual, was invited to face a panel of three journalists or academics.

These three would include the moderator (who was usually, but not always, from the ZBC), one from the private media, and possibly an academic.

This was a no-holds-barred program, where pressing issues affecting the nation were addressed, without restrictions – reducing some high ranking officials to stuttering – if they had not come adequately prepared.

These panelists made BBC HardTalk Stephen Sackur look like an mere amateur!

In fact, these were the men who played a major role in inspiring me to become who I am today.

My father – who was very politically conscious, from his days as an anti-colonial activist during the Rhodesia era – ensured that I was exposed to issues of social justice from a very tender age.

He would sit me down, before I was even old enough to attend crèche – talking to me about the wrongs and evils of oppression and the dehumanization of humans by humans, especially those in power.

When I was around five or six years old, every evening, we would sit next to the radio, quietly listening to the ‘Voice of Zimbabwe’ broadcasts.

These were beamed from Mozambique, via Lourenço Marques Radio – whereby Zimbabwe liberation movements would educate the people back home on the fight for independence.

After this independence was finally attained in 1980, my father would still want me to follow the news and current affairs very closely – which is how a program as ‘The Nation’ became a favorite of ours.

It was, indeed, not the only one, but amongst a whole host – including news bulletins and current affairs programs – which, in those days, were truly balanced, fair and impartial.

The State media was the epitome and gold standard in ethical journalism.

I enjoyed the manner in which the nation – through the public media – held their leaders to account.

Not only were those in power placed under the microscope – but also opposition parties of that time, such as ZUM, FPZ, ZUD led by Edgar Tekere, retired chief justice Enock Dumbutshena, and Margaret Dongo respectively.

Similarly, militant labor activists, as then ZCTU secretary general Morgan Richard Tsvangirai – as well as university student leaders, Arthur Mutambara and Munyaradzi Gwisai – were featured.

This, in spite of all these people being viciously and ferociously opposed to the ruling establishment.

They were given fair coverage, and a balanced opportunity to adequately express their views – whilst also being questioned and their policies dissected without fear or favor.

Whenever government policies and pronouncements were reported – views and comments from across the board were included – both from those in agreement and in dissension, which were aired in equal measure.

I was so proud of our State-owned media!

In actual fact, that is how such a passion of telling truth to power, and speaking for the voiceless was inculcated and engraved in me.

That is the mandate of State-owned media – which is why it is largely funded by the public, through taxpayers’ money and obligatory television licenses.

The role of such entities as ZBC, The Herald, and Sunday Mail is to be the voice of the voiceless – usually the oppressed, marginalized and impoverished.

However, this is not what we witness today with our State-owned media.

It has clearly and unashamedly reneged and abdicated on this fundamental obligation – making a complete metamorphosis into nothing more than the voice of the oppressor.

It is most tragic that, at independence, these media institutions never transformed themselves from the colonial establishments that they were – whereby, they served only the ruling class.

Nevertheless, we need to immediately make a clear distinction.

During the colonial era, these forerunners, as Rhodesia Television and Rhodesia Herald, were independent media houses – privately owned by Angus Newspapers and Davenport and Meyer.

As such, they were within their rights to decide whatever media policy of their choosing, and take political sides.

After being bought by the Zimbabwe government – and funded by the taxpayer – they had an obligation to be non-partisan, impartial and balanced.

As such, that is exactly what we witnessed during the first two decades of independence.

However, those days of Chakaodza, Makumbe, Mandaza and Makamure are long gone, and have become a faint distant memory of the 1980s and 90s.

Today, instead of making those in power answerable to the nation – the State-owned media has been reduced to a mere mouthpiece of the ruling ZANU PF party.

In fact, it has declared war on the oppressed, marginalized and impoverished people of Zimbabwe – opting to side with their tormentors.

In other words, ZBC, The Herald, and Sunday Mail have reverted to their colonial legacies.

The interests of the people are no longer of any value – as those of the ruling elite take precedence.

The State media in Zimbabwe is now there simply to shove down our throats what the leaders want.

That is why the main opposition CCC party, or divergent and dissenting voices from other Zimbabweans – a vital cog in any democracy – are now treated as ‘enemies of state’, whereby, they are not afforded any meaningful coverage.

Even simply criticizing government polices and pronouncements has become a taboo and unacceptable in today’s State media.

In fact, these views are not just ignored but demonized and branded as unpatriotic.

Who are the ones truly being unpatriotic here?

Who are the ones turning a blind eye to the unimaginable poverty and suffering of the ordinary people?

Who are the ones totally ignoring the disgraceful wide scale looting of our national resources by those in power?

Who is keeping silent when our nation is being prejudiced billion of dollars each year, through illicit financial flows, mineral smuggling, and other corrupt activities?

As if being totally unconcerned and insensitive to the plight of the majority of Zimbabweans was not terrible enough – the State-owned media is operating in brazen disregard and violation of the country’s Constitution.

