Zimbabwe: Journalists Need History to Appreciate Today’s Discourse

The media in Zimbabwe is a close subject to me. It is sad that 40 years after independence, there is scant literature on practising journalism in Zimbabwe.

Most, if not all, of the resource material students of journalism are exposed to is not born out of a rigorous study and understanding of the journalism terrain in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

The absence of home-grown literature journalism in Zimbabwe is often the cause of the production of half-baked graduates who come out of university without an appreciation of the historical and the contemporary factors that shape and govern mass communication.

This is a call to veterans of the profession to seriously consider authoring books that focus on the practical aspects of journalism in Zimbabwe.

These texts could be used as reference points in the study of journalism instead of relying on de-contextualised texts written by alien scholars who lack an appreciation of the dynamics in our country.

Of course, the role of the media in post-independence Zimbabwe is quite broad, but in general it is to inform, educate and entertain.

In practical terms, one of the roles of the media as the Fourth Estate is to operate as the watchdog of society in general, and not just those in power.

There is also need to clearly distinguish political activism from journalism. There has been rampant obfuscation of what journalism ought to be with a lot of activism being peddled around as journalism.

I urge every journalist in Zimbabwe and Africa in general to familiarise themselves with writings of Baffour Ankomah, the Ghanaian veteran journalist, who in one of his article titled; “The role of the African media in promoting African integration” explains some misconceptions that most African journalists have about their job as media practitioners.

First, Ankomah encourages African journalists to understand that the Western media’s agenda on Africa is not that of a benevolent giver who is independent, fair and just.

This is something that Zimbabwean journalists need to learn fast. Zimbabwe gets bad coverage internationally because of the agendas that drive the Western media.

A confident Zimbabwe, able to fight for itself and its interests, squarely and fairly, is not what metropolitan powers really want, in spite of all their assurances.

A reality that most journalists conveniently choose to ignore is that the world is increasingly dependent on mineral supplies from developing countries, and the rapid population in Africa frustrates Western prospects for economic development and social progress.

Just as Ankomah says; “In effect, it is bad for the national interests of America and the developed world for Africa and other less developed countries to “obtain better terms of trade through higher prices for exports.”

As a result, measures were put to keep our populations in check.

The second point raised by Ankomah is that African journalists need to bear in mind that as proven by the National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200, an Africa able to fight for its rights, including better terms of trade, is not what the developed world wants, contrary to their many overtures of goodwill.

Part of the NSSM 200 reads: “The United States has become increasingly dependent on mineral imports from developing countries in the recent decades, and this trend is likely to continue. The location of known reserves of higher-grade ores of most minerals favours increasing dependence of all industrialised regions on imports from less developed countries.

“The real problems of mineral supplies lie, not in basic physical sufficiency, but in the politico-economic issues of access, terms for exploration and exploitation, and division of benefits among producers, consumers, and host country governments.”

The above paragraph was written in 1974, but nothing seems to have changed since. Africa is still home to most of the minerals and raw materials that make the world function. Africa is still the largest producer of “strategic minerals” like uranium and platinum.

The uranium in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II came from the Congo’s Shinkolobwe Mine in Katanga.

How many of our young Zimbabwean journalists put everything in perspective in understanding how the world works today? How many are aware for example that DRC was for a long time the world’s producer of uranium?

The Americans kept Mobutu in power for almost 32 years to guarantee Western access to Congo’s huge reserves of uranium, cobalt and other strategic minerals.

In post-colonial Africa, the Western media has done so much damage to Africa and its future generations. A good example, is how The Economist magazine once had a front cover headlined “Africa, The Hopeless Continent”. Everyone knows that The Economist and its sister paper The Financial Times are taken seriously by investors.

How much money has been lost in terms of investment revenue to Africa because of this relentless negative portrayal of the continent in general and Zimbabwe in particular?

It is sad to note that Zimbabwean journalists are oblivious of the agendas being pushed by the Western media and are unable to develop any counter measures. This is about our survival as a nation and despite whatever political differences we might have as a people, we must be able to coalesce on existential matters.

Zimbabwean journalists need to read more African history and published stories that reflect the post-colonial struggles facing our nation and Africa in general.

There is still a lot of merit in George Orwell’s assertion that: “He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the future, controls the present.” Without history as a guide, Zimbabwe won’t go anywhere.

As Ankomah says, the colonial construct that African history started with the arrival of the Europeans should be dismantled, and the Zimbabwean media surely has a role to play in putting everything in perspective and defending the national cause.

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