Considering our past experiences about rampant inflation and corruption, the plundering of state assets and how some of those in power have committed heinous crimes with impunity, we need to establish what I would term the “Zimbabwe Public Protector” (ZPP). This will be more than an ombudsman who can deal with complaints by ordinary people against the government and other institutions that mistreat our people.
The ZPP and the Auditor General must have wide sweeping powers to investigate high profile corruption, the disappearance of billions of dollars through the clandestine sale of our diamonds, emeralds, gold, platinum, coal, nickel and other minerals. The fundamental work of the ZPP should be to strengthen our democracy by providing checks and balances on the activities of the executive and the legislature, as well as monitoring the activities of all public institutions to ensure that they timeously deliver services to our people.
To further deepen our democracy, we need to have a constitutional court that will adjudicate on matters relating to the infringement of citizens’ inalienable rights. It must be a watchdog that jealously guards against the victimisation of our people by upholding their constitutional rights based on the principle of the right to be heard (audi alteram partem).
Also, the constitutional court must unflinchingly uphold the principle of natural justice that says no person or institution may judge themselves on matters in which they are interested parties (nemo judex in parte sua). This will remove the autocracy inherent in the current regime who see themselves as above the laws of the country.
In order to have credibility, the constitutional court must be presided over by a judge president who is above reproach. He or she must be an eminent judge, lawyer, barrister or advocate with a track record of being imbued with a sense of justice, fairness and impartiality. In a new dispensation, the head of state should never have the power to dismiss judges, the ZPP, the chief justice, the president of the constitutional court, permanent secretaries or directors of state institutions. The power to hire or fire them should rest in independent bodies that are not manipulated by the president or members of the ruling party.
Civil society organisations
The level of democracy in any country is judged by the vibrancy of civil society organisations that act as the eye and soul of the people. In a post-ZANU PF era, we need to open up the space so that civic organisations can operate freely without fear or favour. In particular, we need to allow private newspapers, radio and television stations to operate freely, including those that support different political parties, so that we can hear the multiple voices of our people.
I am aware that many of us who have never experienced genuine democracy may regard these suggestions as either utopian, foreign or unrealistic. We can be excused for thinking like that because, like people who live in a desert, we may see normal rain as a deluge. This has also happened in the past when some slaves resisted their own emancipation after the abolition of slavery in 1833.
They still wanted to be owned by their white masters because their self-esteem had been irreparably damaged. But we are encouraged by the fact that throughout the tempestuous history of mankind, great events have occurred when prospects of change loom in the horizon and when the powerful force of freedom and liberty coalesces to sweep away the old order. In this regard, Zimbabwe can no longer continue to dawdle and dodge, tinker or trifle natural justice. It can only do so at the risk of becoming a permanent junk state relegated to the bottom heap of human civilisation. Surely this is not what we want to happen to our country!
Bearing in mind the melodramatic history of our turbulent past, the pertinent question that needs to be asked is: do we need to strengthen civil society organisations? Are they really necessary? Again, the lived experiences of our people show that the absence of strong and audacious civil organisations has allowed the state to get away with the murder of our people.
Do you still remember the disappearance of Dr Edson Sithole in Harare in 1975 together with his secretary and the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in the same year in Lusaka? Have you forgotten the disappearance of Joseph Masangomai with his wife and children in Houghton Park and the gunning down of Mr Saunyama at his house in Mabelreign just before our independence? And have you buried the memory of Josiah Magama Tongogara, that gallant hero of our liberation struggle who died in a suspicious road accident in Mozambique just at the dawn of our independence? What about Dr Joseph Taderera’s car ‘accident’, Sydney Malunga’s and Border Gezi’s choreographed deaths? What do we say about the disappearance of Rushiwe Guzha involving the CIO?
Above all, what is our conscience about the genocidal murder of thousands of our compatriots in Matebeleland by the fifth brigade? What do you make of Learmore Jongwe’s supposed suicide in police cells? Do you see the torture and murder of many MDC supporters during the 2008 elections as normal political rivalry? And is our memory so short that we have forgotten about the disappearance of Itai Dzamara earlier this year? The death of all these people continues to haunt us as a nation, and we can only make them rest in peace by making sure that we do not allow the culture of impunity to continue in a future Zimbabwe.
An issue that has poisoned our society which needs to be put to an end is the use of hate language to refer to a group of people or individuals whose political persuasion, colour or origin is different. Before our independence, much of the hate language was between black and white people, reflecting the power relations between the colonised and the coloniser. Quite often white people derogatorily referred to black people as “kaffirs”, an offensive term indicating that blacks were an inferior race. On the other hand, black people referred to all whites as “Boers”, which suggested they were violent, savage, cruel and heartless.
In the USA, especially during the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, there was a similar racial polarisation whereby whites scornfully referred to black people as “niggers” while blacks disdainfully brushed off all Caucasians as “white pigs” or members of the Ku Klux KLan. These terms, besides harming social cohesion, have the effect of maintaining mistrust and racial prejudice. And does this surprise anyone that there are still racially motivated murders in the USA?
