Last Sunday, the 14th of December, Jihan El-Tahri’s documentary ‘Behind the Rainbow‘ was screened on SABC tv. The schedule said that it would be two hours long, so S groaned when I scheduled it into our Sunday evening. Apprehension notwithstanding, the two of us stayed the entire two hours and watched the film. At the end of it we were both intrigued by the presentation of Jacob Zuma.
Although I cannot remember exactly what was said in the film, what struck me most was that Jacob Zuma was not portrayed as a mere buffoon. I think the film presented an interesting angle on Jacob Zuma and his supporters. It was a fresh angle that one doesn’t see or hear in South African media. I do apologise that I cannot recall what was said because I know that would strengthen what I am trying to say here. But do watch the film yourselves – it will be released on dvd in March 2009.
What I am trying to lead up to, however, is that ‘Behind the Rainbow’ provides new evidence (admittedly flimsy due to my absent powers of recollection) for my theory that South Africa’s news reporting and journalism is very one sided. I get the sense sometimes that the newspapers, journalists and news editors are scared to present an alternative point of view, or an alternative analysis to those that have considerable public support, lest they too be considered to be part of the bunch of idiots.
So when one newspaper reported that Thabo Mbeki had said that HIV does not cause AIDS (as I have blogged about previously and don’t need to many memory aids to remember) all newspapers, journalists and television stations jumped on the bandwagon. In my memory of the saga nobody explained what Mbeki had meant by his statement. Nobody thought that South Africans were intelligent enough to understand why Mbeki thought that poverty led to AIDS in South Africa. Instead, Mbeki’s character was attacked and the meaning of Mbeki’s words was lost amidst the hullabaloo. Mbeki may have been stupid around HIV and AIDS policies, but all of that was lost to me because I had seen how one-sided the media was in its coverage – well, I had noticed this before, but the bandwagon was so crowded in this instance, I was disturbed.
Another instance where all newspapers and television news report the same angle on events is the situation in Zimbabwe. But there is something missing for me, something that perturbs me and makes me furrow my already oft-furrowed brow: if things are as bad as we are told they are, then why do wealthy white people continue to live there? I know the poor black people are suffering the most, but white people are still living there. You see, white South Africans fear that what has been happening in Zimbabwe, with regards to land invasions by the war veterans, will also happen in South Africa. So these white South Africans are living in fear of black South Africans, which makes me think that white Zimbabweans must be living in fear of black Zimbabweans.
Yet this week the Mail and Guardian printed a story (so I can blog with it by my side and refer to it without relying on my memory) by an obviously well heeled white Zimbabwean ex-patriot, Sean Christie, called (without irony) ‘I had a farm in Africa … a young man’s journey’. This man, Sean Christie, then tells us the story of how he goes to visit his grandfather’s farm and the former farm workers in Zimbabwe. There is an air of danger as he sets off on his bicycle without food and water and without a puncture kit.
I am confused. If this is a dangerous place then why does Sean Christie set out alone on an unarmoured bicycle? And why does Mr Christie’s Zimbabwean friend still live there if things are as bad as we are told they are? Why isn’t everyone fleeing into more developed South Africa where supermarkets are well stocked and the sewerage works more often than not? Why are people still living there? Why don’t the locals – black and white – revolt?
In this same edition of the Mail and Guardian there is an article about the black market. And based on other stories I have heard from people whose families survive off of the black market, some people aren’t doing too badly. There is a spread of stories on Zimbabwe which indicate that people are living there. People have lives, that things aren’t so bad.
You know, I don’t actually know what my point is about Zimbabwe, except that I am confused about the situation and that I don’t think the media coverage has explained why there is this sense of two worlds, or maybe three, viz. the first world of Robert Mugabe’s obscene and illegal wealth, the second world of ordinary Zimbabwean urban life, and the third world of rural Zimbabwe plagued with poverty and poor health. Is it only the poor rural people whose lives are unbearable? And if this is the case, then why have their wealthier compatriots not clamoured to help them?