The Role of Media in Changing Zimbabwe for 2018

The role of the press with respect to Zimbabwe's political; social and economic changes as we move towards 2018 should not be underestimated. The media is capable of highlighting on the past, the present and help the people establish how best to model their future. Media is as essential as our daily bread as it plays an outstanding role in creating and shaping of public opinion and strengthening of society.

One of the reasons why ZANU-PF is still in power (37+ years now) is that it has been able to manipulate its state controlled media facilities for its benefits mainly spreading its propaganda. However they (ZANU-PF) should understand that media is the sword arm of democracy as it acts as a watchdog to protect interest against malpractice and create public awareness.

 In an authoritarian environment like Zimbabwe, where the state seeks control of information, the effect of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other Social media, smart phones, digital cameras as well as shortwave radio networks will undoubtedly have a liberalizing effect and will help spread the Zimbabwean story around the world and their overall effect are going to be noticed  as we come to the results of 2018 elections.. The Internet as a new medium of communication will create more options for news consumption. Use of the new media technology have made it possible for the whole world to be a village. Zimbabwe is estimated to have 100 000 internet users and the advantage of online services by several Zimbabwean journalists in exile are all odds against state control.

It is a known fact that the ZANU-PF regime controls all AM & FM broadcasts by jamming these broadcasts using equipment brought from China. However against this, news bulletins are still texted to thousands of cell phones in Zimbabwe and around the world. New media technology is seen to be very crucial especially for reaching Zimbabwe’s rural areas where more than 60% of the population lives.

This has increased the number of people who can be updated on any development be it the wrong government policies/activities such as corruption and these spread like wildfire to almost every part of Zimbabwe. The populace will always be fed with the right information which in the end will  enable  them to decide on voting for the right future government to save their interests.

Fighting against press freedom in Zimbabwe has been going on since ZANU-PF has been in power. When farms owned by the whites were seized by ZANU-PF, the President wanted to be viewed as the radical African leader who rid his country of white farmers yet on the other hand Mugabe did not want the press to report that he was using systematic state torture and violence against blacks opposed to his rule.

Freelance journalists like Andrew Meldrum ( for The Guardian & The Economist) were labeled “terrorist” by Mugabe and state media after uncovering human rights abuses. He was jailed for 2 days and charged with “publishing falsehood”. He ended up being abducted by state agents and was forced to flee out of the country in May 2003.

Beatrice Mtetwa, a Zimbabwean lawyer who has been  internationally recognised for her defense of  journalists and press freedom, The New York Times described her in 2008 as”Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer”. She defended a number of journalists both foreign and Zimbabweans as well as opposition supporters to keep a shred of the free press alive in Zimbabwe.

Pro-Mugabe propaganda by state newspapers, television and radio gives the ruling party monopoly over media. This needs to be overcome.

Exiled journalist, Wilf Mbanga, founder, editor and publisher of The Zimbabwean, achieved a wide circulation of his newspaper in the country  and later the government slapped a hefty import duty on the paper and its delivery truck was firebombed.

With the creation of a coalition government in 2010 Mugabe was forced to relax his grip on the media. New daily newspapers were allowed to be published such as News Day and also foreign based news organisations like the BBC & CNN set up operations in Zimbabwe.

Press freedom and the free flow of information is a requirement of a democratic society. An informed electorate is better off able to make good decisions on good governance and to hold elected leaders accountable

Zimbabwe has travelled through the post colonial era and are now  in an authoritarian state which needs to be changed through a much informative free press with much support from free expression from various stakeholders.

During the Ian Douglas Smith and Abel Muzorewa time, the media which saved and supported the ideology and interests of the white ruling elite in the then Rhodesia was made up of the Rhodesia Herald; The Chronicle and The Sunday Mail and in addition, The Sunday News as well as The Financial Gazette.

Also during that same time was a church publication known as  Moto (Fire), and Umbowo (Witness) which represented publications and reactions to the injustice, racism, and exploitation that prevailed at that time of colonialism.

Father Michael Traber, once Moto Magazine Editor in Zimbabwe during the 1970s helped to shape and influence Zimbabwe’s media landscape. His magazine strongly advocated for social justice and offered the country’s two main liberation movements a platform to air their grievances. In his writings he said “Stories, though they may be funny, are a serious way of educating people, particularly the young. And storytelling has always been an intensely political activity.

They are part of the political process, even though politicians and the media may ignore them at their own peril. Many governments in Africa and elsewhere have been toppled because they failed to listen to the stories of the people but relied, instead, on the press. It is dangerous for any state not to take the people’s stories seriously.”

A lot can be learnt from Father Michael Traber’s writings useful to both the current and future governments.

ith the coming of Zimbabwe independence as from 1980 up to date, the pre-colonial media switched its support to a new ruling elite which is the current ZANU-PF regime. They have a monopoly  of all state media, radio, television and the print media. All white editors at Zimbabwe Newspapers were replaced. Farai Munyuki became the first black editor of The Herald; Tommy Sithole for The Chronicle and the late Willy Musarurwa for The Sunday Mail. In this new era all what was needed was to be highly partisan to the ruling party’s ideology and policies. However Willy Musarurwa (ZAPU) was less partisan and was more professional. His aim was to save the government with both positive and negative reportage so as to enable the government to redirect their services as per society’s needs. Subsequently he was removed from his position by orders of President Robert Mugabe for being “overly critical of the government”.

In a state controlled media we normally read state press news which gives a positive image of the country’s leadership. Anything short of that is not welcome as it can be considered to be manufactured lies. What happened in the Sandura Commission of Inquiry?

In most cases State controlled media does not cover interest for the majority of the country’s population. On the other hand the independent press is put on the side of the oppressed masses. In reality a free press should be made up of journalistic community ready to disseminate information without fear or favour for the public’s right to know, to be informed and to be educated. The public need to make critical decisions about their lives.

Sometimes a lot is promised in state controlled media by government officials but nothing happens despite all assurances such as government will give more land, agricultural inputs, jobs, education and improved quality of life to all the citizens.

Our Zimbabwe media should be depolarized and be totally removed from the ruling party politics. It must be defined not on the basis of its ownership but on the basis of of what it does professionally. Recognition of equality of all human beings with the understanding that there are no human beings that are more equal than others. We voted for a constitution which should be respected.

We should all play our part for a better Zimbabwe – come 2018

Post published in: Featured
  1. Nomusa Garikai
  2. jbranstetter04

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