The racial and tribal bigotry emanating from colonialism has, unfortunately, been internalised by some people. In South Africa, black people who were abused for many generations by their white oppressors refer to black people from other countries as aliens or makwerekwere. From a psychological perspective, their hatred of blackness in the black people from other countries is an expression of their self-repudiation engendered by apartheid and an attempt to transfer their colonial dehumanisation to those they see as “different”.
In Zimbabwe some people, especially the older generation belonging to the ruling party, still suffer from the storm and stresses of their traumatic past. In order to mitigate their psychological disjuncture, they use derogatory language to refer to their political opponents.
During our liberation struggle, and it was dogmatically acceptable then, that those who didn’t support the armed struggle were disparagingly referred to as “sell outs” or “puppets” (zvimbwasungata). The supporters of Bishop Abel Muzorewa were specifically called madzakutsaku (mindless people) or fools (maduche) because they negotiated with whites to have a diluted form of independence.
The use of foul language has continued even after independence. Those in Matebeleland and the midlands who thought they had not been given a fair deal in a new Zimbabwe were regarded as “dissidents” or “rebels” (vapanduki), terms which ordinarily refer to citizens who criticise or oppose the government.
The new regime used these terms with greater toxicity to whip up the emotions of gullible people against a segment of our people, the Ndebele, whom they portrayed as “enemies” of the state. Joshua Nkomo was specifically targeted for ridicule, calling him a “possessed bull” (buru rengozi) and all sorts of other names.
In contrast, the president tacitly agreed to be eulogised as karigamombe (literally meaning the one who has felled down Nkomo). If I may ask, did it please his ego to humiliate Nkomo, a man of great stature who had unwaveringly fought for our independence much longer than Mugabe? Is it honourable to refer to people with different views as dissidents, rebels or sell outs? Is this not the genesis of genocide in Matebeleland?
Moreover, does it show statesmanship for the president to stereotype an entire ethnic group, the Kalanga, as a bunch of thieves who are uneducated? The late Martin Luther King Jnr advises us that “the surest way of incurring the hatred of other people is by pulling them very low”, a view which is also shared by Booker T. Washington who said: “we permit other people to hate us by narrowing and degrading their soul”.
The use of hate language by the ruling party has not abated at all. For a long time Morgan Tsvangirai has been a target of sustained ridicule, calling him chematama, (Someone with fat cheeks) a tea boy and a sell-out. Is he a sell-out when so many of our people support him? What has he sold out and to whom? Is this why he was beaten up some years ago and his wife killed in a freak car accident?
What about Didymus Mutasa who, for a long time, used to be the closest ally of the president? Has he suddenly become so poisonous to his former ZANU PF comrades that he can be rubbished as gamatox? Did Amos Midzi who served ZANU PF so diligently for many years in exile and at home deserve to be called a “coward” because he took his own life, or did he? I remember during the Second World War Japanese soldiers preferred to take their own lives than surrender to the Americans. Were they cowards?
What about the vice president, Mr Phelekezela Mphoko, who is now being called mboko, a Shona word for an imbecile or idiot? Does he deserve to be so much debased and maligned by his own ZANU PF members? Is it fair for Emerson Mnangagwa to be called a crocodile (ngwena) which is notorious of being sly, secretive, deceitful and vicious?
Should we trust a person being called a crocodile, if indeed he is, to rule the country?
In the light of the potential for conflict in the use of hate language, (Let’s not forget how hate language fanned genocide in Rwanda) should we not make an anti-hate language law in a post ZANU PF era so that we can protect our people from being abused? Surely a country that does not respect its own people does not deserve to be respected by others.
As a nation, we need to stand on a high moral ground so that we can bequeath to our children cultured values that promote human dignity. Here we need to dig deeper into the soul of our African philosophy which says: “we gain nothing from hate except to inflict deeper wounds to ourselves” and that “the price of hating other human beings is loving ourselves less”.
The need for a paradigm shift in a post-ZANU PF era is vindicated by the blind economic policies of the current government. For instance, while it is laudable to invest in the Hwange thermal power station and in telecommunications, is it prudent to build a new house of parliament at this stage when the country has no money?
Is thermal power our long term solution to the shortage of electricity? Is it wise to bring in a Chinese company to set up a cigarette factory when the world is advocating anti-smoking laws? Shouldn’t we focus on resuscitating our agricultural and manufacturing industries which employ thousands of our people instead of depleting our mineral resources through dubious trade deals?
And come to think of it, is China, our supposed traditional ally, not spitting into our face by giving us a paltry US$1.4 billion while giving South Africa, our neighbour, US$6.5 billion? Why should we solely depend on China when we can make many other friends in the global community? The big question is: what is China getting from us in return for what it is giving us? Is Xi Jinping really an innocent Asian tiger who wants no pound of flesh from the nearest part of our heart? Is he not acting like a spider that uses its cobweb not only as a sleeping spring but also as a trap for food?
In wrapping up, we should be encouraged by the fact that our people’s voice for change is now echoing louder and louder. It is raising our hope that sooner or later we shall remove our shackles and walk to the Promised Land. Believe you me, there are many Zimbabweans with an indomitable spirit which makes us unique optimists who are able to enrich the present, enhance the future and challenge the improbable. And like a butterfly, I know that you and I have the strength and hope to believe that in time we will emerge from our cocoon and fly high up in the sky to attain the impossible.
Prof Ambrose B. Chimbganda can be reached at: HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org