Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Zimbabwe: Journalists Must Defend Revolution; $10 Million Deal With Chinese Firm

Journalists must defend revolution

Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

THIS is the last of a two-part series in which STEPHEN MPOFU looks at Western media onslaught on progressive states and the role of journalists in defending the national interests

THE problem with the liberation movements now in power in the four countries in question is that they appear to have concentrated on training fighters to win a war without having more writers trained to defend the revolution.

Some of the few journalists who also bore arms have systematically been frustrated then hounded out of the system and into oblivion by those who regarded them as immovable obstacles in efforts to have their personal star, rather than a country’s image brightened up.

As a result, a correspondent swoops on the capital of an African country, happens to get into an airport pub, buys a thirst–quencher (beer) and sips it with his ears cocked. He picks up a conversation between locals, which appeals to him, drains his glass and leaves the pub with a "scoop" which he files back home immediately.

Or, at his hotel bar, he buys a "working beer" and listens to inebriated locals discussing national affairs with their guard lowered. Another story hot from the African pot, he tells himself and rushes off to send it back home to a gullible audience.

Is it any wonder then that African leaders have often complained against some stories by Western correspondents?

The reasons why the correspondents in question report the way they sometimes do on Africa can be summed up into two, first the Libertarian or Free Press theory also considers lies as facts or truth. Secondly, the Western Press is not so much concerned with truth all of the time as it is with validating a long-held belief in the West that nothing good comes out of Africa other than raw materials.

To make matters worse, this writer lived in exile for many years before Zimbabwe’s independence and travelled to several African countries that had already gained their freedom.

In some of those countries, it became clear that government leaders accorded Western correspondents express access into their palaces where the journalists had exclusive interviews while local journalists settled for the whey.

It was as though these leaders wanted to impress their former colonisers with: "See! We can rule just as well as you did."

The local media, left to scrounge for a best-selling story, ran the gauntlet of mischief-makers, often with a costly price on both their reputation and their coffers.

In many countries, young journalists were thrown into the fray after older and mostly white journalists quit because they saw the blacks as intruding into a profession that had been their preserve. This situation does not make the picture any brighter.

For them, their country came into creation on Independence Day, so they do not know, or do so vaguely, about the arduous road that the country travelled right up to the day of Uhuru.

This became particularly problematic in countries where blood was shed, because if one does not know the past, one cannot relate it to the present or the future for generations to understand and appreciate the importance of independence and sovereignty.

Some of the older, black journalists who remained in the profession still leave in the skin of the racist whites who tutored them.

While this may be so, credit must go to the division of Mass Communication at Harare Polytechnic that has been the premier journalist training institution in Zimbabwe after independence. Today many of its journalism graduates are in senior editorial positions in both the print and the electronic media.

However, the training of journalists at university level leaves a great deal to be desired. This communicologist once supervised several undergraduates on attachment from a certain university, while still working as a newspaper editor and was shocked to discover that the internees could hardly write an intro in journalese when they first arrived at the newspaper.

An editor of a leading Harare newspaper had this to say about journalism attachment students from another university, "they learn how to write a story in our newsroom".

An editor of another newspaper recently remarked that the English of an internment from yet another university was "appalling."

It is also known that some journalism graduates of another Zimbabwean university have opted for public relations work in the private sector because they could not stand the heat in the newsroom, the professional kitchen.

A major contributory factor to all this would appear to be that some of the local universities teach "media studies" which do not adequately prepare the students for careers in journalism.

For instance, some of the media studies graduates who did their attachment under this writer eventually took up posts as lecturers at local universities in some cases even teaching working journalists with previous training at college.

It boggles the mind because these are the people who are supposed to produce scintillating piece of journalism because of their high academic level. Do our universities produce learned or merely educated graduates?

What is worse, the programmes at the universities exclude courses in social sciences such as sociology, politics, psychology and economics or languages with which they must work.

The other problem is that no screening of students takes place to enrol those with a natural bent because journalism is the "right profession for the right person."

It surprises no one, therefore, if the journalists concerned are easily swept off their feet on a road flooded with deceptive and destructive enemy propaganda.

Journalism sits on a tripod as an art, a science and humanity. Therefore, the institutions concerned, the University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University and the National University of Science and Technology might wish without an equivocation, to undertake a thoroughgoing revamp of the courses offered in the training of journalists.

If this is not done the training programmes under question will continue to resemble visibility programmes offered by foreign donors. Training at university costs, a lot of money that should, therefore, not be seen to be spent on window dressing courses.

It will be inappropriate not to laud NUST that has afforded some of its lecturers from the department of journalism and media studies opportunities to acquire higher degrees abroad, which guarantees the institution with better products in future.

Mention must be made at this juncture of the role that African governments must play in empowering the continent’s journalists to do their work much more effectively than has been the case to date.

African leaders are on record individually and severally as often exhorting the continent’s media workers to become the "first line" or "front line" of the defence of their country.

