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Zimbabwe: consequences of bad journalism

By Bob Gondo

Africans generally regard each other as brothers, but as an African it is not always easy to live in another African country.

There are many reasons that may be attributed to these difficulties, starting with colonisation when borders where demarcated and ethnic groups were divided.

The xenophobia that took place in South Africa in 2008 is a conflict that authorities failed to detect at its initial stages, and it was only after multiple tragedies that a lid was put on the violence.

The South African website, Xenophobia - South Africa, has this to say about the situation in South Africa:

One dictionary definition of Xenophobia is an unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different.

Xenophobia can manifest itself in several ways in a country - victimization by police, brutal assaults, murders, ethnic cleansing in an area, mass expulsion from the country.

The recent xenophobic violence in South Africa was primarily directed against foreigners living in some of the poorest urban areas of the country. However, it has also impacted on those who acquired citizenship by virtue of their specialized skills, such as medical doctors, academics, scientists and engineers. And it has also impacted on those with legitimate work an study permits, such as the tens of thousands of Mozambican mineworkers working in mines, Mathematics teachers from Zimbabwe and foreign university students.

Unfortunately, many South Africans, and not just those living in the poorest areas, are opposed to the presence of a large number of foreigners from other African countries, and they blame foreigners for may of the ills in SA, including high unemployment of locals, and crime. South Africans therefore need to do some soul searching, lest even more locals become xenophobic.

This brings me to the issue that journalist need to ask themselves what role they play in potentially inflammatory situations.

A recent headline in one of South Africa's most widely read tabloids, the Daily Sun, where the headline claims, "Mugabe's cows move to Mzansi". The article left me wondering what the Editorial staff at the Sun were trying to achieve.

I fear that the story had in it a a hidden agenda, first to tell the locals that first Mugabe's "human beings" came and took their jobs and women, now their cows are invading Mzansi to eat their grass.

The page two story carried misleading information about the outbreak of foot and mouth in Zimbabwe, how famers living close to the border stood to lose millions of Rands and that in turn would lead to nearly 5000 jobs being lost in the province bordering Zimbabwe.

The story which was published when I was in South Africa, and it was met with a great measure of scepticism by Zimbabweans living in South Africa, it is clear that we Zimbabweans are not wanted by our neighbours despite the political geography that binds the two nations. It was fine when South Africa was building the infrastructure that made the 2010 World Cup Soccer such a success, it is fine that some of Zimbabwe's greatest minds are running the country's financial, educational and health facilities, but still they victimise Zimbabweans and sadly it is tabloids like the Daily Sun that play on the undercurrent of xenophobia that runs through South Africa.

A friend of mine's daughter recently decided to leave the South African university she was studying at for two reasons. First of all she was viewed as yet another Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) student, only there because she is black and female, not because of her outstanding high school results, doing a degree that finds few women in her classes. But more significantly, she believes that her job prospects after university are slim, in Zimbabwe because there are no jobs and in South Africa fewer and fewer Zimbabweans are being employed because of growing xenophobia.

The Daily Sun needs to be reminded that the vast majority of Zimbabweans would far rather be home, but it was Mbeki who has is so much to blame for not holding Mugabe accountable way back in 2000, with his failed "quiet diplomacy", which ran in opposite direction to his much touted "African peer review mechanism". Indeed South African monitors have declared our rigged elections free and fair over and over again.

 So, the Daily Sun may see headlines like the one above as humorous, but I ask that they hold themselves accountable, for surely this kind of writing will fuel violence against Zimbabweans, victims of the economic meltdown over the past decade - Sekwanele.