SOUTH African media houses brazenly misled viewers on the situation obtaining in Zimbabwe by using file photos and videos to back their biased reportage, something that even contravenes that country’s broadcasting laws, new data reveals.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and eNCA have come under fire from media experts and the broad spectrum of Zimbabweans for peddling falsehoods that there is a “crisis” in Zimbabwe through the manipulation of news to fit their agenda.
In their coverage, the two news channels failed to indicate to their viewers that the footage were file tapes, although this is a legal requirement in terms of that country’s broadcasting laws, under the code of conduct of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.
SABC 404 and eNCA 403 have been running a series of stories about the situation in Zimbabwe making allegations of human rights abuse, torture of citizens among other unsubstantiated accusations.
Government has since made it clear that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe and that was confirmed by the just ended Sadc Summit which did not see it fit to place Harare on its agenda.
Political analysts and civic organisations have accused the South African media of playing to the whims of some elements in that country who are working with G40 members preferring to live outside Zimbabwe.
Midlands State University media lecturer Prof Nhamo Mhiripiri said while it was unethical not to indicate that the footage was a file tape, it was critical to establish the motive.
“I am not so sure what possibly was the motive. We might need to know what was the motive. Probably it was a technical one or it was mere ignorance,” said Prof Mhiripiri.
On his part, Zanu PF director of Information and Publicity Cde Tafadzwa Mugwadi said the way the stations have misrepresented the situation in Zimbabwe has dented their images.
“Honestly for a broadcaster of the stature of SABC to rely on Tajamuka as a credible source on Zimbabwean issues was below the bar and an embarrassment of monumental proportions. The public broadcaster of an African nation must project the Pan-African narrative,” he said.
Zimbabwe Citizen Forum coordinator Mr Taurayi Kandishaya said it was high time that the political machinations of the two media organisations were put under scrutiny.
“The conduct of SABC and eNCA is a clear indication of media houses with a sinister agenda against Zimbabwe divorced from portraying the truth.
“They lack substance to the extent of being run, managed and handled by bitter G40 elements working with some elements in South Africa to tarnish the image of the Government. As a civic organisation we are on our way to petition the government of South Africa over such behaviour,” he said.
Political analyst, Mr Obert Gutu described the narrative being pushed by SABC and eNCA as false and accused some journalists in South Africa of being in bed with remnants of the G40 faction.
“Little wonder, therefore, that this narrative has got no major takers. Some elements at both the SABC and eNCA have undoubtedly entered into an unholy alliance with some foreign forces that are pushing a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe. Some of us are actually aware of the existence of a personal relationship that exists between a very senior female South African journalist at the SABC with one of the key characters of the G40 faction of Zanu PF who is currently in self-imposed exile in South Africa.
“Perhaps at a diplomatic level, the authorities in Zimbabwe can raise some of these concerns with their counterparts in South Africa. This is a very well-funded and well-calculated game of the use of soft power to shape public opinion against the Government of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Gutu.
On August 2, in its news bulletin on alleged torture and harassment of citizens in Zimbabwe, SABC Channel 404 aired an old video clip of 2017 and 2018 and portrayed it as current situation.
“The old footage presented a distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation of the situation in Zimbabwe during the period under consideration,” noted one analyst.
The following day SABC ran another news bulletin at 8.10pm on alleged violations of human rights where it again used an old video without informing their viewers that it was a file tape.
On August 6 at 8.12pm under the topic, “Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono denied bail, (amid) reports that United Nations Security Council will act in Zimbabwe,” the video clip aired an old footage of demonstrations that was captured three years ago without informing its viewers.
Under the topic, “Nelson Chamisa speaks on the situation in Zimbabwe,” on August 7 again Sabc Channel 404 aired old clips without mentioning that they were file tapes in clear violation of the Clause 28 of the BCCSA code of conduct for that country.
On the same day during a discussion programme between Zanu PF official, Cde Terence Mukupe and Zimbabwe Human Rights Watch leader Mr Dewa Mavhinga at 8.09pm the station aired old video clips.
The following day, a programme by Sophie Mokoena on the same channel under the topic “African Union says it is monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe,” the channel ran a series of programmes where it flighted old video clips of demonstrations. Even on their reports about the three South African envoys that came to Harare, SABC and eNCA used old footage of demonstrations.
In the story of three envoys sent by President Cyril Ramaphosa to meet President Mnangagwa, the eNCA used old clips where it featured Dr Ibbo Mandaza.
Zimbabwe, presently, is under renewed attacks from its detractors both within and outside the country who have this time roped in foreign media organisations and opposition parties to portray the image of a country in crisis when there is none.