Mthwakazi has to choose her battles wisely

BBA 2012 contestants
BBA 2012 contestants

As I write this blog, I hope that the fight for Mthwakazi’s recognition in Big Brother Africa (BBA) would have subsided but, was it a good choice for a battle? Are we not running the risk of grand standing and in the process trivialising the revolution?

I appreciate that judging which battles should be fought first or fought at all is often a matter of values not a science; I however, remain unconvinced that BBA participation was a wise battle to choose. My reservation is based on both the absence of reliable evidence proving the perceived unfairness and the BBA’s participation contextual benefits to Mthwakazi’s fight for independence.

The selection criteria for BBA participants were not known by interested Mthwakazians accusing the program makers’ Harare based agents of unfair treatment neither was the number of Mthwakazians who had auditioned during the period in question given nor the reasons why those individuals should have been selected in place of those who made it in the last six years. We were just given a snippet of six previous contestants (representing Zimbabwe) all from or connected with Mashonaland and that alone was used as evidence of discrimination of Mthwakazi, unconvincing evidence I would say!

To me this BBA debacle appeared more of some social class grievance miss-sold as a national scandal. An argument was made that Mthwakazi has to fight discrimination everywhere it raises its ugly head, I agree but only if that is in reference to real discrimination not manufactured grievances of convenience. Most, if not all, of the previous participants appear to be from privileged backgrounds and not exactly representative of the average citizens of their country.

How and why is the BBA participation torpedoed to a significant battle to be fought by or for the whole nation of Mthwakazi? BBA is quite frankly a vanity program; while BBA participation is ideally open to all citizens, the financial costs involved during auditions maybe making it a preserve of the middle and elite social classes. I believe that the selection process should at least be decentralised to improve access to auditions by a broader pool of candidates from around the country.

The program not only lacks African originality but threatens to undermine the very moral fabric that many in Mthwakazi pride themselves with and would love to preserve as much as possible, not that I am suggesting all TV programs have to be culturally relevant. Indeed, I do appreciate artistic innovation and the need to occasionally push socio-cultural boundaries but I do not particularly see evidence of artistry in BBA.

One has to be prepared to lower their moral and artistic standards to particularly low levels (much lower than the minimum standards acceptable) to participate in the BBA and viewers have to be individuals prepared to temporarily raise their tolerance threshold. For people (Mthwakazians) who claim to uphold high moral standards possible (whatever they are), BBA is certainly not the platform to showcase those standards.

Fighting for BBA participation under the Zimbabwean banner does appear to be contradicting the deeply held determination by Mthwakazi to be independent of Zimbabwe and instead turns to a desire to be integrated into that country. What makes BBA participation a good battle to fight? Or the argument is that for as long as Mthwakazi remains embedded in Zimbabwe then its citizens have to be enjoying the same rights as the rest of the Zimbabwean citizens? This is a fair and reasonable shout but there needs to be reliable evidence for the alleged discrimination otherwise Mthwakazi might appear as though she were demanding preferential treatment over and above other regions yet she says she does not wish to be part of Zimbabwe. Participating in BBA will neither add social nor political nor economic capital to Mthwakazi; in short, it is not the wise battle to be fighting right now!


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