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SABC blind to progress, Peter

17 Jan 2021 at 09:23hrs | Views
A few days ago, I wandered into a Twitter discussion between Peter Ndoro and a gentleman called Selwyn Nkomo and various other people.

The discussion I stumbled upon was about the apparent bias in SABC's reporting on Zimbabwe.

Nkomo's argument was that the biased reporting was not doing Zimbabwe and its people any good and may actually have the effect of making things worse for ordinary people.

An opposing view from another contributor was that he was happy with SABC because they presented a counter-narrative to ZBC, which he said was biased.

My take was, if we condemn bias in ZBC, then we should do the same with SABC because two wrongs do not make a right.

In response, Peter Ndoro tweeted the following: "Stembile, what do you actually want? What can we do to make life better for people? All I know is that life for the average Zimbabwean is worse now than it was in 1980 and getting worse. What do we need to do as media and as concerned people to make things better? Help us."

This response was refreshing, given that social media is a designated boxing ring. Because of this, I felt his request was genuine and required me to sit and think and give time to my response. I did and these were my thoughts in response to the conversation.

Deteriorating living standards

You point out that Zimbabwe's infrastructure has deteriorated over the years, this is undeniable. Our transport system, both road and rail, is not in the best of shape. This is the same with our hospitals and schools. All have been adversely affected by the effects of both corruption and the impact of sanctions on the economy.

The Government is fighting corruption head-on. We are yet to see this story featured on SABC. On sanctions, Zimbabwe has garnered the support of the region and many other African countries in calling for their removal.

Zimbabwe's economy

In 2000, Zimbabwe took back its land from the white commercial farmers and redistributed it to over 200 000 indigenous black families. No country has ever distributed land to as many people in the space of time Zimbabwe did. The story the media told was that all land was distributed to politicians and their families, which was not the whole story.

Zimbabwe did suffer an economic downturn and saw many of its citizens migrating to find employment elsewhere. The story has been told as one of economic failure, which may seem to be the case on the face of it, but it is important to look beyond the surface and look at the long-term objectives.

What were the shortcomings? Firstly, the fact that the agro-based economy had an influx of newcomers who were starting from scratch. Some looked for short-term gains and failed to fully capitalise on the opportunity afforded them. Again, corruption was attendant in the support programmes that were put in place.

A lack of knowledge and experience in large-scale farming meant that production did not take off quickly.

This had a knock-on effect on all other sectors of the economy, and the consequence was high levels of unemployment and an economic downturn. In addition, the land reform prompted the placement of Zimbabwe on sanctions, with ZIDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act) requiring Zimbabwe to pay "fair compensation" for appropriated farmland, as outlined in the SADC Tribunal ruling, before sanctions can be lifted.

In light of this, we ask: What successes could possibly be said to have come out of it all?

First of all, that more than 200 000 black Zimbabweans were resettled and now had access to land.  This is a feat that has never been achieved by any country in the world in the timeframe.

This created the basis for the economic empowerment of black Zimbabweans - giving them access to the means of production.

It laid the foundation for a black-driven economy that has black Zimbabweans being the owners and leaders of production. Zimbabwe is now beginning to see the fruits of the land reform programme.  There is a slow but steady agricultural revolution happening now with the emergence of many young commercial indigenous farmers, and doing so successfully despite the difficult economic environment.

These stories never feature on SABC.

The lack of readily available jobs has forced black Zimbabweans to use their skills to set up their own companies.

They have ventured into manufacturing, mining, logistics, IT, construction - you name any sector, you will find black business owners there.  Surely, these are stories worth telling the South African audience who are protesting against the clutches White Monopoly Capital has on the SA economy.

Should you not demonstrate what is possible for black people as has been shown in Zimbabwe?

Opportunities abound in Zimbabwe for those who have the ambition and drive.

This is not to say the environment is not a challenging one.  It has taken time to stabilise the economy, which has been no easy feat given decades of decline.  Despite these shortcomings, by 2012 Zimbabwe's tobacco production figures had surpassed pre-land reform figures.

Since 2018, the Government has focused on putting in place the infrastructure and programmes to support agriculture.

Land is being cleared for irrigation for rural farmers; dams are being constructed.

The pfumvudza programme is looking to be a huge success.  It has the aim of providing rural farmers with both food security and having them contribute to cutting the import bill through soyabean production.

The wheat crop this year has trebled and will meet nine months of the country's wheat requirement - again, cutting Zimbabwe's import bill. Road infrastructure is being improved, with construction being carried out by local companies, some of them being black-owned.

