Brain teasers and lost titles

Dear Family and Friends,
A few weeks ago something really peculiar started happening at the beginning of the main evening ZBC TV news bulletin. The newsreader would announce a brain teaser for the evening, usually the meaning of the initials of some government organisation or other. Night after night we watched in bemused wonder as the brain teaser was posed, feeling a little like a class of kindergarten children.

This week the novelty brain teaser at the start of the evening news has shot to dizzying heights. Now we have a large brown flashing question mark in a framed box that takes up almost half of the screen. The questions have also upgraded and are usually about nationalist leaders and colonial issues. After the political question is read out we are told to: Stay tuned for the answer which will be revealed as the bulletin proceeds.

Thats not the only strange thing happening on the state controlled ZBC TV the only television news that the majority of the population have access to. Suddenly, over the last couple of weeks, the ZBC news readers have stopped referring to Morgan Tsvangirai as the Prime Minister of the country and instead almost always refer to him now as the leader of the MDC (T) party.

Both titles are of course accurate but the inferred loss of status by not using the title Prime Minister is glaringly obvious. Perhaps they thought we wouldnt notice, or perhaps, like so many other things in Zimbabwe, the more you say it, true or false, the more people believe it?

Brain teasers and lost titles faded into insignificance on Wednesday night and I couldnt believe my ears at the statement read out by the newsreader. Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, she said, leader of the MDC (T) party, has chickened out of elections, proposed for 2011.

Chickened Out! One can only imagine what would happen if ZBC TV used such a term to refer to Mugabe who is always now called: The Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces.

The main ZBC TV nightly news bulletin wouldnt be complete without the sanctions tirade. Every night there is at least one report about illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe. Targeted sanctions and travel restrictions, imposed on less than 300 individuals, continue to be blamed for everything. If my maths is correct and assuming a population of 11 million people, 300 sanctioned individuals represent less than 0,003% of Zimbabweans.

This week ZBC TV carried a story that sanctions were hurting the poor; another report was that the distribution of maize and sorghum seed had been hampered by sanctions. Then came the report that sanctions on Zimbabwe were having a detrimental effect on Zambia and other countries on Zimbabwes borders. I lost the thread there somewhere as I tried to make a mental list of local foods currently available in our supermarkets and couldnt think of more than half a dozen items. Sanctions? And yet everything, everything we use is imported.

As the talk of elections escalates in Zimbabwe, we descend ever faster into that strange Alice in Wonderland media place again. Until next time, thanks for reading, Ndini shamwari yenyu.

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