Cheap media, cheap politics?

Obert Gutu

Obert Gutu

Something that appeared on one news website yesterday really got us to ponder: have the media become so cheap to the extent that it has become easy for the exploitation by characters of all colours and hue, especially to play cheap politics?

Of course, we should not be blind to the fact that the media and politics have had a long and usually incestuous relationship.

And usually, it was the latter exploiting the former because of influence and money.

That ostentation about media being the Fourth Estate is just that – a mere affectation because generally on the hard questions of the day, anywhere in the world, the politics and money have won.

That is whether we like it or not; which doesn’t quite edify us, writing this, as members of the Fourth Estate.

But you wouldn’t mind, really, for life is never fair, losing ground to superior and consequential individuals and forces.

We lose, all right, but with honour – if we could claim such.

(Just thinking of the prostitutes that some guy once called our kind, in the intellectual sense.)

Again, so much about principle!

But can the media sink so low, as today, when it is being subjected by some moribund political forces who think that writing a media statement or appearing in a newspaper column is enough work to convince the electorate?

Hear, Say!

It has become a trend among the many opposition parties in Zimbabwe that when they have nothing to do – which they don’t usually – all they have to do is look in the newspapers or hear gossip or bar talk or Facebook and hastily cobble a statement that they pass to the media and before you realise it, they are being heard globally!

It is such a lazy exercise.

You can do that on the phone while sitting over a beer with mates in Glen View or some village bar in Tsholotsho.

You can do that in the arms of a lover, or worse still while sitting in the toilet.

Welshman Ncube

Welshman Ncube

Unfortunately, in this age, we have seen such messages being elevated to national news.

It doesn’t take much to realise that a lot of the statements are just wishy-washy rubbish.

They immediately stink up to your nose, the way all things emanating from toilets do.

There are several characters who have truly cheapened the idea of political spokesmanship – and the newspapers that carry their messages.

One is Obert Gutu of the MDC-T, who is notorious for commenting on anything and everything that happens in the country in the name of his party.

And true to form, it doesn’t take any time for reflection.

He just shoots from the hip, and usually with dire consequences.

Just recently, he was trying to defend the indefensible about his legendary boss Morgan Tvangirai who was caught in pictures cavorting with women in a Gweru park, earning himself a new, eponymous title.

He said then:

“Those pictures were obviously photoshopped. They are completely fake and puerile. This is Zanu-PF propaganda in its most desperate mode.

“Instead of focusing on real issues of resuscitating the collapsed economy as well as addressing the impending drought that will affect about six million Zimbabweans, the Zanu-PF regime is busy pursuing this childish and spurious propaganda campaign against Morgan Tsvangirai.

“No right-thinking person will be swayed by this desperate and frivolous campaign to malign and denigrate Morgan Tsvangirai’s public image.”

Of course on the morrow, Tsvangirai admitted to the authenticity of the pictures, leaving Gutu with egg on the face.

Another culprit is young and excitable spokesperson of PDP, Jacob Mafume, who recently laid out his party’s strategy as seeking a media presence, hence they also talk about anything and everything from drought to football.

But the list would be incomplete without mentioning Rugare Gumbo and his continued abuse of one newspaper where he has become a permanent editorial feature.

Perhaps not just a source, but the editorial director himself!

It will also be useful, in support of the point raised above, namely parties using media as substitute of real work on the ground, to highlight that the People First party launched a “manifesto” last year in the media which baffled many observers.

We were accustomed to political parties launching their manifestos in front of crowds, at rallies where leaders met and interacted with real people, not virtual supporters.

How things change!

But we are not getting any better as a country and as the media.

We have allowed ourselves to sink low, and lower than we should in our corrupt-prone thankless profession.

Not to be outdone

The story that we alluded to at the opening is stemming from Welshman Ncube’s smaller MDC party.

It concerns the tragedy of Zimbabwean women who have been trafficked to Kuwait – and most probably other places.

Obviously not wanting to be outdone, the party found a way to score cheap political points, obviously taking advantage of the apparent tribally sympathetic platform.

We had a guy called Ngqabutho Mabhena passed off as head of foreign affairs saying: “While we are outraged by this heinous crime by the Kuwait embassy staff and demand that the full wrath of the law falls on the culprits, we lay the blame at the doorstep of the mis-ruling Zanu-PF party.

“This regime has totally failed to meet the basic needs of the people of Zimbabwe, particularly young people who after being forced out of the country to look for greener pastures find themselves working under harsh conditions with threats of deportation for failing to obtain legal documents in foreign lands.”

Adding: “The MDC calls on the people of Zimbabwe to never make a mistake of voting for a party that does not advance, deepen and defend their rights as citizens.”

You know cheap when you see stuff like this politics.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that human trafficking is a global problem that has nothing to do with Zanu-PF.

In fact, in Zimbabwe the problem is at a very minimal low, with this latest case being an exception rather than the rule.

There is a whole body of evidence to show how human trafficking, heinous as it is, is not the gravest thing to face Zimbabwe.

But then, if somebody has to say something, and there is a captive, cheap media to record and amplify, what do we get?

It is the age of cheap!

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