No news isn’t good news
No wind of change on Zim
IT SEEMS THAT President Thabo Mbeki gets all his news from the SABC. It’s not as if Mbeki has ever talked tough about Zimbabwe, but this quote from an SABC3 evening news report sets a new standard for the softly-softly approach. “Critics accuse President Robert Mugabe of mismanaging the economy” is the helpful context the SABC offers to viewers following the SADC’s don’tcall-it-a-crisis meeting on Zim.
The SABC’s economics desk has never been particularly strong, but I thought they could have done a bit more with this. To be balanced they should have asked what the supporters of hyperinflation think about Mugabe. Mismanagement also sounds fairly benign. As if total economic collapse is the sort of thing you can fix at a weekend bosberaad.
The news out of Dar es Salaam also wasn’t considered important enough for an earlier SABC news bulletin, despite the outcome of the special summit having been on a loop on the BBC and CNN for most of the evening. When at 10 the SABC thought to pick up on it, the segment came in third. The Limpopo town of Makhado reverting back to its old name was thought to have a bigger effect on the country than the benefaction of Bob.
A few days later, SABC radio interviewed Zambia's first president Kenneth Kaunda about Mugabe’s SADC endorsement. He should have some real insight into the mind of Mugabe, since he shares the birth year of 1924 with him. Without interruptions from the interviewer, Kaunda lauded the decision and spoke at length about British politician Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of change” speech of 1960. The interviewer never got the chance to ask Kaunda the relevance of all this. It was time for the SABC news.
Mbeki must have listened to that illuminating insert because he also largely ignored the current situation in Zim and delved into the past in an interview with the London Financial Times last week. “Robert Mugabe was a student at Fort Hare in his youth… We have a long history with Zimbabwe,” Mbeki explained. Kaunda was one of Bob’s varsity buddies in the Forties, as was Mbeki’s father Govan. We get this little titbit about Mugabe’s alma mater but nary a word about Zimbabwean refugees overwhelming towns like Makhado, 100km from Beit Bridge. The desperation of the un-SABC media for any hint of a change in Mbeki’s strategy was evident from the glowing terms in which the FT interview was reported on.
Maybe I shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, another Fort Harean, did eventually change her ways, though it took a liver transplant. Mugabe, however, appears fitter than ever. FINWEEK is pleased to announce the winner of its “Win the Most Expensive Business Book in the World Competition”. Contestants had to come up with their own idea on how to make a million. The idea of Ameeth Lakhani, a management accountant at a big bank. was a replacement for the afterdinner mint that also minimises social embarrassments.
Auld Lang Syne. Robert Mugabe and Mbeki’s father at Fort Hare.