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Tsvangirai’s media fans maybe doing him a disservice

If there is any conclusion to be drawn from reports, denials and rejection of Morgan Tsvangirai’s potential suspension as MDC-T’s president it is that the MDC-T is a chaotic organisation. The role of the media in canonizing Tsvangirai comes into question too. The independent media’s evasion of responsibility is worrying; the media has not acted as the fair monitor of the performance of political leaders on behalf of the population.

Political perception in Zimbabwe is value-laden as to render impartiality impossible in any analysis. Quoting figures and other pieces of convenient statistics, the Tsvangirai fans in the media would like us to believe they were objective in their analysis of his leadership abilities yet we know that people tend to see what they are already looking for and what the mind is prepared to comprehend.

This is a serious departure from the normative function of the media in a democracy; the function of the media should be to save democracy from political leaders yet the opposition aligned media has consistently shielded Tsvangirai from democratic principles and processes.

Perhaps the most cruel political act that the Tsvangirai fanatics in the media have done to him since 2005 has been starving him of objective criticism while giving him the impression that he was flawless when he quite clearly is not. Instead of facing the truth of telling the man his apparent flaws, the media cowardly turned its attention on Welshman Ncube for daring to question Tsvangirai’s democratic credentials.

The reality remains that during his tenure, Tsvangirai has achieved a theoretical impossibility in that although he has dismally failed to transform the MDC from a protest organisation into a government-in-waiting, he has managed to keep multitudes believing he was the saviour of Zimbabwean politics.

Tsvangirai’s popularity only, not policy has been used to define him as a great leader. On that basis and that alone, conclusions have been drawn that he should be the leader while everyone else should be seeking to help him (not challenge him) unseat Robert Mugabe, and not necessarily the system. Unfortunately, he has fallen victim to that superficial status and with that damaging belief in mind he has wilfully obstructed democratic processes if not complicit in perpetuating undemocratic acts.

Tsvangirai’s popularity while true, is highly unlikely to be a direct by-product of his leadership qualities and/ or policies but that of the following two factors: (a) extreme public resentment of ZANU PF and (b) an unfortunate but wider problem of ethnic identity politics and its manipulation in Zimbabwe.

Everything in the current socio-political background has prepared ethnic Shona people to resist the idea of an ethnic Ndebele president just as much as a white president is intolerable. Zimbabwean establishment forms were never intended for ethnic Ndebele people to equal access of real power as their ethnic Shona counterparts. Matabeleland citizens are seen and expected to take up roles as able deputies of an ethnic Shona leader.

It is no surprise that Ncube has become the pantomime villain of Zimbabwean opposition politics for daring to challenge socio-political structures of power choreographed by and for ethnic Shona people. He is being derided by the bullies in the Tsvangirai aligned media for daring to question Tsvangirai’s leadership and democratic credentials and reject calls for him to lead any potential united front for the opposition. Ncube has been called all sorts of derogatory terms for saying what many know to be true.

Tsvangirai’s friends in the media have been a big let down to him, opposition politics and the battle against a vile ZANU PF regime. The media has not been open and ready to view opposing views about Tsvangirai’s leadership and objectively interrogate the legitimacy of those views. Instead, they have taken the easier route of vilifying Ncube, Mangoma, Biti and anyone who dares challenge Tsvangirai while ignoring concerns about Tsvangirai’s leadership style. The media needs to give equal value to all opinions and trust the public to judge.


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