Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

West's bad Press against President

08 Jul 2016 at 06:42hrs | Views
Shall we start by taking a cue from the great British journalist, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne (now 92), former editor of the Sunday Telegraph (1986-91).

Confessing in an article in the Daily Mail in April 1988 he said: "Race is still a problem for some of my generation. No longer because we regard blacks as inferior but because, having done so in the past, traces of that prejudice remain in the blood despite being banished from the brain . . . Looking back, I am amazed about the depth of racist indoctrination which I received at school and in the home, not explicitly but implicitly. At the best, blacks were regarded as delinquent children and the worst cannibals and savages. For years, those assumptions lingered, seriously affecting my reporting on the decolonising process in Africa."

There you have it! There is a Shona proverb which says: "If you find a tortoise on top of a wall you ask for its owner." The tortoise is notorious for its short, stiff legs. So it can't climb anything. Thus if you find one on top of a wall, you don't say, "Thank God, I have got a tortoise."

You ask for the owner because somebody certainly put the tortoise on top of the damned wall. And they say the African ancestors were not great philosophers?

Well, in 2000, the year The Economist famously described Africa as "the hopeless continent", we, at the New African, did a big special report on Reporting Africa, looking at what drives the Western media's negative reporting of the continent. We examined all the dynamics that inform the constant dross that passes as the Western reporting of an entire continent of over a billion people, a continent three times larger than both Western and Eastern Europe put together.

Sixteen eventful years after that special report, the names on Western media front have changed somewhat, but the tortoise is still on top of the European wall. So whose tortoise is it? And what exactly is the owner's beef with Africa?

I ask this question because on May3, 2016, President Robert Mugabe's former primary school teacher, Oscar Munyoro Katsukunya died in Harare at the age of 119 (some reports erroneously said 120). (President) Mugabe himself is now 92, and it is said that Katsukunya taught him in 1931 when the President was only seven and the teacher 34.

Back in 2012, Katsukunya gave an interview to the state broadcaster, ZBC, in which he clearly admitted that in the era he was born in, Zimbabwe's colonial masters were not quick to give their African citizens birth certificates, but certain historical events that he vividly described because he saw them happen after the European settlers entered what used to be part of the famous Munhumutapa Empire in 1890 (later to be called Rhodesia and much later Zimbabwe), made it possible for experts to use those events to estimate his birth year as 1897, even though his national ID card issued a number of years after his birth by the colonialists said he was born in 1907.

At the time of the interview, Katsukunya was 115 and (President) Mugabe was celebrating his 88th birthday and had just met his former teacher for the second time since becoming president. But just wait and see the sarcasm that dripped from the reporting of this encounter by the Daily Mail, the paper Sir Peregrine wrote a column for: "Mugabe's former teacher claims to be the world's oldest man at 115 (and the secret to his long life is being nice to the dictator!)" was the Mail's headline of February 24, 2012.

You shake your head when you see such cynicism, don't you? The secret of a long-lived life is being nice to a dictator who doesn't exist? The ogre that the West has created out of President Mugabe is totally undeserving, at least according to the facts on the ground. Even Morgan Tsvangirai, (President) Mugabe's nemesis, does not accept such nonsense. While he was prime minister, Tsvangirai was pushed by the Financial Times in an interview to accept the view that (President) Mugabe was a dictator, but Morgan shook his head each time.

But let's stay with the Daily Mail. In its 2012 article, it chose to put words into the mouth of President Mugabe's former teacher — "The world's oldest man is a Zimbabwean teacher who claims to be 115 and taught the country's President Robert Mugabe as a young schoolboy, it has been claimed," the Mail reported. But the teacher said no such words.

At best it was the interpretation of journalists.

Running with a lie, the Mail peppered its story with several more "claimed" and "claims", making one wonder why it bothered to run the story at all. Maybe it was for the fun if not mocking, value — because it was an African story!

The Mail even topped it up with a box showing that "in the year Oscar Munyoro Katsukunya claims he was born . . . Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years on the throne. The first taxis appeared in London's streets. Bram Stoker's Dracula was first published, along with books by Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham. Oscar Wilde was released from jail (the Mail nicely refusing to add that he was accused of being gay, "a human right" the West is now trying to force on all nations)."

But what the Mail left out, the Encyclopaedia Britannica dutifully explains darkly: "In many of his (Oscar Wilde's) works, exposure of a secret sin or indiscretion and consequent disgrace is a central design. If life imitated art, as Wilde insisted in his essay The Decay of Lying (1889), he was himself approximating the pattern in his reckless pursuit of pleasure."

Dear reader, I shall leave the wordsmiths to make what they want of this.

But permit me to concentrate on examining what troubled the Mail so much as to rubbish the idea that an African can be the world's oldest person in 2012, just to make the grand point that the "undisputed" oldest person on earth at the time was a Japanese man, Jiroemon Kimura, who was 114, not a Zimbabwean whose "poor country" had "a life expectancy of 47".

Fast forward to February 2016. President Mugabe celebrates his 92nd birthday, and the Western media again lampoons his anniversary while eulogising the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

"Congratulations pouring in from all over the world as the Queen celebrates her 90th birthday, having become Britain's longest serving monarch last year," the Daily Mail cared to report, adding that Prince Charles authored a paean to his mother, using the words of Shakespeare: "She shall be, to the happiness of England,/ An aged princess; many days shall see,/ And yet no day without a deed to crown it."

But just look at the contrasts: (President) Mugabe's birthday is a one-day event, funded privately — not from state funds, I should repeat — by the 21st February Movement that has celebrated it publicly since 1986. In contrast, the Queen's 90th birthday is a state-funded multi-week celebration, from April to June. The Mail informs us that: "One gala show in May would feature more that 1 200 musicians, dancers, actors and artists from around the Commonwealth."

And not only that: "More sedate celebrations are planned for the weekend in June . . . The Patron's Lunch and street party in The Mall on 12 June is expected to draw more than 10 000 guests . . . "

And the Mail said nothing about how much all this would cost the British taxpayer — because it is all for the glory of country and monarch. But see how the Mail reported President Mugabe's 92nd birthday celebration: "Let them (the Mugabes) eat cake! Zimbabwe tyrant and wife stuff their faces with a giant dessert weighing a kilo for every year he's been alive as poverty-stricken country marks his 92nd birthday with $1 million party."

And the chant was taken up by the whole gamut of the Western media — from Washington to London to Berlin to Paris to Stockholm to Adelaide. (President) Mugabe's 92nd birthday was "lavish" and "extravagant" and "ostentatious", words never used to describe the Queen's 90th birthday.

I have been tracking the reporting: every year the Western media lampoons President Mugabe's birthday celebration and finds something to justify why it should not have been celebrated.

So what exactly is their problem? Interestingly, the bad Press (President) Mugabe gets is only the tip of the iceberg the Western media gives to Africa and to Africans! So I ask again: What exactly is their problem with Africa? Is it the Peregrine Worsthorne Syndrome all over again?

Source - New African
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.