From having almost zero electricity 10 months ago, we now have a reliable electricity supply, and with work being undertaken in Hwange and private solar projects, Zimbabwe looks forward to being a net exporter of electricity in the next five years.

These are just some of the "truths" that never appear on SABC.  You lament the plight of poor Zimbabweans whose lives are not getting better and who live in deplorable conditions?

Well, these are the changes that are taking place that improve their lives.

After years of decay, change will not happen overnight; it will take time and effort.

Balanced reporting would seek to show these positive developments too and not only focus on the hardships, which are undeniably present.

SABC will run a story on the water situation in Hopley, interview women who are struggling everyday to collect water, but it will not flight a report on a Government project that has seen 10 000 households in Chivi have running water connected to their homes. Why is that? It is not the "truth" that only negative things happen in Zimbabwe, there are many positive developments as well. These never make their way onto SABC screens. Why not?

The politics

SABC focuses on the arrest of opposition activists. SABC will focus on the alleged abductions of opposition activists. SABC will focus on unverified narratives of murder by ZANU-PF and give platforms to people like Fadzayi Mahere - MDC spokesperson - to make these unverified, unsubstantiated claims.

Mahere was given space on SABC TV to speak about the death of a MDC leader who died in Hurungwe under unclear circumstances, where she alleged, without any proof, that ZANU-PF had murdered him. When MDC cadre Tendai Masotcha was implicated in the abduction of Tawanda Muchehiwa, SABC did not revisit the abduction story to show that initial allegations that had been made on their station that Government agents carried out the abduction had been thrown into question by this development.

The counter-narrative is rarely sought by SABC through Government spokespeople or non-civil society actors.

The SABC platform is primarily for Zimbabwe opposition members, anti-Government analysts and civil society actors. All these allegations made by opposition forces and civil society - the planned demonstrations and insurrections - are not the result of any spontaneous uprising on the part of the Zimbabwean people.

They must be seen in the context of Nelson Chamisa's declaration that the MDC-A party was to pursue "Jecha" politics after his loss in the 2018 election.

Now, the idea that the Government is the only influential actor in the political arena and is the only one determining the issues of progress and non-progress is a fallacy.

There are plenty other players in that arena. The most influential players are the sponsors of political actors and their parties. This is the case with sponsors of both ruling and opposition parties. Because political parties are not income-generating entities, they must do the bidding of the sponsors if they want to remain viable.

In Zimbabwe's case, our opposition and civil society organisations are sponsored through foreign funding. This funding comes through funding proposals which specify areas for which money will be granted.

Ironically, it has been a longstanding complaint from civil society organisations that funding proposals rarely address issues that are relevant to Zimbabweans.

So the causes and issues that we see being promoted by the activists featured on SABC do not come from the people of Dotito, Buhera or Binga. The causes and issues are crafted in Washington and Brussels. That is why when activists get arrested, it is the American and European ambassadors and their foreign secretaries who issue frenzied tweets in protest.

Ordinary Zimbabweans who can attend court sessions in support stay away and go about their ordinary lives.

They will gather for Ginimbi's funeral and for DJ Fantan's New Year's bash without being asked or organised by anyone.

What to conclude from this is that the issues that SABC focuses on, are not of importance to the ordinary Zimbabwean, but to foreign-funded individuals and organisations carrying out projects funded by foreign governments to push their own agenda. The reality is that if donor funding was to be withdrawn from these organisations, the "Jecha" politics will stop.

It is a lucrative enterprise for some, including media houses and media practitioners, while the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans are busy building their country because it needs all hands on deck.

What is to be done?

So if the editorial policy of the SABC is to make a genuine difference in the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans - if there exists a genuine desire to make that difference - and not to advance a sinister political agenda, then my advice is this: The Zimbabwe Government is carrying out numerous projects that will have an impact on the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, and SABC and other media should cover those.

The media should play an oversight role on projects; this will enhance transparency and accountability.

The SABC platform should be one that provides a balanced view by inviting voices from both the Zimbabwe opposition players and non-opposition players and Government institutions to give their side of the story, so viewers have an opportunity to hear the whole story and be fully informed. Granted, Zimbabwe's political situation will have an impact on South Africa because the two are neighbours.

However, the amount of attention SABC dedicates to Zimbabwe's politics is disproportionate to whatever concerns there may be.

So I will ask: Why is there such a huge investment of time and energy by the SABC on Zimbabwe's political situation?

South Africa's current political environment is packed full with intrigue that has a greater impact on the lives of the South Africans, whose taxes sustain the SABC?

Why is so much airtime dedicated to little Zimbabwe and her challenges? What is the SABC agenda?

I am still waiting for Peter Ndoro's response.

Source - sundaymail
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