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What are Zimbabweans known for?

02 May 2020 at 07:50hrs | Views
IT matters how a nation portrays itself and how it is perceived by the world. How nations are per-ceived determines critical decisions by outsiders such as investment, tourism, international relations and generally the respect and seriousness with which it is regarded.

It is not an exact science so it is highly subjective, but countries are usually commonly summed up in a few adjectives. Germans are perceived as precise and punctual, Japan as being diligent and efficient.
African countries are generally perceived negatively. Nigerians for deviousness and boisterousness, South African for violence and crime. What are Zimbabweans known for except hyperinflation and perennial economic problems?

On social media, Zimbabweans portray themselves as bitter people who see nothing good about the country.
To a fly on the wall, Zimbabwe appears like a nation with very low self esteem and negative self image. There is scarcely thought about what broadcasting each and every bad thing about the country does to the national image and perception.
The handling of the coronavirus by the Zimbabwe government has been awful but there is no government in the world that managed it to the satisfaction of its people.
Zimbabweans competed to make jokes about how the president is copying and pasting the South African model as if no other country in the region is in lockdown.
If Zimbabweans deprecate themselves and defer to other countries at every turn they should not be surprised at the very low esteem in which they are regarded to the point of being treated badly.
There is some truth about the power of positive thinking and speaking. Critisising and opposing the government is good and should be encouraged, but not when it always descends into an orgy of self hate and hate speech.
Freedom of speech is part of vibrant democracy and serves to highlight national problems so they can be addressed and not merely be for the sake of scoring political points and exposing and embarrassing the government.

Some Zimbabweans routinely tag foreigners in all posts concerning the government's failings yet they are never tagged in return in posts which show the failings of foreign governments.
Stephen Sackur BBC's Hard Talk's host filmed a documentary last year about the effects of climate change on water levels at Victoria Falls.
The falls were said to be drying up due to the perennial droughts in countries up stream of the Zambezi River. The news was greeted with surprising enthusiasm by Zimbabweans and social media posts went viral like it was good news.
People who countered this narrative with video clips showing the Falls were not dry were insulted and inexplicably accused of being government agents.
A Zimbabwean living in Australia tweeted excitedly about how she had amused her Australian co-workers with a story about Zimbabwean soldiers who were alleged to have stolen a truckload of bread which was in short supply at that time.
The story turned out to be fake, but nobody was interested in that as Zimbabweans just had to tell the world the story that Zimbabwean soldiers are bread thieves.
She never considered that the next time someone's bread sandwich went missing from the fridge she and other Zimbabwean colleagues would be the first suspects even if it would be said in jest and good humour.
This is the one thing foreigners learn from the story and some would remember it for years. Perception form from these seemingly insignificant things. If bread is stolen all eyes will turn instinctively to the Zimbabweans in the room.

Every African who has lived in a foreign country knows the pain of being held hostage to these negative stereo types.
No one understood the power of stereotyping than a Kenyan woman I met on a work trip to Cape Town.
At one time we shared a taxi with a group of other Africans. She didn't have loose change so she would asked me to pay for her promising to return the money.
The day we checked out she searched frantically for me and I told her she need not have troubled herself because I had forgotten it and was not a lot of money.
However, she was adamant and explained that she didn't want me going back to Zimbabwe and tell people that Kenyans are liars.
It is a very simplistic way to look at it, but this is the foundation upon which national stereotypes are built and perceptions are what makes or breaks nations.
The Kenyans never regaled us with how corrupt Kenyan politicians are or how elections are always disputed because nobody cares about that except Kenyans.
None of the other Africans present from at least 14 other countries did that either except for one Zimbabwean man.
At every chance he got he moaned and griped about how bad things are in Zimbabwe while the other Africans just listened politely looking bored.
The world doesn't know or care about our political and economic problems because they have their own.
When the world laughs and belittles Zimbabweans they are not laughing at the government, but at us all as Zimbabweans. Whatever our political persuasions and differences out in the world we all equally carry the Zimbabwean flag with all its flaws.
--------Miriam Tose Majome is a lawyer at Veritas and she writes in her personal capacity. She can be contacted on and Twitter @MajomeMiriam

Source - newsday
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