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What's beef
Naison Ngoma, Kalabash, Magamba Network
December 21, 2012

"If you thought real beef is Winky D and Badman you have to check again," says rapper Irie Ian. According to Mos Def "beef is real life happening everyday." Real beef is the political polarisation or discourse that has been experienced in the country for the past decade and that beef has been fuelled by the media. Tune into the radio and you'll often hear hate speech crackle into clarity. Pick up a paper and do a word search for hate speech. It won't take you long to find some.

According to research done by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) in August/September 2011 Zimbabwean broadcast and print media have produced many examples of hate speech or have had content that portrays hate in one way or the other.

Hate speech is usually intended to incite hostility against another person or people and it can cause catastrophic situations. Hate speech is a world-wide phenomenon and it basically means the use of language intended to degrade a person, race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, moral and political views, mental capacity, disability etc. It is employed to repel supporters and sympathisers from a target and usually the perpetrators of hate speech are politicians, state media columnists, editors, various political actors and religious figures. The victims are the public, individual organisations and groups.

The media in most cases has been used as a tool to deliver these messages. Nelson Madondo said that ‘in Arabic countries if you were described as a rat you could be killed,' a fact which goes to show that the media can influence events in society. Look back to Rwanda, it's people divided by machetes and the poison of hate speech. Too many lives were lost at the hands of the brainwashed.

Eric Matingo, head of research and monitoring at MMPZ, said that ‘in Zimbabwe the media creates a fictitious image of people like accusing someone of being a sell-out.' Other people have different views concerning the role of the media in the process. Tafara Chigumira from ZBC asked, ‘Are people all passive listeners/readers of information that they go act upon what they either read or hear from the media?'

The Zimbabwean media however has, over the past decades, singled out individuals who are against ZANU PF policies like the Land Reform Programme. Andrew Moyse, the MMPZ Coordinator, argued that, ‘Hate language is based on falsehood without facts, for example, Tsvangirai is a puppet of the West, Mugabe is a puppet of the East. Because there are not really specific legal frameworks to counter hate speech, media houses should achieve self regulatory bodies.'

In the end, the media should refrain from using hate speech as it reflects very badly on a media house if a person is to claim that he/she was given the right to kill by a certain media house. In other countries they have checks and balances for hate speech but in Zimbabwe the GPA, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act are not really focused on the crackdown on hate speech.

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