Why swallow Western propaganda on Zimbabwe?

Published by Daily News (Sri Lanka) on 12 July 2008 and posted in many Zimbabwean websites



Six years ago, I drove from Kruger National Park in South Africa to Johannesburg a good 6 hours or so by road. For most of the journey we travelled through White-owned farmland which reminded me of driving in the countryside in Australia (where I lived for 20 years).

Most of the farms were mechanised and the only Blacks we saw were a handful of labourers and maids playing with White children and every car we passed were driven by Whites. The farmlands seem prosperous and the Whites very rich. But, when we came to the outskirts of Johannesburg, we came across the teeming Black townships on the hills with its tin sheds, lack of infrastructure and poverty.

I told my wife I wonder for how long these people will be patient with the ANC (African National Congress) government. Very soon they are going to turn around and ask from the ANC where are the dividends of the liberation struggle for us?

These days when I tune to the BBC or read a news report on Zimbabwe, what I saw in South Africa always come to my mind. What we hear in these reports is about a brutal dictator not about how Black aspirations could be satisfied in a Zimbabwe liberated from White colonial rule over 25 years ago.

As a journalist I always wonder, some 50 years after liberating ourselves from White colonial rule are we yet to liberate our minds from White colonialism? Why is the Asian media swallowing Western media propaganda and reproducing it here? Have we not learned the lessons from weapons of mass destruction reporting saga that led to the world endorsing the Bush-Blair misadventure in Iraq?

Now that we have heard a lot of the propaganda in the past few months let us look at the historic facts and recent political developments, which have led to the sad situation in Zimbabwe.

Beginning in 1889, diamond miner Cecil Rhodes and his band of British imperialists systematically grabbed land occupied by the Shona people for over 1000 years.

Each volunteer in these imperialist wars were given 6000 acres of captured land. When the villagers returned to their land they were treated as tenants. Gradually the Whites developed commercial farming in these lands and the Blacks became their workers?” if not slaves.

In 1966 Robert Mugabe along with fellow Black nationalist Joshua Nkomo began a guerrilla war of liberation where the ‘land question’ was the major issue.

The 1979 Lancaster House agreement hammered out in London paved the way for independence in 1980 and Mugabe’s subsequent landslide election win.

Under the Lancaster House constitution the Zimbabwe Government could only buy white land from willing sellers. When this expired after 10 years, the government passed a law empowering it to make compulsory purchases.

Twenty years after the 1980 liberation from White-rule some 4500 White farmers owned 70 percent of the best farmlands in the country. Thus, since March 2000, a group of war veterans of Mugabe ZANU-PF ruling party has occupied many White-owned farms claiming this as their dividends for fighting the war of liberation.

Addressing the FAO Food Summit in Rome last month, President Mugabe said: Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has democratized the land ownership patterns in the country, with over 300,000 previously landless families now proud landowners.

Previously, this land was owned by a mere 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, he reiterated. While this land reform programme has been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of our people, it has however, and regrettably so, elicited wrath from our former colonial masters.

In retaliation for the measures we took to empower the black majority, the United Kingdom has mobilized her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe went on to list the economic sanctions they have imposed, which includes cutting off all development assistance, disable lines of credit, prevent the Bretton Woods institutions from providing FINANCIAL assistance and order private companies in the United States not to do business with Zimbabwe.

All this has been done to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and thereby effect illegal regime change in our country he claimed, adding, funds are being chanelled through non-governmental organizations (NGO) to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West.

Further, these Western funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against Government, especially in the rural areas.

While the Western media will dismiss these comments as the ranting of a dictator hell bent on clinging to power it is important that we analyse these comments and subsequent developments in the economic and political spheres with an objective mindset.

While researching for this piece I read many commentaries written in African websites by Africans many of whom are sceptical about British and Western concern for democracy in Zimbabwe. Many are questioning opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s refusal to attend a meeting on reconciliation brokered by the South African President Mbeki.

Five times he asked President Mbeki to broker a meeting with President Mugabe, yet fails to pitch up observed talkzimbabwe.com.

It also pointed out British hypocrisy asking: Is it not ironic that when the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Professor Arthur Mutambara was meeting with Presidents Robert Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki, the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was calling for President Mugabe to go?

Zimbabwe had been a very peaceful country before the coming of Morgan Tsvangirai as a political party leader.

He came through the British to disturb the government of President Robert Mugabe because of his land reform policy observed Cyprian Monju writing in The Post of Cameroon. I think they are doing so because the White minority are of British extraction.

Commenting on the recent decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) not to expel Zimbabwe from the sports governing body, Dileep Premachandran of Cricketinfo.com observed that the South Asian cricketing nations India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh supported Zimbabwe because there is deep-rooted suspicion about Western double standards.

Robert Mugabe was an honoured guest at the African Union summit in Egypt recently, and his host was Hosni Mubarak, who won the last election in 2005 with 88.6 percent of the vote after the main opposition was banned from taking part, he noted. Britain and the United States continue to TRADE and do business with Mubarak and Egypt.

Human-rights violations worse than those committed by Zanu-PF’s thugs have been reported from Darfur, Tibet and Guantanamo Bay. Yet, Gordon Brown and other guardians of human rights are hardly likely to start a campaign against the US or China added Premachandran.

In his speech in Rome last month, President Mugabe also said that his Government has embarked on a programme to harness improved water supplies through building small and medium sized dams in all districts of the country.

To cushion farmers from the rising cost of agricultural inputs, the Government has also put in place supportive programmes, which include the Crop and Livestock Input Credit Scheme and the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility which extend loans to farmers, for working capital and equipment at concessionary interest rates.

Zimbabwe has embarked on the development of its bio-energy sector in 2004. It is gratifying to note that Zimbabwe’s bio-energy sector draws its feed stock primarily from a non-food crop, the Jatropha plant. The choice of Jairopha is a deliberate government policy to avoid competition between our food needs and fuel security needs, said President Mugabe.

It is interesting to examine whether these policies are being undermined by the economic sanctions, and the campaign against President Mugabe being waged by western-funded NGOs and politicians in the country. If that is so, who is violating human rights in Zimbabwe? We need to make sure that we get a better balanced story rather than succumb to Western media propaganda.


Author: lotuscommnet

Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who was born and educated in Sri Lanka has spent 20 years in Australia and is currently based in Singapore. He is a journalist, a radio broadcaster, television documentary maker, media analyst and an international communications lecturer. Currently Kalinga teaches Asian regional media systems and journalism and news media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. From 2004 to 2012 he was the Head of the Research division at the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) in Singapore. He has also taught international communications at the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University (Australia). He has authored and edited many books on media and communications issues. His expertise are in development communication, journalism and feature writing, community radio and alternative media, and international communications. He has won an United Nations Media Peace Award (1987) and the Inaugural Singapore Airlines Educational Award (1992) from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia for services to the Australian community radio sector. He was the Australian and South Pacific correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency from 1991-1997 and still writes for them IDN IN-Depth News on a freelance basis. He has done reporting assignments for IPS from a number of countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Kalinga was a member of a research team from 1991-1993 at the University of Technology Sydney looking at ‘Cultural Diversity and Racism in the Media’ in Australia. Kalinga is still a practicing journalists who writes for many publications across Asia and also produce radio and television documentaries.

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