Our battlefield

I once knew a Dutch journalist whose biggest success in his career was reporting on the Indonesian war for independence from Holland after the Japanese were driven out in 1945. His sympathies were with the Indonesians and he became something of an expert on guerrilla warfare.

So naturally, when he had me, during our independence war, seated comfortably in his London sitting room, well supplied with coffee, brandy and cigars, he wanted to assess the likelihood of our struggle succeeding. His first question to me was do the freedom fighters have a radio station?’ Without that, in his experience, no popular resistance could be co-ordinated. If the people are not informed about the progress of the struggle, it won’t remain popular for long. People will endure a lot of suffering if they know it will achieve something. They may even volunteer to suffer for freedom if they are sure it will bring that freedom. If they can’t know enough to make this judgement, the cause is lost.

So that is why, in the war that is going on in Zimbabwe today, the side who gained control of the radio and TV stations since independence holds on as strongly as they can to the radio and TV transmitters.

That is why they are still arrogant enough to demand that we, who never listen to their radio propaganda and never switch to their TV channel, should pay a licence fee so that they can continue to churn out more Zanu (PF) jingles and monologues by Tafataona Mahoso, not to mention the speeches of the Old Man himself. Though I can’t understand why they should need such a high licence fee, because producing that stuff doesn’t need much equipment or staff, so it shouldn’t need much money.

And that is why that faction send their agents around the country taking short-wave radios from the rural people. They know that if the simple rural voters are allowed radios that can receive more than Dead BC, those voters will rapidly discover there are a lot of broadcasts more truthful and more interesting than the outpourings of Zanu BC.

But I see a little hope in all this. I didn’t notice any satellite dishes being removed from the Shawasha, and Matapi flats after they had been purged of people judged not to be zealous enough Zanu bootlickers. The new occupants may have been selected for their ability to spew Zanu slogans for hours, but unless their heads are really empty echo-chambers, the attractions of foreign TV programmes will draw them from the narrow track defined for them by Mahoso, Manheru and Charamba. They don’t have to switch to BBC or Voice of America; Al Jazeera will give them a more balanced picture – and it’s not Western.

They might even discover that Press TV, the voice of the Iranian ayatollahs, supports regime change in Egypt. If that unspeakable idea is sauce for the Egyptian goose, even a Green Bomber from the depths of UMP could ask whether it might be sauce for the Zimbabwean gander.

Post published in: Opinions

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