'Rhodesian economy was better'

HARARE - Does anyone dispute that the Rhodesian economy was better than the current one?

So what is the hullabaloo about MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s reference to a better economic past?

Anyone who heard or read Tsvangirai’s comments would notice that suggestions he was nostalgic about Rhodesian “rule” amount to deliberate distortion.

“When I was a worker in the mine in 1975, I was being paid Z$450 but those were equal to pounds. Takamwa doro tikange ticharutsa nemari iyi (We drank beer until we felt like vomiting) but, of course, those were the old days, handichamwi zvangu (I no longer drink) but we recall those days with nostalgia,” Tsvangirai said

What Tsvangirai states here should be uncontroversial. It is borne out by historical facts and anecdotal evidence.

As any credible historian would tell you the Rhodesian economy lived through sanctions without visiting the level of poverty witnessed today.

At independence the Zimbabwean dollar was at par with the pound.

However, post-colonial Zimbabwe has witnessed alarming economic collapse, widespread unemployment, record inflation and grinding poverty.

A comparison between the current state of the economy and the past does not itself translate to a nostalgic desire for Rhodesian “rule” and its attendant repression.

Tsvangirai’s remarks have only been made controversial because of media that have anointed a leader and party as infallible and his opponent and group, permanent targets for abuse.

Such media will ignore historical facts or distort issues to suit an agenda. The objective was to whip up negative sentiment about Tsvangirai as someone desirous of colonialism.

Yet his comments were only restricted to the economy.

Attempts to end so-called polarisation are hopelessly futile when you have such dishonest journalism.

That dishonesty not only manifests through the twisting of facts but operates on a false presumption that Zanu PF and Mugabe do no wrong and the MDC and Tsvangirai do no good.

To their credit, privately-owned media have praised and criticised Mugabe. I have slaughtered Tsvangirai on this page; praised him when he deserved it. 

I do not ever recall reading an article in the State media criticising President Mugabe.

Is it honest journalism that portrays a mere mortal as infallible?

It is this dishonest editorial monoculture that finds no wrong in one human being and permanent fault in the other, which is at the root of polarisation.  

Two weeks ago, George Monbiot, one of the UK Guardian’s leading columnists, wrote quite a riveting article titled: “The real enemies of press freedom are in the newsroom.” 

He referred to the UK Daily Mail’s predilection to publish stories that are anti-Labour Party:

“This suggests either that any article offering dissenting views is purged with totalitarian rigour, or general secretary Paul Dacre’s terrified minions, knowing what is expected of them, never make such mistakes in the first place.”

Dacre, cynically referred to as “general secretary”, is the editor of The Daily Mail.

Monbiot concludes: “Yes, let’s fight censorship: of the press and by the press.”

What Monbiot describes is what occurs here.

Journalists at our own State media have been reduced to hapless and terrified automatons.

A story that praises Tsvangirai would be purged with similar totalitarian gusto. Or such story would never enter the editorial calculus in the first place.

Deviation from this monoculture invites consequence.

Soon after the elections, the State press came out roaring: “We are not anyone’s lapdog.”

For a while they displayed unusual candour, branding a senior Zanu PF official “a dwarf in a giant’s robes” and most recently uncharacteristically declaring the government had made a major climb-down on indigenisation. 

But the consequences were soon clear; the State press have since been slapped down into pusillanimity, reverting to type.   

That type is illustrated in the Tsvangirai story; the brand of journalism does not let incontrovertible fact that the Rhodesian economy was better stand in the way of the agenda to tarnish an opponent. 

This article I write is in itself evidence of so-called polarisation. But should falsehoods remain unchallenged?  It is impossible to end media polarisation with systemically dishonest journalism.

    Comments (9)

    I think you should be working in the information department at Harvest House.

    godfrey gudo - 15 July 2014

    Well said Conrad, even if those of an "apish" disposition won't see the infinite wisdom inherent in your article.

    Kt - 15 July 2014

    this is honest and professional journalism from conrad nyamutata. although i have not read articles from this writer recently, however what i can decipher from this piece is that he embraces one of the golden rules of journalism, that is balancing the story, which is what lacks from many stories that appear in the public media. much as tsvangirai has erred but journalists should try to balance stories on him. althougfh i fought in the protracted guerilla war against the fascist smith regime, but if you ask me which economy was better that of rhodesia and zimbabwe, without a wink of an eye i will tell you many black zimbabweans were far better off economically during rhodesia than today in Zimbabwe. yes today we have few very filthy rich blacks who are connected to the political elite while the majority wallow in abject poverty. millions are not employed and do not have access kuupfumi hwenyika. of course the smith regime was segregatory and applied draconic laws on blacks but many blacks vasvinwa semadora under our black government, thats why some people are now nostalgic about smith's era, tsvangirai included.

    CDE CHURUCHEMINZWA - 15 July 2014

    Quite frankly,the Rhodesian economy was way above that of Zimbabwe today.We can't pretend life is better now simply because we have a black gvt. To make matters even worse,our president does not care a hoot about the corruption which is killing the country he is ruling.He's just satisfied being the president of ironically, a basket case Zimbabwe.

    GWINYISO - 16 July 2014

    Ini hangu Rhodesia yaindiitira kwete matuzvi atooneswa naMugabe aya. Tatambura mhani isu. Hospital no mishonga iye achitizira Singapore.

    TRIPE - 17 July 2014

    yaah whatever. But point is we are better off being Zimbabwean than Rhodesian. Better starve and be poor 'Zimbabwean' than be rich 'with a foregn dog collar' of a name around the neck. Who likes to be a foreigner in the land of his forefathers? Its this lack of sense that sees people not appreciating independence. Did you think independence would not have a price? Is tha price paid in full yet? Every true Zimbabwean must embrace the sacrifice sinonimus with this independence, pay up the price and solder on. But the biggest problem is the breed of Rhodesian -born Zimbabweans who have a half-cast identity crises. Their minds are not made up yet whether they are still Rhodesians or they want to be Zimbabweans in full. Clarification note: To be Zimbabwean means being unRhodesian. You can't mix the two or pretent to be one when living in another. I for one do not like going by the surname of the man next door and turning my back on my father's name-however poor he is. Ante up Manyani.

    Fairtalk - 17 July 2014

    rhodesia was super

    mumvuri wa morgan - 18 July 2014

    Fairtalk,no one wishes to go back to Rhodesia. People are simply saying,Rhodesia's economy was better managed than Zimbabwe's & that is very true.We don't eat the so called SOVEREIGNITY. We don't eat empty political promises.We don't eat blind racism in reverse.

    HURTING TRUTH - 18 July 2014

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