It’s not over till it’s over

via It’s not over till it’s over 26 November 2014 by Magari Mandebvu

You can’t expect the latest reports or rumours of the mudwrestling in a weekly paper. For example, the editor wants this column three days before publication date, and that is normal for a weekly paper. If something really decisive happens on the wrong day of the week, weekly editors have big problems making three-day old stuff sound relevant.

The simple answer to that is for us not to try to give blow-by-blow accounts of the news or instant comment on it, but to concentrate on the underlying movements and general principles, which don’t change so fast.

So my first word this week is a reminder that Saturday’s latest news will be ancient history by the time you read it on Thursday.

My second word is: most of these rapid changes will not be the final decisive move, so there’s no need to offer you comment that would be about as up-to date as last Thursday’s cold sadza.

If you are reading a weekly paper you probably don’t need this emphasised, so let’s get to the point. You will have read elsewhere of several alarming changes in the mud-wrestling ring that will happen between now, when I am writing and the “now” in which you are reading this. The world hasn’t ended, has it? It probably hasn’t changed very much.

So when Friday’s headlines sound as alarming as Tuesday’s did but quite possibly point in another direction, I hope you won’t think Friday’s events are any more final than Tuesday’s, unless one of the principal players dies. While they’re alive, they can still bounce back. If we keep light on our toes, like a good boxer, we can swing with it and bounce back too.

Of course, at least one side will want you to believe their latest move is final and irreversible, so watch out for a few simple tricks.

One day recently a headline in one independent paper said “Gumbo hits back” or words to that effect; another carried a story under the heading “Mohadi defends Mujuru”. These are simple examples of reporting events that might be significant, without exaggerating their significance. They are reports of actions by human beings like you and me; we know who did these things, so we can judge how true their statements are likely to be, what those people are likely to do next and who is likely to be influenced by them.

On the same day, a state/Zanu (PF) paper carried the headline “Mutatsa warned to repent”. Warned – who by? The Angel of Death? The Prophet Jeremiah? Prophet Makandiwa? The Almighty Himself? We all know that is Zimpapers style; “It is said . . . .” but they don’t tell us who said it, or “Analysts say . . . . . “never naming the analysts. The purpose is to make their statement sound as if it came down a mountain carved on tablets of stone. It doesn’t let us know whether the person who said it was Joseph Chinotimba or a revered senior veteran, or whether the analysis came from Professor Jonathan Moyo or Professor Sam Moyo or just some bigmouth in a smoke-filled bar.

Every statement should come with a warning like the one you get if someone sends you e-mail with a strange attachment: “This might be dangerous. Treat with caution unless you know who sent it.”

So if you don’t like the way things are going today, don’t give up. The end is not yet. We know that our Dear Leader wants to keep his would-be successors guessing, so as long as he has his wits about him, nothing is decided till he leaves the scene. And his departure won’t decide the final outcome. That could just herald a more confused phase, maybe even a bloodier one, which God forbid! But even that won’t be the end.