Zimbabwe Needs a New Media Regime

RECENT reports in the state-controlled print and electronic media have deliberately distorted the main purpose of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s official trip overseas.

A false and clearly malicious impression is being created that Tsvangirai has been mandated by Robert Mugabe to travel to Europe and the United States to specifically call for the lifting of ‘’sanctions’’ that the MDC called for in the first instance.

The propaganda does not end there. A desperate attempt is made to denigrate both the person and the office of the prime minister. It is this myopic approach to news dissemination that will prove the most lethal poison to the inclusive government.

In its front page story on Tuesday, the Herald reports that Tsvangirai was in the Netherlands on a brief from Mugabe and cabinet to call for the lifting of economic sanctions.

While I am not a cabinet minister and I am therefore not privy to the deliberations of cabinet, I have every reason to challenge the allegation that Mugabe and cabinet have mandated Tsvangirai to travel abroad to call for the lifting of sanctions.

I have conversed with a number of cabinet ministers and none of them was able to give legitimacy and credibility to the Herald story that I am referring to herein. In short, the Herald story is distorting the main purpose of the PM’s current visit overseas.

I am not surprised by the diehard attitude that still prevails in certain quarters of the state-controlled media. Most of those people who had made it a career to be Zanu PF praise-singers are still in control at both Zimpapers and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.

They are still wearing their parochial blinkers and they seem not to be aware that wherever you go in Zimbabwe today, things are in change mode.

These unfortunate people, for some reason, seem to still think that Mugabe is solely in charge and that Tsvangirai is just an errand boy.

These delusional characters still believe that somehow, both Mugabe and Zanu PF will manage to re-invent themselves and make themselves popular again amongst the majority of Zimbabweans, both within the country and in the diaspora.

Zanu PF is mortally and fatally wounded. This is a party that is hopelessly faction-ridden to such an extent that the centre can clearly no longer hold.

I sometimes wonder how many parties are within Zanu PF. The several factions in Zanu PF make it difficult to imagine how this party can live to successfully contest another election against a formidable party such as the MDC led by Tsvangirai.

Put in its proper context, therefore, the desperate attempt by the Zanu PF spin doctors at the state-controlled media to paint Tsvangirai as a weak appendage of the inclusive government clearly has got no takers.

The global political agreement (GPA) marked the beginning of the end of Mugabe’s imperial presidency. Section 20.1.1 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 19 states that ‘’the executive authority of the inclusive government shall vest in and be shared among the president, the prime minister and the cabinet, as provided for in this constitution and legislation”.

Surely, for any right-thinking person to therefore think that Tsvangirai is Mugabe’s errand boy clearly boggles the mind.

That there is an urgent need for a serious paradigm shift within the state-controlled media cannot be over-emphasised.

In fact, Zimbabwe does not need a state-controlled media. What we need, urgently, is a responsible and professional public media that will truly articulate and tell the true Zimbabwe story without fear or favour. A partisan, state-controlled media is a dangerous and lethal poison to the institution of the inclusive government.

Going forward, it may be necessary to wean off some of these propagandists from the state-controlled media since they are working at a tangent to the project to rebuild and re-brand Zimbabwe. I am not advocating retribution because I do not believe in the primitive notion of an eye for an eye since that will obviously leave all of us blind.

All I am stating is that if certain individuals at the state-controlled media cannot embrace the new political dispensation in Zimbabwe then they should do the honourable thing and to resign.

I am a member of the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) and I am very pleased to note that we are moving at supersonic speed to ensure that the new Zimbabwe Media Commission is set up as a matter of urgency.

At our last meeting held in Harare on Monday, June 1 I was quite pleased when Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara forcefully argued that the first constitutional commission to be set up should be the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

He argued that even the present constitution-making process can be thrown into serious jeopardy if we fail to urgently appoint the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

I totally agree with Mutambara’s sentiments on this issue. Surely, Zimbabwe needs a new media regime if we are to move forward as a nation. The days of media hangmen such as those located in the now defunct Media and Information Commission led by Tafataona Mahoso should be placed in the dustbin of history because that is precisely where they belong.

The important role of the Zimbabwe Media Commission in the democratisation agenda cannot be over-emphasised.

As long as both the mainstream and privately-owned media remain polarised, Zimbabwe will remain stuck in stagnation.

It does not make any sense to have only one local television station almost three decades after independence.

This makes us a laughing stock both in Africa and globally. For now, both Zimpapers and ZBH should simply accept that like him or hate him, Tsvangirai is the prime mover and shaker in Zimbabwe’s present political discourse.

lGutu is the Senator for Chisipite.

BY OBERT GUTU