Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Rat meat was sign of crisis in Zimbabwe, dog meat in Uganda isn’t

Posted by CM on August 5, 2008

Disgraced former CNN journalist, the bombastic Jeff Koinange, caused an uproar amongst Zimbabweans worldwide when he reported in December 2006 that because of The Zimbabwe Crisis, they were resorting to eating rat meat instead of preferred beef or chicken.

There was a torrent of indignant protest. Many denied that this is a normal or widespread practice, and it was pointed out that in Zimbabwe eating rat meat would have a strong cultural taboo attached to it. Some conceded that mice, not rats, were a delicacy in some local communities and that this was no different from other ‘strange’ culinary habits, such as the French love of snails or the proclivity for dog or snake meat in parts of Asia. This was all lost in the heat of the acrimony, however, the implication being the sensitive Zimbabweans were simply in denial about the level of deprivation in their country.

In any case, the attempt to differentiate makonzo, rats, from the more benignly-considered mbeva, mice, would probably not have impressed CNN. The essential point of the article was that the oppressed Zimbabweans had been so reduced in material status by Mugabe, The Latest Great Western Satan, that they had to scrounge around for rodents for meat protein, whether that was mouse or rat.

Many Zimbabweans considered the story as typical of the distortions to be expected of Western media such as the banned-from-Zimbabwe-CNN. Some speculated that the story was the US network’s way of getting back at the Mugabe government in particular, and the country in general, in retaliation for its banning.

The BBC has a story about the furore in Uganda over two men who were caught selling dog meat as goat flesh. The article says,

Dog meat is not eaten in Uganda and the subject has dominated radio discussion programmes.

Hundreds of people went to the police station where the suspects were being held to express their anger, Uganda’s state-run New Vision paper reports.

One of the suspects told the paper he had not intended to sell the meat. “This is my home dog which I have been rearing. I killed it on demand of my spirits who directed me to offer its body parts to them,” he was quoted as saying.

The men were caught with the carcass of the dog, which had had its head and tail cut off.

It is possible that the Ugandan men (or the ‘spirits’ one of them alleges ordered the dog meat) in question here simply preferred dog-meat to more conventional types. Maybe eating the dog was a fall-back position to his not being able to afford more conventional meats. Maybe a lot of different things, all of which could have also applied to the Zimbabwean Koinange found frying rodent meat, which the then CNN correspondent portrayed as a now common practice that was a sign of the economic times in Zimbabwe.

The point? The remarkable spin a lot of the ‘international media’ puts on everyday events in Zimbabwe whose explanation is not necessarily any different from similar events in any other part of the world.

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One Response to “Rat meat was sign of crisis in Zimbabwe, dog meat in Uganda isn’t”

  1. Great post, certainly illustrates the incompetence of international media networks when reporting on non-Western stories. Disgusting, yet typical.

    As someone who has tried to keep up with political events in Zimbabwe I really like your blog, keep up the good work!

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