'Hate speech is harmful to mankind'

HARARE - Hate speech in Zimbabwe comes about in the context of the struggle for political power which is always associated with material gains.

Walter Mzembi, minister of Tourism told delegates on Friday at the National Journalism and Media Awards, Njama dinner gala that today’s leaders had wrong leadership philosophy.

“Whenever we see ourselves as leaders directing hatred towards other people, it means we are seeking political power for purposes other than serving, most probably purposes of self-aggrandisement,” said Mzembi.

He said over the years however, “we seem to have communicated a leadership to the masses that is self-serving, self-enriching, that is done in a context of a melting economy, where the lives of the majority is endangered by rising levels of poverty, which fail to guarantee the most basic services and needs in education, health, nutrition, shelter, infrastructure, transport, water and energy.”

The minister said the power of speech, or communication among humans, is one that defines humanity as such, and literally gives it dominion over the rest of creation.

“That tragic truth about mankind’s inability to ensure peace and security is humanity’s biggest challenge today.

“This has been so since time immemorial — witness the ongoing wars and bloodletting in several parts of the world, witness the suffering and death from avoidable illnesses, indeed witness the destruction of the natural environment, if not nature itself,” said Mzembi.

He said while Zimbabwe might be better than some countries in the world, national history in the last 20 years had been characterised by a number of negatives.

“The polarisation of our society; the evident bitterness of our relations; the violence that frequently visits our communities; the hate speech that characterises our media reports; and of course the consequent inability to raise the living standards and welfare of our people to desirable standards,” he added.

Mzembi said the media, as the fourth estate determines to what extent communication through its outlets can mediate all the polarities and conflict.

“While we politicians might be accountable for the existence of polarisation and hate speech it breeds in Zimbabwe, I insist that, you, the media, also have a great deal to account for, and can do much more to counter it than you are doing now.”

The expression of the emotion of hate is one that hurts both the subject, the one who hates, as well as the object, the one who is hated!

“Yes, indeed hate speech is very harmful to those things that mankind treasures: peace, security, friendship, community cohesion, joy and happiness,” said Mzembi.

He said hate speech is communication that vilifies a person or group on the basis of colour, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion among others.

“History will tell us instances where hate speech has been invoked in the majority of cases, it has been to fulfil personal interests, and agendas, even if the purveyors of the same may be dispensing it from public platforms and office,” said Mzembi.

He said more recently in Africa, the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 was a mass murder of approximately 800 000 people in 100 days.

“The high levels of inflammatory speech preceding the genocide and the Bosnian war of the mid 1990s led the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda to recognise the relationship between hate speech and genocide, convicting radio broadcasters, newspaper editors and even a pop star for the crime,” added Mzembi.



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