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Meanwhile,behindthe scenesonthis election….
The Last Strawby Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga (The SouthernEye 21 July2013)
Whenthe sto...
Who wouldn’twantafree t-shirt,cap,transport or foodhand-outs?The dangerof usingralliesasa
barometerof a particularleader’s...
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Meanwhile, behind the scenes in thi election

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When the story about the July 31 election is told it will be that of the media and the politicians. We
the electorate seem to be bystanders in a drama that is unfolding in the news and rallies across the
length and breadth of Zimbabwe.

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Meanwhile, behind the scenes in thi election

  1. 1. Meanwhile,behindthe scenesonthis election…. The Last Strawby Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga (The SouthernEye 21 July2013) Whenthe story aboutthe July31 electionis tolditwill be thatof the mediaand the politicians.We the electorate seemtobe bystandersinadrama that is unfoldinginthe newsandralliesacrossthe lengthandbreadthof Zimbabwe. The polarisationthathasbeenthe trademarkof Zimbabweansocietyhasbeenmagnifiedbyboth the state and private media.The formerhasbeenpredictable,comingoutfull force inthe cornerof Zanu PFand not beingapologeticaboutit.Ihas beennauseatingtoputitmildly.Thisisexactlywhat the clamourfor mediareformshasbeenall about. ZBC’sHappisonMuchechetere wasbluntaboutwhythe national broadcaster wasn’tgoingtobe bulldozed intocarryingpolitical advertsafteracomplaintbyMorgan Tsvangirai’sMDC. “If theyreceivedaletter,theyshouldnotrushtosay theiradvertwasrejected.This isnota diptank. We have regulationsthatwe follow,”he said. Strangely, thoughnotentirelyunpredictable,Paul Chimedza,the chairatZimpapers,echoedsimilar sentiments.Nevermindthe factthathe isthe Zanu PF candidate forGutu South. So skewed isthe landscape thatevenwhenthe opportunitycame forpolitical advertstobe aired, one party aimedstraightbelowthe beltwithaseriesof adverts borderingoncharacterassassination of a particularpresidential candidate.The gloveswere off.Reactionstothismovedtothe numerous ralliesthatwere addressedbythe candidateswhere the moral characterandinsome cases the cosmeticqualitiesorlackthereof of one became the subjectof brazenridicule. Back on the newsstands,the state media wasseencarryingaseriesof articlesof dubiousorigin.The classicone beingthat of a plotto disruptthe special vote throughthe connivance of twoMDC T ministers,Tendai BitiandEltonMangoma.Opinionpiecescontinue tobe disguised asnews quoting a phantomarmy of facelesssourcesandanalysts. The private mediahasnot beenwithoutfault.Puffpieceshave foundtheirwayintothe mainstream, withsome storieslackingdepthandanalysis. One article wassoprofuse withglee aboutthe academicqualitiesof aparticularcandidate thatthe contentof hisspeechwaslostin the bravadoof the writer. The fact that the electionisanumbersgame isnotloston boththe politiciansandthe media.The state and private mediahave beenusingimages of ralliestoimplythatthe presidential candidates were indeedpopular.The numbersthrownaroundinthe papershave beenshortof incredible.The mostclassicwas that of the Masowe crowdin Marange where one officialputitat 400,000! The other extreme wasthatof journalists literally droolingatthe numberswitnessedata particular rallyinSakubva.A colleague quippedthathe wasnot sure whetherthe scribe he wastalkingtoowas a memberof the pressor a mere publicistof the party. On the issue of numbers,ithasbecome clearthat the bussingof supporterstorallieshasbecome a political realityinourelections.Candidatesseemstobe bentonoutdoingeachotherto show their dearleaderhowmanytheycan assembly ina single sitting.We are now convincedthatthe same people are beingshuttledfromrallytorallyandhave certainlybecome serialrallyattendees.
  2. 2. Who wouldn’twantafree t-shirt,cap,transport or foodhand-outs?The dangerof usingralliesasa barometerof a particularleader’spopularityand theirincreasedchances of winningthe poll are fraughtwith danger.Asone comediansaid,theyshouldleavesome space fordisappointment. TravellingtoNyangafora workshopforeditorsonelectionreporting lastweek,one wouldbe forgivenforthinkingthatone wasenteringaone partystate judgingbythe numberof people wearingthe capsand t-shirtsof a particularpolitical party.Infact we were the oddonesout andat one pointfeared forour safetyfornotmakingthat particularfashionstatement. At the same workshop,itwasnot surprisingtohearthat the certainstakeholdershad scoredthe mediaverylowwhenitcame to electioncoverage.Dependingonwhere one stood,ithasbecome patentlyclearthatthe mediaissplit rightdownthe middle whenitcomestopartiality. People complainthattheycannotaffordto buyall the mediaproductson offertopiece togethera semblance of whatthe realityisonthe ground.The mediahasalsobeenaccusedof agendasetting and cookinga witch’sbrewof fictitiousstoriesinthe newsrooms. Some newsvendorshave literally thrownall cautionto the windand rootedforone or the othercandidate. As we move towardsthe election-daythereshouldbe serioussoul-searchingbybothpoliticiansand the mediacognisantof whatthe landscape wouldbe likeafternextweek.Withguidelinesavailable for themto at leastretaina semblance of credibilityandsubstance,the personalisationof Zimbabwe’selectionsshouldbe the lastwe will everexperience. End…