Under Section 61(4) of the Constitution, ‘all State-owned media of communication must be impartial, and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions’.

In fact, contrary to the preposterous and utterly flimsy attempt at justifying this flagrant attack on the Constitution – through a pathetic press statement issued yesterday by ZBC – this provision is not limited to the so-called ‘election season’ alone.

The State media, as in the olden days, is supposed to provide ongoing coverage of dissenting and divergent opinions – all year round, each and every year.

In the case of the print media, The Herald and Sunday Mail, even my articles should be published without reservation.

In the same light, opposition leaders and elected officials should also be given fair, balanced and truthful coverage – without attempts at twisting or bastardizing what has been said.

As with the current situation, there is no way the ZBC can legitimately claim to be providing the CCC, particularly its leader Chamisa, any meaningful fair, balanced and impartial coverage.

This is the case we witnessed recently with the CCC rally in Gweru – whereby, ZBC brazenly twisted and lied over what Chamisa had said about land tenure in Zimbabwe.

In fact, ZBC itself, through its laughable press statement, ‘confessed’ to this insignificant and woefully inadequate coverage – as they highlighted only two or three instances that they had actually aired his rallies during their news bulletins.

Surely, are we to believe that Chamisa only held that a paltry number of rallies – yet, it is in the public domain that he has been holding several such gatherings in many parts of the country, such as Chirumanzu, Masvingo, Beit Bridge, Rutenga, amongst others?

This is regardless of the fact that most of his intended rallies have been barred by the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) on the most outrageous and spurious grounds – such as the unavailability of ablution facilities at the proposed venue, or it having been booked for other events.

The party has also been prohibited from marching, chanting slogans and bussing in supporters.

This, notwithstanding that, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and ZANU PF have been permitted not only to bus in supporters from all across the country – but also can freely crowd them into venues that clearly do not have sufficient ablution facilities to cater for such enormous numbers.

The party has similarly been allowed to march and chant slogans in various areas without any hindrance from the police.

In actual fact, since ZBC was so eager in highlighting the number of times they have featured Chamisa in their news bulletins – albeit in the forms of denigrating lies – how many times, by comparison, have they covered Mnangagwa?

Be that as it may, as already mentioned, coverage of the opposition (especially the main one), as well as any other voices of dissent and divergent opinions, is not an ‘election season’ issue – but a continuous process.

A fact made very clear in the country’s Constitution.

ZBC’s frequent reference to ‘election programming’ – in response to CCC accusations of unfairness and bias – is in alignment to a completely different part of the Constitution.

Under Section 155, ‘all political parties and candidates contesting an election or participating in a referendum [should be accorded] fair and equal access to electronic and print media, both public and private’.

That is why, in their statement, ZBC kept hammering about this section – in a clear deliberate disregard of Section 61 – which they are fully aware compels them to go beyond the ‘election season’.

The CCC deserves to be heard – especially due to its standing as the main opposition in Zimbabwe – at each and every news and current affairs program on ZBC.

This is what is to be expected in any democratic dispensation.

One simply needs to watch, for instance, the SABC or BBC – in order to get a glimpse at what it entails to be a public broadcaster.

At any given time, whenever an issue of national significance is raised, the views of the main opposition parties are taken into serious consideration.

In South Africa, the DA (Democratic Alliance) and EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) are covered on SABC, on nearly a daily basis – on any pertinent topics that affect the country.

This is what, in fact, we witnessed right here in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 90s – to which I made reference earlier.

So what has changed?

Why did the ZANU PF regime suddenly turn a once respectable public media into a mere desk in the party’s information and publicity department?

The answer is quite simple.

ZANU PF became terribly unpopular with the general citizenry – such that they became gripped by a crippling fear of losing power.

Mnangagwa and his administration are fully aware that they can never win a genuinely free, fair and credible election.

In so doing, they have resolved not only to brutally clamp down on the opposition but also to close up any voices of dissent or divergent views.

What are we to expect from a government that has unashamedly destroyed a once prosperous ‘jewel of Africa’ – transforming it into a basket case and laughing stock of the world?

In a truly democratic society, where the public media is permitted to operate in accordance with the law – this willful malicious ruination of the country would have been called out – without fear or favour.

ZBC, The Herald, and Sunday Mail would have been at the forefront of exposing the rampant disgusting looting of our national resources by those in power and their cronies.

As a matter of fact, the ‘Gold Mafia’ money laundering and gold smuggling scandal should have been exposed by the State media.

This is their role – to protect and safeguard the people of Zimbabwe from any who may try to ruin their livelihoods – and by extension, our national interests.

It is most tragic that in Zimbabwe – instead of the State media standing and defending the ordinary citizenry – it has, nevertheless, turned against them.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 1
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    The Herald of All Truth and ZanuBC do not take in, or listen to divergent views. Not sure who still buys that drivel?