Tinomuda Chinyoka Correspondent
When I was in Form 1, my Shona teacher asked our class to get into pairs and, at the beginning of each Shona lesson, one pair was required to take five minutes presenting news to the class.
I never wanted to be a journalist, but one of my friends (MHSRIP) went about this task with such excitement that even when it was not his turn, he could be trusted to have some news that he could share with those on the spot, for a slice of buttered bread of course.
“‘Do you have ZIANA for me?” was how people usually approached him.
I cannot say that this is why I love watching news, but yes, I cannot do without news. So much that when I travelled recently and stayed in a hotel that did not have news, I made a point to leave a review on their website telling them exactly what I think about their decision to offer Zeeworld and not eNCA or CNN. But that, is a different story.
When at work, I take my breaks to search for news. I read about everything, I even have an arrangement with a newspaper seller that she should drop all her papers into my car as I pass the light where she sells (there is no enough time to pick all and pay before the lights change), and then I send her money later. Saying which, I haven’t sent her money for today yet . . .
Searching for news on Zimbabwe in the print media has, however, started to be very depressing. Everything is presented in negative terms, and I mean everything. There is nothing good, it seems, everything is bad, bad, bad.
Yes, it is true that things could be better. Yes, it is true that some of our compatriots have been thieving, and that the law is only now catching up with them. Yes, it is true that natural disasters have struck and we have faced more than our fair share of bad news, but bad news should not be what defines us.
We have simply become slaves to negativity. Dynamos won without conceding, oh my word it was lacklustre. The Warriors qualified for Egypt, oh dear Lord they have no midfield. Zimbabwe citizens joined together in an unprecedented show of solidarity to donate aid to victims of Cyclone Idai so much so that we only lost lives to the water and not to deprivation, my oh my why did some volunteers numbering less than 10 wear T-shirts with the President’s face on them?
We are still mired in the negativity around a perfectly well run election, and we cannot move on. It is like those folks in the UK, almost three years after they voted to leave the EU, they simply cannot get their act together.
When we take these negative views on events, we pretend that we are removed from them, that it is others who are wrong, but not us. For example, there is a group of individuals calling themselves @TeamPachedu, whose actions suggest very strongly that they are funded by the USAID or at least some American linked interests.
They troll the internet for all news on Zimbabwe, and put a spin on said news so that it is negative. And they are inventive. It is they that come up with those airplane hire charges to make claims that the President paid $2 million to fly from Harare to Bulawayo. And how do they do this: easy. They simply google plane hire charges in the USA, and extrapolate those to here.
Negative news that is reported because it has happened I can deal with. People being swept away from their homes by a cyclone is news we should know about, so that we review our zoning and planning regulations, even in the rural areas. Someone being run over by a truck because he tried to cross the road underneath it at a stop sign we should know about, so that the relevant ministry can take a serious look at the scourge of jaywalking in this country: it really is out of control.
But, manufactured bad news fills our news sources. Not lies from journalists per se, because those you learn to sift through, but manufactured facts. Like the fact that an eminent judge with a distinguished career is reduced to someone’s wife.
Like the fact that a donation from well meaning foreign friends gets upgraded to state capture. Like the fact that a thug who assaults their employee and deserves jail is upgraded to a “Zanu-PF bigwig”, without any reference to an elective position that he holds in the revolutionary party — he doesn’t.
Like when a private visit by a former head of state arranged by a serial attention seeker is reported as evidence of the Government snubbing the visitor.
We have become addicted to negativity, and cannot tell good stories. And by God there are some good stories. Yes, some satellite schools did very poorly and that needs fixing, but we have a little girl from one such school who got 6As and is now doing A’ Level at a boarding school.
Several of her classmates also got As. Hers is not an isolated story, let us hear about them. Yes, we have roads that were swept away by the cyclone, but have you seen how many roads the Ministry of Transport has been macadamising? Yes, we have the cricket team missing out on the World Cup, but the netball, football, women’s rugby teams are all flying our flag high.
It is possible that those addicted to bad news will say: these things are not important, they are not the bread and butter issues. But they are wrong. These are in fact the things that matter.
We have become so politicised that everyone with a pulse wants to be a President, but life is not just politics. It is about children passing schools, about finding the person with ZIANA and offering him something he needs to trade with for stories, it is about dreaming of dredging the Save river, about building cities in the Zambezi valley, yes, about impossible dreams like that. Sadly though, we all want to analyse the by-election results from Cowdray Park and mourn about phantom rigging and poor services.
Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. Sadly, that is no longer news.