Scribes must fight back

BULAWAYO - The fight by journalists against politicians took a decisive turn during Watergate, during which a politician tried to assume power through illegitimate means.

Richard Nixon, whom I first met in person at the old Lusaka airport in 1963, was seeking a second term in office as president of the United States.

He had thrown all caution to the winds — hence the daredevil tactics of Watergate.

I was in the US to observe their election practices.

What is now recognised by all countries in the world is that the US is not a typical example of a democracy.

Among African critics of the US, the example set by Nixon and Watergate undermined that country’s democratic credentials to an incredible extent.

Yet, up to now, the extent to which Africa has developed its democratic credentials still leaves a lot to be desired.

Zimbabwe is an example: before we go any further.

The government of President Robert Mugabe has run roughshod over the opposition.

It has thus treated the independent media as if it was licensed to condemn everything the opposition media stands for.

The clarion call for the independent media is clearly not to give the government media any chance to sound as if it had the right to be contemptuous of the opposition.

Listening to the State-owned TV and radio stations can be so boring.

Hardly, do you stop in wonderment at some well-reasoned treatise from a politician who can be applauded by both sides as someone with a balanced view.

Why are there rarely debates among the ruling party and the opposition?

Why is that idea of such combat so rare, either on TV or on the radio?

Many people, some of them entirely politically neutral, are thus inclined to conclude that the governing party is frightened of such debate, as it may be found to be entirely lacking in political logic.

Rarely, these days, do you find government politicians trying to argue logically with their opponents.

They might end up just calling them dirty names — no more.

But it is mostly the independent media which is not given as much leeway as it ought to be, as a critic of the government.

The government is making many mistakes — some of them so large it is shameful to claim you are a free citizen of the government making these claims.

What must be encouraged by the government and its media is the free movement of criticism between the two — the government and the opposition.

After all, this is not a one-party state — even if the government it to appear to be so.

In real essence, political and economic development in the country has slowed down because of this attitude by the government that the opposition has no role whatsoever to play in the country — except to once in a while shout slogans against the government and the ruling party.

This is utterly meaningless. The country has great potential to develop in every way.

There were years during the early days of our independence when foreign countries admired our pace of development.

There was open envy.

Yet there began to develop, among our own people, a reluctance to venture into areas of political, economic and social adventure.

At the present juncture, is there an area of development which can be said to be truly an example of the adventure that we began to see during the first years of independence.

What happened, perhaps, while the leadership was fast asleep, or trying new ways of making money on the side?

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