25 June 2008

Post-Colonial Sour Grapes

I can't believe I'm the only person who is sick to the back teeth with the wall-to-wall coverage of the non-election in Zimbabwe. Now don't get me wrong. I am as opposed as the next left-wing greenie with an over-active conscience to the beatings and oppression of the people of that country. But are they really worse than similar treatment meted out to the peoples who suffer under other dictators in other poor countries the world over? So why this particular focus on one African country of 13 million people?

There are two reasons we hear so much about Zimbabwe. The first is that it is a colony we didn't want to let go and the powers that be in this nation appear to still be resentful about that. The second is that the BBC, specifically, has been excluded from the country and can't get over the snubbing. Neither of these are good bases on which to decide the daily news agenda.

We have now reached the bizarre situation where we are asked to celebrate the fact that China - that well-known bastion of democratic rights and freedoms - has supported a UN Security Council motion condemning the lack of freedom and fairness in the Zimbabwean electoral process.

Zimbabwe is not playing by our rules and is therefore paying the price of economic sabotage. The land redistribution is not fair - the land goes to Mugabe's supporters - but it is politically right. If it were to succeed this would be noticed by landless black farmers in neighbouring South Africa.

For my part, whenever I hear another news item about Zimbabwe - it is even invading the sports news now - I wonder what news is being masked by this. What is happening in secret rooms where the powerful of the global capitalist economy make the rules we all have to live by. What are they stitching up to allow this corrupt and rickety system to go staggering on, enabling them to continue to profit at our expense?

It isn't news that the news isn't really news any more. You can now only learn about world affairs by reading between the lines. By the time news about Zimbabwe fades into the background we will know that the new financial regime we will be required to live under - without any chance to vote for it - has been established.


  1. In what sense didn't we want to let it go?

    I thought that Rhodesia, as was, illegally declared unilateral independence in the 60s because Britain was pushing it towards independence with more rights for black Africans than the racist white settlers were prepared to accept. Is there any evidence that the UK wanted anything other than to get shot of it? Most other British colonies in Africa became independent in the 1960s, to the sound of heartfelt relief in Whitehall, after all.

    Is your theory that UDI was some kind of devious ruse?

  2. Ok - Clarence - thanks for your correction. Could it be, then, that the Foreign Office is miffed that Mugabe didn't live up to expectations? Either way I don't think this detracts from my basic point that we are being distracted from thinking about our own democracy. This morning's today programme spent 20 minutes discussing Zimbabwe as the main item after the 8 o'clock news, followed by a mere three-minute funny slot on the Henley by-election.

  3. The reason why we seem to pay so much attention, i think, is how quickly it has fallen from a nation that was able to support it self, where the life expectancy was relatively high and for all purposes appeared to be a functioning country to the state where it is now. Where you're going to be lucky if you make it past 40, where there has been a total collapse of the economy based upon one man desire for power. And when Mugabe goes around bullzozing 100,000 peoples home intot he ground because they failed to vote for him, it tends to gather some attention.
    I think those things combined makes it a pretty far reaching story. Sure half of Africa isn't much better but 8 years ago they were still just as bad while Zimbabwe wasn't.

    Combined with what you said about it being an ex-colony makes it of interest, I'm sure the French pay much more attention to West Africa than we do in the UK. Ivory Coast hardly gets a mention but thats pretty big news in France.

    Anyways thats my 2 cents why Zimbabwe gets so much coverage