Manufacturing Mugabe's triumphs

LONDON - In normal circumstances, President Robert Mugabe’s ascension to the chairmanship of the African Union would be the source of national pride.

But the local reactions have since shown that people are divided, disinterested and at  worst, rubbish the development as inconsequential to their lives.

Unsurprisingly, the State media have fervently tried to portray Mugabe’s chairmanship of the AU as a remarkable feat.

News media always want to appear neutral and objective when in truth they are often  subjective. Some media perform better than others. But the idea that the media are disinterested  observers simply producing news becomes a myth particularly in the case of the State  media.

When it comes to news frames, the local State media is rabidly subjective, assigning favourable news frames to Zanu PF and its leader Mugabe.

In the past few years, the State media news frames have centred on Mugabe and Zanu PF  as victims of the West.

The news frames have bordered on manufacture of frames that deliberately distort reality.

In recent months, the news frames have assumed a celebratory tone suggesting that “we” have “beaten” the sanctions.

But it is not clear how the sanctions have been “beaten” when the same measures are still blamed for the current debilitating economic problems, and Mugabe still banned from  travelling to the West.

The State media news frames have always sought to project Mugabe as an all-conquering  victor.

As little kids, while watching a movie, we would make the celebratory chant “actor  haafe” (actor never dies) in the naivety of identifying the main character in a movie as the only “actor” while he overcame numerous challenges and obstacles.

Mugabe is the actor who never dies, the Incredible Hulk; that man who morphed into a muscular green beast, smashing everything in his path. As we know, movie scripts are the products of creative minds of their producers.

In the build up to his ascension to AU chairmanship, scriptwriters at the State media, placed some obstacles in Mugabe’s path. Emphasis was placed on reports that some Western states were reportedly influencing African governments to block him from assuming chairmanship.

Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was at pains to explain that Mugabe  had beaten virtually insurmountable odds, downplaying the rotational nature of the chairmanship.

“I know that there are some who may believe that the notion of chairing the AU is rotational, that is not strictly correct,” Mumbengegwi said.

Yet that is essentially what it is. The whole idea of placing obstacles in his path falls within the familiar news frame of lionising the “Incredible Mugabe” conquering the West.

Zanu PF and its pet media have been given to concocting internal and external plots. News frames about “beating” sanctions and vanquishing the West are merely manufactured triumphs.

The same media have lauded him as the remaining embodiment of the values of the  founders of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now AU.

This is true but to some extent, sadly so, because, for all their achievements, these founding fathers had an aversion to multi-party democracy and good governance.

Mugabe’s suppression of the opposition, electoral authoritarianism and lack of transparency make him yesterday’s man in an organisation seeking to assume a different  normative trajectory. Mugabe’s predecessor Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was barely visible. One would assume he was conducting diplomacy quietly.

On the other hand, Mugabe is given to playing to the gallery. Instead of private diplomacy, he seems to relish hostile public rhetoric. This is unproductive.

Mantras such as “African resources belong to Africans” are simply vacuous because no one has ever envisaged foreigners invading the continent with drilling rigs without the consent of the respective African governments. “Shaming” the West at UN forums is unlikely to produce results than diplomatic rapprochement.

If Mugabe’s chairmanship of the AU is to be productive, he should dispense with the  “Incredible Hulk” politics of an all-conquering superhero.

He will not register any positive results except in the minds of scriptwriters of fictitious triumphs.

    Comments (7)

    Zvinotipei zvehu chairman we AU tisina mvura nemagetsi. Ngaadzirise zvekuno first

    steve - 4 February 2015

    african resources for africans, my foot. its african resources for african dictators and elite; those are the ones benefiting

    nhamo - 4 February 2015

    Bob has developed a big head. african will not benefit anything from his leadership.

    fikile - 4 February 2015

    how many pple contested for the chairmangip which Mugabe is said to have "won"? Winning against self on a rotational basis? nxa! kakadzungaira kaharahwa kaya!

    biggie chitoro - 4 February 2015

    nothing was one by Mugabe; that the creation of the state media. AU Same fanana as Zanu Pf congress, no challenger

    jombo - 4 February 2015

    the old man fell at the airport. Nguva yakwana

    skhuza - 5 February 2015

    Refreshing article. Thank you. State media regards Zimbabweans as gullible and retarded!!

    Mwamba - 6 February 2015

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