via Zanu PF succession captivates media – DailyNews Live Maxwell Sibanda, ASSISTANT EDITOR • 21 February 2016
HARARE – As the Zanu PF succession wars escalate, the media has been caught up in the frenzy as they report blow by blow accounts of what is happening, at times stepping onto the toes of political bigwigs who have all along — until recently been denying that there are any fights within the ruling party.
Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the media, especially the privately-owned newspapers has been vindicated and now it’s crystal clear that factions are there.
“That which has horns cannot be wrapped up in secrecy for the horns will pierce the wrapping as has happened with Zanu PF factions,” said Mavhinga.
He said the media, both private and State, should neither be polarised nor partisan. “Its role is to inform the public in a balanced way, but the sad reality is that Zimbabwe media remains extremely polarised, and this equally applies to the Zanu PF succession issue.
“Such polarisation clouds issues and weakens analysis regarding succession. All media must rise above the factions, and step back from the arena to report impartially from the terraces.”
Voluntary Media Council Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube said the media is important as far as the Zanu PF factional wars are concerned because they are reporting on what is actually happening. “The media was initially accused of fermenting divisions within Zanu PF but it is now the officials and the party itself that is conceding that there is factionalism in the party
“The media plays a crucial role as they are informing the public of the happenings around the Zanu PF succession issue and it is critical for the media to report on all aspects around the succession issue to allow the public to reflect on all processes.”
Media activist Tabani Moyo said the media is a critical cog of human existence. “It is a conduit for the enjoyment of all other rights. The unfolding chaos of succession in Zanu PF is of interest to the media and by extension to the public since it is a ruling party, determining the direction of the country.
“However, it is unfortunate that instead of addressing the real crisis at hand, the crisis of succession, the ruling party chose to descend with might on what it perceives to be the soft targets. The hope in that process is to create a wild goose for the media to chase as a diversionary tactic to the hard questions affecting the country today.
“The national economy, the potentially debilitating drought and crumbling State — all these questions are lost in the maze of ‘succession reporting’. In such a development, the media has remained a colossal player framing the succession debate and bearing the brunt of being the conveyor of news on the unfolding drama.
“The major challenge is that of balancing the succession stories with the other pressing issues of national importance noted above.”
Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said while the public spats in Zanu PF vindicate the independent media which started highlighting this issue a long time ago, they also point to the reality of a house sitting on very shaky ground.
He said for a long time, divisions, fissures, fractured and factions were pronounced by Zanu PF as only existing in the media’s dreams.
“There is a difference between meaningful debate and friendly banter with what we currently see in Zanu PF which as far as wars goes seems to have the ability to turn nuclear at any point.
“The role of the media is to assist in setting and clarifying the agenda — so far, through its exposure of the different angles of the crisis in Zanu PF and the awarding of voice to the different factions, it is doing a great job of feeding the information market which will allow citizens to both be informed and have the ability to make intelligent informed decisions on the subject should they be called upon to do so in any way.”
Lewanika said the only challenge is that because of the theatrical value that the crisis in Zanu PF has, other non-Zanu PF voices and issues unrelated to the Zanu PF crisis then play second fiddle to this drama.
“This is especially so given that the Zanu PF crisis is symptomatic of a larger national crisis very much evident economically, politically and socially which Zimbabweans of all political complexions should be contributing towards solving.
“But because of the absence of theatre on and in these critical and serious issues, columns of newspaper space are then taken up by the unintelligible banter between Zanu PF apparatchiks who though educated seem to know very little about communication given some of the language used to address issues.”
MISA-Zimbabwe executive director Nhlanhla Ngwenya called on the media to ask hard questions and not simply hold the mic for the warring parties to spew their insults and propaganda.
Ngwenya said the media — private and State — have not asked these hard questions regardless of the consequences on their credibility and professional integrity.
“This megaphone stance is simply not helpful to the majority of their readers. What is indubitable in the public domain is that there are camps that are deeply divided on succession, but what cannot be easily discerned is, which one of the camps has a clear advantage.?
Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said there is need to depoliticise the succession story and look at it from the perspective of the national interest and not individuals.
“The succession story has unfortunately become a story of battles between individuals with much less analysis on the constitutional or party policies and legal positions that facilitate an orderly succession, or an analysis of what the various contending forces represent in terms of policy.
“The media to an extent has become less informative and more sensational. The media has to be careful on hate speech which may fuel violence with potential to engulf the whole country. At this moment the media has to exercise true independence in a likely political watershed moment”