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Sunday, 6 July 2008

Zimbabwe's false intellectuals?

Philip Murombedzi argues that self appointed Zimbabwe analysts have no solid intellectual and historical understanding of the issues they debate. This has blinded them from offering more balanced assessment. Zambian Economist regulars are certainly immune from this charge, thanks to the legendary Brendan Stone treatise on Zimbabwe, which was first brought to our attention by MrK.

Zimbabwe political analysts should join 'Pop Idol', by Philip Murombedzi, Talk Zimbabwe :

DO you not cringe when you see Zimbabwean so-called political analysts and lawyers on the BBC or some other international media trying to look philosophical and intellectual talking ‘dirty’ about their own country and its leadership, but failing to condemn the sanctions regime that has crippled the country’s economy, or put Zimbabwe in its right political context?

Many of these ‘political analysts’ do not seem to have a wider understanding of the gravity of the Zimbabwean problem and its historical basis. They concentrate on what I choose to call ‘symptoms’ of a wider problem; or the ‘bread and butter issues’.
They also seem to enjoy being on TV more than debating the issues that made them go there in the first place. The debate on Zimbabwe has produced a ‘political Pop Idol’ with many characters moulded into cartoon political characters—the equivalent of Simon Cowell’s rejects on the real Pop Idol.

I am yet to see any other country, war-torn or otherwise, churning out so many ‘analysts’ that have no solid intellectual and historical understanding of the issues they debate..

Iraqis were seen on the BBC, CNN and many other international media condemning military action on Iraq, yet the bunch of Zimbabweans seem to enjoy the purported courtesy of the media and the ‘respect’ they enjoy on these fora without necessarily looking deep at the real issues at hand.

I saw one Zimbabwean lawyer on the BBC trying to look intellectual and philosophical arguing about how the world had been silent on Mugabe and how Mugabe was feeding from the inconsistencies of the international community to ‘perpetuate his dictatorship’ yet a few minutes before that programme, the same channel she was on had shown the number of people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of the British and American troops.

The inability of these analysts to make reasoned connections between world events and what is happening in Zimbabwe today is mind-boggling, to say the least. British and American people on many programmes condemn the actions of their governments internationally. Recently, we saw anti-war protestors in Westminster ‘fighting’ to drive a point to President Bush whom they called a ‘murderer’ responsible for many deaths in the Middle East. Our own analysts have the audacity to go on international TV stations and beg for help from those same people, whom they think will bring democracy to Zimbabwe. This is indeed very embarrassing and shameful.

I think when we fail to realise that real change will come from within, we forfeit our ability to resolve our own problems without undue influence. I do not condone the violence in Zimbabwe and neither do I support any action that intimidates and terrorises people; but I also feel it is myopic to mortgage our struggle to foreigners, who in most cases, have their own hidden agendas.

Just to clarify a point. I think Zimbabweans have every right to get involved in discussions on their country, on TV; but I think before they do so, they should understand the wider context of the Zimbabwean problem and not use shallow arguments to analyse complicated issues. Oftentimes, I find it hard to believe that the BBC, et al, continues to invite these people to offer some analyses of the Zimbabwean problem and each time these analysts get it completely wrong or follow the lead of those interviewing them. This is sad.

When I listen to broadcasts on the internet and the arguments of the defenders of the MDC, I feel like I am living on a different planet. Three weeks ago, every analyst was predicting a landslide victory for Morgan Tsvangirai. They were saying MDC supporters will not be stopped or deterred by any level of violence or intimidation; yet when Morgan pulled out they were quick to endorse him, and also flipped the script. Today, they all use the term ‘sham election’ as if there is no other alternative
expression.

Simple advice to the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera (English), etc: Do not put your media houses into disrepute by inviting shallow analysts and also learn to debate real issues: sanctions (ZDERA 2001), IMF/WB policies, Lancaster House Constitution and the reneging of the British government on its land compensation obligations, interference in other countries’ affairs, colonial legacy, North/South trade and economic relations and imbalances, etc. These are some of the pertinent questions that need to be addressed on any Zimbabwean debate, rather than all these cosmetic issues you discuss, that are meant to win you viewership.

Advice to Zimbabweans: Learn to say, ‘No’ when you are invited to a debate whose issues you do not fully comprehend. This will help you retain your dignity and you avoid looking like an idiot in front of the whole world. Also, you do not have to like the MDC if you hate President Mugabe. Do not be polarized. Learn to make your own mind up and read more about the history of the conflict of your country before becoming an un-appointed ambassador and authority on the Zimbabwean situation.

This simple piece of advice, hopefully, will do good to everybody: the interviewer and the interviewee and those listening or watching.

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