Back to Index
How Amanpour and CNN lost to Mugabe
September 25, 2009
to his well known script, Amanpour
and CNN fumbled all over. Thus after the highly expected interview
of Mugabe by senior CNN Journalist, Christiane Amanpour, on Thursday
24 September, it came out, in my view, to a victory for Mugabe,
if we take it as a contest. Amanpour failed to rise above the familiar
frames of the western media-s analysis of Zimbabwe, dictatorship,
hunger, land, and white farmers. These are part of the issues, but
more of symptoms of a deeper problem which we hoped CNN would probe.
We expected Amanpour to bring these issues to the interview but
in a way that makes it impossible for Mugabe to waive them away
so simply. We expected more facts, events and names. And they are
many that Mugabe cannot run away from.
Yes, the Zimbabwe crisis
is also about land among many other things, but this is more a symptom
of a deficiency in democracy that Mugabe demonstrated very early
in his rule. It is this failure to understand history and looking
at Zimbabwe in compartments that has been the failure of the western
media for so long and indeed the Achilles heel of Amanpour when
she met Mugabe. Amanpour stated clearly that her Rhodesian journalists-
friends really enjoyed the first ten years of Mugabe-s rule.
In those ten years Mugabe presided over the massacre of thousands
of Ndebele-s who happened to support an opposition party and
belong to an ethnic group other than his. It is therefore wrong
for CNN to say Zimbabwe-s crisis is a year 2000 phenomenon
and only so because Mugabe started grabbing farms from white farmers.
Amanpour thus sunk into a familiar tune that Mugabe was well prepared
for, giving a full lecture of history which Amanpour was, again,
unprepared for. Statistics is there all over the internet on how
Mugabe-s government abused donor funds and some resettled
farmers sank more into poverty. Mugabe-s views were never
In any case lets us talk
of the crisis in Zimbabwe since 2000. The most affected and those
who have suffered the most are the majority of poor Zimbabweans.
If there are a people that Mugabe has failed the most and dehumanised
the most it is his fellow black Zimbabweans. Any questioning and
framing of the Zimbabwe crisis should, as a consequence, start from
this stand point. Mugabe should have been asked about the many MDC
supporters who were murdered, again their names are there, about
Jestina Mukoko and others who were kidnapped in December 2008. Those
who did this are still free, and Zimbabwe courts have been clear
that this was wrong. Hundreds of cases of MDC supporters who lost
their lives are recorded and should have been brought to Mugabe
by CNN. Their killers are walking scot free and many are known by
name. This should have been brought to Mugabe. The Daily News was
bombed 3 times, 60 000 copies of the Zimbabwean newspapers were
burnt in 2008, four newspaper were shut by decree and remain closed
while Mugabe-s government is launching one daily paper after
another, while denying others that space. These are double standards
that should have been brought to Mugabe as undermining the unity
government. There were many scenes of violence that were captured
by the media in the 2008-s controversial June Presidential
by-election that Amanpour should have pinned Mugabe on.
Mugabe is a dictator
yes, but one who has created a very sophisticated dictatorship that
is not only about power grabbing but distorts and deploys historical
narratives for its benefit. It-s a dictatorship that sinisterly
divides society along race, ethnicity and ideology. If the western
media intends to report Zimbabwe they should not engage Mugabe in
a turf of contested history but talk of the practicalities and realities
of life in Zimbabwe, that story Mugabe cannot dismiss that easily.
It is for this reason that the western media has to change its frames
of analysing Zimbabwe and Mugabe, and see the majority of victims
of Mugabe-s government not only a statistics but the real
victims of this crisis. The violence on ordinary Zimbabweans is
not a land issue, but has always existed well before 2000. A proper
analysis needs to go beyond land reform, to look at what Mugabe
has done to his own people, the cases of corruption that should
have been brought out, the collapse of Kondozi farm, a classical
case of the phoney arguments by Mugabe that land reform is about
equality and prosperity, the diamonds fiasco in Manicaland.
A well respected journalist
like Amanpour was expected to go deeper, bring out examples, the
horror and scenes that Mugabe cannot deny. She should have avoided
narratives of history that are not in dispute but give it to Mugabe
in black and white from the perspectives of the majority of Zimbabweans.
The interview turned to be a successful Public Relations exercise
and godsend for Mugabe. This is because we have heard it all before
and Mugabe reinforced his message at a world stage. But the real
story of Zimbabwe-s majority rarely finds space and it is
one that Mugabe cannot deny nor justify by whatever means or explanation.
He can easily explain the land reform on the basis of history, but
he cannot explain the kidnapping of Mukoko, the bombing of the Daily
News among other many things. The international media will become
relevant when it sees the Zimbabwe crisis from this holistic perspective.
As for Amanpour we hope she can be better prepared next time.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.