It is the time of the year when we are treated to the annual ritual of news announcing the death of President Mugabe. President Mugabe is on holiday in the Far East. His traditional retreat has been accompanied by a traditional death-wish by newspapers in and outside the country that speculate about him suffering some fatal ailment during his holidays.
We do not quite recall the last time we did not hear about such a rumour.
It is one rumour that spreads like a veld fire and in today’s parlance, one that brings the Internet down.
Just this week the rumour was typically swirling again and it seemingly originated from a dubious website called ZimEye, which has a notorious reputation of such cock-and-bull tales, but was picked up by some news houses abroad including the Star in Britain.
What happened next is a familiar tale.
Thousands of websites and outlets picked the trash and ran with it, even when it was apparent that this was just another of those spoof stories.
There are several ways to understand this kind of behaviour.
First, this is pure mischief on the part of those who disseminate the “news”. They can be forgiven if they are declared spoof peddlers.
The second category of people and publishers are those who are so careless about checking facts and verifying before publishing.
They either are too naïve or plain reckless.
Third, and connected to this, is the fact that the circulation of such material has a commercial side whereby websites earn money by virtue of having traffic to them – people who visit websites and read content.
They are in the same category as prosperity prophets who seek cheap fame from such stunts.
This is about the most dangerous element.
People do anything for money — and a lot of these new websites which put up juicy tidbits and how-to material are entirely driven by profit and profit comes from “hits”.
Still, the fourth category of people who peddle the Mugabe death story is those that hate him politically.
They just wish him dead because in life they have failed to defeat his larger than life personality and political idea.
These are the opposition in politics and media.
One can say that they are both the victims and instigators of the story.
They generate the stories, or they feed on the stories with relish — at least as long as the rumour remains undispelled.
Poor things, each time in the last several years President Mugabe has come back fit and strong, putting to shame the village witches that may have been relishing a meal out of a lifeless body of his.
As we have noted, President Mugabe simply laughs off these rumours.
He even jokes about having died and resurrected many times — a feat which Jesus of Nazareth could not even do!
Wake me up when it’s all over
The South African newspaper, Mail &Guardian, has a beautiful piece illustrating just how we are all grown tired of this Mugabe rumour story.
“Rumours that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe had suffered a heart attack have been doing the rounds again, but they have been laughed off by veteran journalists as part of the annual Zimbabwean news cycle,” writes Carrien du Plessis.
She quotes Ray Ndlovu, a veteran journalist, tweeting: “Oh no, those Mugabe death stories have started again! Daily Star in UK reports he had a heart attack on holiday. Yawn. Wake me up when it’s over.”
It is what most of us think exactly.
And, just illustratively, not even the usually excitable local private media, which have been branded the lunatic fringe, did not find much humour or honour in the report and to their credit, ignored the item as a headline.
We are sure there was only one newspaper that carried the item, with Government dismissing the rumour.
The thing is, the story was a tired spoof, which at best warranted fleeting attention, but more deservedly an altogether lack thereof.
We continue to be amazed by our sisters from the other mother in the field of the Press, the Daily News.
There is little doubt that these cousins of ours have severe ego issues and it is for this reason that they continue to gloat about their perceived excellence in the arena.
They also want the whole world to believe that they are the best the world has seen.
They also want to project a picture of perpetual victims of the State when in actual fact, and always, they are their own enemies, including when they shut themselves down some time back after they refused to follow the law, which other newspapers did, private and public.
No serious person believes the claptrap about being “forcibly shut down”.
Interestingly, we have these guys daily playing victim — and in the most ironic of manner.
While they seek to play victim, we also see them openly writing material that is to all intents and purposes meant to undermine the State and aid regime change in the country — hiding behind media freedom.
They are a political player: an opposition extension or appendage.
It is strange they mourn when the rules of politics are applied to them.
But that is not our business.
In particular, we have no beef with individual journalists there who are mere pawns of a dirty political game some of them do not even approve of or enjoy in the least.
The one tragicomic thing though one might remark on, is how empty our friends are and how they seek to hide behind pretences of sophistication with language.
Just consider this rant against a columnist from this paper:
“We can even understand when that gung-ho senior civil servant, in effect a shameless, scandal-ridden and highly factional Zanu PF apparatchik — whose soporific Nathaniel Manheru column in the same discredited Pravda of Harare — spews his concoction of cringe-worthy lies and hate speech week in week out. . . ”
Wow! That is impressive.
Only we know that our friends’ diction is limited to these few mouthfuls — obviously discovered and acquired late in life — and a few other epithets.
These epithets are repeated everyday in these pages to try to lend drama where there is none, especially in relation to the so-called factionalism in the ruling party, Zanu-PF.
But then, without substance, why deny them the fury?