Zimbabwean media is too partisan to protect democracy

Never before in Zimbabwe’s desperate pursuance of political change has more misinformation been wrapped up and dished out as political analyses to an unsuspecting electorate. The importance of good media research and reporting cannot be over-emphasised; we are increasingly reliant on the media for its research, analyses and measured reporting to help us form opinions on the available options. What people are witnessing however, are partisan media houses and editors clandestinely turning journalists into unofficial party political salesmen and women.

A robust media is what maintains democracy while a partisan one is antagonistic to it. The fact that something is not a lie does not mean it is not deceptive; journalists need to stop acting like mere carriers of messages and start interrogating the messages for hidden agendas and myths that surround them. The media have been quick to manufacture ‘Mangoma’s hidden agenda’ yet ignoring the important democratic issues his actions raise.

Deceptive media with its calculated presentation of pseudo-realities is incapable of protecting the development and maintenance of democracy and the promotion of social justice and equality across Zimbabwean society. Journalists and political analysts reporting on Elton Mangoma’s unconventional calls for leadership change within the MDC-T need to present a balanced debate on the matter.

There is something inherently disturbing about a media that at crucial political moments would opt to side with political personalities as opposed to political ideas. We cannot begin to offer a genuine debate when we remain selectively disinterested in understanding what our opponents believe. Mangoma’s actions and reasons thereof have been heard; reasons deserve as much prominence as the perceived need to respect the MDC-T party’s constitutional provisions.

Focus on the laws regarding leadership contest and change is correct yet questioning its fairness is just as important – a fact that has been constructively ignored by the Morgan Tsvangirai fanatics in the media. It must not be lost to all that constitutions are human creations, we must never be slave to any law; as such, all laws must be open to challenge, including challenging the idea that MDC-T substantive leaders must be elected and de-elected only during the party congress.

While I have some sympathy with those who believe the MDC-T members have to adhere to set time limits, I do not believe that constitutes reasonable grounds for blocking the leadership debate and in the process protecting failed leaders. Why is it right to allow members a chance to elect individuals to positions but deny them the right to de-elect under-performing leaders anytime during their tenure? Perhaps assuming that members will always get their choices right is too optimistic, if not naive.

There is reason of course, to believe that allowing for recall may lead to instability yet evidence from the most effective direct democracy of Switzerland suggests such provisions actually promote efficiency and do not necessarily lead to internal instability. Tsvangirai may be popular but popularity is not synonymous to quality; the man has had 15 years and 4 attempts at changing the political scene of Zimbabwe and that should be enough for any reasonable human being.

While the media focuses on Mangoma’s letter they quite effectively divert attention from the violence by Tsvangirai’s thugs and more importantly, Tsvangirai’s calculated failure to robustly condemn violence within his organisation and the country in general. The use of suspensions to deal with dissenting voices is not always a good base on which to build a democracy. Where freedom is denied; creativity is stifled; Tsvangirai will continue to hide behind pieces of party legislation to stay on and the MDC-T will continue to sink deeper than rise up.

Politics should be about transforming the lives of people and not just transforming political leadership. Tsvangirai, as a leader, must shoulder all of the blame for the party’s evident failures. He has not necessarily changed the political culture in Zimbabwe; the MDC-T is a poor replica of ZANU PF.

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