Sometime in mid-March there were two articles in the Botswana paper Mmegi that really got Zimbabwean journalist Tanonoka Joseph Whande fuming. He summarises and responds to them with guns blazing :
African journalists and politicians have always complained about foreign journalists who are dispatched to cover an African country they know little about and return to base with a story. The results were always skewed reports, slanted views of reality and a severe distortion of what was really going on in that particular country.
Thus I was totally flabbergasted to read, in the Mmegi / Monitor (March 2, 2007), two facile and painfully simplistic, not to mention insulting, interpretations of the tragedy in Zimbabwe. Making it worse is that these two obnoxious articles were written not just by Africans but by Batswana, who are our very own people, our neighbours.
Someone, identifying himself as a Mmegi ‘correspondent’, drove, for the very first time, to some obscure place near Bulawayo, bought some beers and drove back to Botswana the very same day. From this half-day-long excursion, the enlightened correspondent concluded that Zimbabwe is “a nation of hopeless drunks.”
“The whites’ hatred of Comrade Bob,” the young pioneer continued, “came as a result of his views on homosexuality and land re-distribution.” Is that all? This from someone
who, a month ago, stepped on Zimbabwean soil for the first time in his life and only for a couple of hours?
Whande is a lucid, excellent writer and he is just getting warmed up :
In the same edition of The Monitor (March 12, 2007), a pathetic victim, or is it admirer, of Mugabe’s murderous psyche wants us to blame Tony Blair and George Bush for Mugabe’s heinous crimes and his abuse of unarmed civilians. I declare myself astounded. The man calls my heartless and cruel president “Africa’s bravest liberation warrior in modern times.” I wonder how much bravery it takes to starve old grannies and to manhandle women and children.
I know who killed my grandma and who torched my chicken run; it was not Tony Blair. I know why there is no food on the shelves and I don’t blame it on George Bush, with all his faults. I know why, in Zimbabwe, there is no Mazoe Orange, our very own proud brand, but there is plenty of it in Botswana supermarkets.
“Mugabe,” wrote a dreamer who woke up late, “is unselfishly fighting for the liberation of Africa and its long suffering people.” What blabber dash! Apparently, for this ‘bravest liberation warrior in modern times’ to liberate Africa, he first has to kill and maim his own people. To liberate Africa, Mugabe has to ravage the economy and strip his own people of the freedoms and liberties that he wants to bestow on Africa. To achieve glory for Africa, Mugabe must refuse to listen to his own handpicked judiciary and shame law and order that he wants to install elsewhere in Africa. Get out of here!
Can you feel Whande’s rage pouring out of his fingers as he pounds on the keyboard of his computer? Phew, this man can express himself!
I am an African, a Zimbabwean, and have a culture to subscribe to. With more than half a century of life under successive white regimes and decades of horror under a son of Africa, I refuse to believe that there is decent black person in any country who sings praises to homicidal ‘Afrikan liberators.’ I refuse to accept that in this day of cyber communication, there is a real African that can look at hundreds of orphans, maimed men, women and children in Zimbabwe and blame the victims, telling those children they deserved what they got.
How, really, can any person sing praises about Mugabe? Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, he says, are traitors. And those in Botswana and elsewhere? Just how much money can buy a soul? What is going on in Zimbabwe is painful for all the people, whether or not they support Mugabe.
Regardless of who is at fault, Zimbabwe’s situation must not be trivialized or prostituted for a quick cheque. It is not a laughing matter. People are dying. With all Mugabe’s faults or perceived successes, our government is finding it difficult to care for its own people. And that is very tragic indeed. Arrogance (because of rejection) and frustration (because of failure) are causing untold misery and deaths. This is a tragedy, not a comedy to be parodied for a little cash. Zimbabwe is in distress.
Anything I might add would be completely inadequate, so I won’t. This masterpiece speaks for itself.