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Dissent protects democracy

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Dissent is something both the ruling party and the opposition in Zimbabwe don’t like.

With this in mind I’ve been wondering whether Trevor Ncube is going to be labeled a sell-out by the pro-democracy movement for his recent article entitled Zimbabwe’s choice is either violent or peaceful change. In his article Ncube suggests that neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai are able to govern this country. It would have been good if he’d elaborated on why he thinks Tsvangirai isn’t able to lead Zimbabwe. In my opinion Tsvangirai has suffered too many defeats for too long to be considered as a serious presidential candidate to move us into a new era. He might be well liked but he’s certainly not considered a strong enough man to move Mugabe out. Or with the vision to lead Zimbabwe’s recovery.

Meanwhile many Zimbabweans keep on trumpeting the supposed wonderful effects of our recent global publicity (read that as mostly Sky News, BBC and CNN). But we all know how fickle world media is. As soon as Tsvangirai’s smacked skull isn’t sexy any more, we’ll get to hear all about some goat born with 5 back legs in a remote Indian village.

Gugulethu Moyo recently said

Alas, African leaders’ generally timid response to Zanu-PF left much to be desired. AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare left it until he had been heckled in London before admitting that he was embarrassed by Mugabe’s behaviour. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete stood shoulder to shoulder with Mugabe while the latter paraded his infinite capacity for crudeness across the globe. These sorts of responses help to reinforce intractable stereotypes of Africa as the place of the uncivilised — yet another unintended consequence of recent events.

Yes there have been murmurings of disapproval from the African continent and whilst this is A Good Thing it’s simply more of the softly softly approach that African Governments have taken toward the Zimbabwean crisis. Imagine if the murmurings translated into some action (gosh what a novel concept). Like a regional travel ban on Zanu PF politicians. Or the Moroccan soccer team refusing to visit Zimbabwe. Or artists coming to perform at HIFA backing out in protest.

More on the issue of media coverage. There have been some interesting contributions to the debate list at Zimbabwe Fight On – Don’t Mourn in regard to the forthcoming Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions stay away on April 3rd and 4th. Someone suggested that the ZCTU’s timing isn’t good because of the Easter break when ‘press coverage to ‘make injustices visible’ is not very high over holidays’.

I think Dominic Tweedie gave an excellent response to this, and all of us working in the pro-democracy movement would do well to consider our use and our view of the media’s role in our organising.

Your audience is not Bush, Blair or Ban Ki-Moon. It is not the overseas middle-class Western liberal public. It is not Thabo Mbeki, the ANC, the SACP or the South African voter. It is not even the journalists. It is your neighbour, your comrade and yourself. This is your very own mass medium of communication. It is in real time, and not reflected. It is not measured by the media echo. That hardly matters, one way or another. It is what you see and feel, as an individual, and what individuals see and feel together, that matter. You don’t do things for the cameras. You do things for each other. It is a recovery of responsibility.

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