Lies have such short legs. The Sunday Times of South Africa has just been disgraced for writing fake stories that were meant to soil two key institutions in that country — the South African Revenue Services and the elite investigations unit, the Hawks.
While these are internal issues where disgraced journalists and their shamed paper were used for some political ends in that country, Zimbabwe suffered collateral damage.
In 2011, Sunday Times ran a series of stories alleging that several Zimbabweans were “sent home to die” by the Hawks who deported them illegally to Zimbabwe where they were tortured and killed.
Authorities on either side of Limpopo denied the story at the time, but the story stuck and was picked by several publications across the world.
The effect was that Zimbabwe was projected as a lawless country where human rights were not being respected and extra-judicial killings took place.
No doubt, this was part of the campaign of defamation, disinformation and misinformation about Zimbabwe.
Sunday Times represents the foreign media that carried out this campaign: several other institutions carried negative stories about Zimbabwe that were wholly untrue, distorted or sensationalised.
Some broadcasters even paid actors to stage certain acts to be falsely portrayed as the situation in Zimbabwe.
Private media were the local legs of the campaign of falsehoods meant to justify the ostracisation of Zimbabwe, with some local unscrupulous editors going to shamefully great lengths to tarnish the image of the motherland by writing fibs as grave as fictitious beheading of people.
The Sunday Times imbroglio is a small victory. Only we can celebrate it so much. It brings us to reflect that Zimbabwe should be able to tell a lot of good stories about itself and present a good image out there.
The new dispensation of the administration of President Mnangagwa offered Zimbabwe a break from the past where some errors of commission and omission were made, even justifying the defamation by unscrupulous quarters with hidden agendas.
President Mnangagwa has steered the country away from the path of controversy.
Quite instructively, this is the precise reason that he appointed a commission of inquiry into the August 1 post-election violence.
He cares what the outside world thinks about Zimbabwe, which in turn has an impact on our international relations, business, trade and tourism.
The burden of projecting a good name of Zimbabwe does not begin with the media. The media cannot just wake up writing glowing stories about Zimbabwe and how it transitioned from being a pariah to a global partner.
There are steps to be taken by all stakeholders to show that Zimbabwe is doing things differently and merits praise.
This is all the credit accruing to the new dispensation and President Mnangagwa who came to power with a different modus operandi and temperament.
Zimbabweans, including the media, will need to complement these efforts of cleaning the name of Zimbabwe.
Those Government agencies charged with projecting the good image of the country — from Tourism ministry to Information and Broadcasting Services — will need even harder in strategising the image building and perception management remits of their duties.
Yet, after all is said and done, we believe it is the duty of every citizen to work towards being good ambassadors of the country.
And once we do the right things, some lies just won’t stick.