These leaders should put their money where their mouth is by helping the journalists to know their continent and their leaders better since soldiers cannot effectively defend their country if they are ignorant of its terrain as well as its leaders.

Journalists in some countries have never gone beyond their national borders, so how can they be expected to effectively and factually write in defence of countries either in their region or further away about which they know very little?

For instance, not many journalists knew that the Democratic Republic of Congo did not have democratic elections for 45 years until last year because of instability instigated by foreign powers intent on exploiting that country’s vast mineral resources.

Governments and private media houses might find it necessary, therefore, to organise jointly or individually tours of countries within our region to start with, for journalists to acquaint themselves with the people, the resources and the politics in those countries so that their reports will be true and authoritative.

If that is done, say in Sadc, Comesa and Ecowas and then have the journalists visit the different regional economic areas, there will be a wide spread of knowledge exchanged between and among the journalists themselves and leaders within those areas.

Also, political leaders and journalists in those economic groupings as well as at the African Union can engage in dialogue on an equal basis after completing business at their summits.

This can further enhance the knowledge and understanding of journalists about their leaders and their continent so that they can offer the necessary defence against external enemy machinations.

It can be done as demonstrated at SAID’99 (Southern Africa International Dialogue) at the Victoria Falls. During their deliberations, the political leaders from the region including Jerry Rawlings then Ghana’s president, met with journalists at a hotel where the journalists fired volley after volley at the leaders who returned "fire", and at the end of their exchange no one on either side had been mortally wounded.

If anything, each side had come to understand and appreciate the role of the other with any distrust or suspicion allayed or suspended for as long as the dialogue echoed in their ears.

It is obvious, therefore, that if the media and leaders on the African continent work together for the good of individual countries and of the continent as a whole, detractors will find it difficult to sow seeds of disunity and destruction on the continent.

This article will be incomplete if it did not make a daring yet not inappropriate claim that the Almighty breathed among them the solidarity that the Sadc leaders declared with Zimbabwe.

Many God-fearing and loving Zimbabweans had been praying long and hard for divine intervention. If a nation humbles itself before God, especially when under siege as is Zimbabwe is at present, God’s power is made perfect in the people’s weakness.

--Stephen Mpofu is a former Zimpapers editor who, in 1984, went to the University of Cambridge as a Nuffield Press Fellow and did research in International Relations.


Zim, Chinese firms in US$10m deal

From Farai Dzirutwe in Nanjing, China
Zimbabwe Herald

THE country’s agricultural sector is poised for another boost after a local firm, Saltlakes Holdings, yesterday completed negotiations to purchase more than 500 utility trucks from a leading Chinese manufacturer, Yuejin Motor Group.

Officials from the two firms accented to the deal, worth an estimated US$10 million, after a three-hour meeting in the eastern Chinese city.

This development paves the way for the importation of five and eight-tonne trucks for distribution to Zimbabwean farmers in the next few months.

Prior to the delivery of the main consignment of the trucks, YMG will deliver several sample units which will be used to test adaptability to the Zimbabwean climate and road conditions.

The vehicles are, however, likely to pass the test after national power supplier, Zesa Holdings, took delivery of 100 trucks from the same company more than two years ago. YMG also cleared Saltlakes to have exclusive dealership of Yuejin trucks in Zimbabwe.

"After a meeting with a delegation from Saltlakes Holdings, Zimbabwe on April 25, 2007, Yuejin Motor Group Import and Export Company Limited hereby authorises Saltlakes Holdings to sell Yuejin trucks and related spares in Zimbabwe," read a statement released by the company, which is wholly-owned by the Chinese government.

Saltlakes Holdings’ tractors and implements division manager, Mr Amos Matimba, said the trucks will first be distributed to farmers enlisted under the company’s tobacco outgrower scheme before they are rolled out to other farmers.

"All things being equal, we expect the samples to be shipped next month while the first batch of the vehicles should arrive in July. We toured the assembly plant today and we were very impressed by quality of the main components used to assemble the trucks.

"From a technical point of view, the trucks are strong and should be suitable for the Zimbabwean terrain. An expert in the Ministry of Agriculture, Engineer Machiwana, also certified the vehicles suitable for Zimbabwe after he accompanied us during our first tour late last year," said Mr Matimba.

He said his company was encouraging youths and female farmers to join the company’s tobacco outgrower scheme to benefit from the trucks scheme.

Beneficiaries would pay for the vehicles over a three-year period with the instalments being debited from their tobacco sales revenue.

"The recipients will initially be those farmers we have contracted under our outgrower scheme but we will spread this facility to other farmers," said Mr Matimba.

YMG, a subsidiary of Nanjing Automobile Corporation, is one of China’s biggest vehicle manufacturers and operates seven plants across the country.

The holding company also manufactures and assembles Iveco, Fiat and Rover vehicles. Sixty percent of its 16 000-strong workforce were formerly employed by the now defunct British Rover Group.

YMG officials said they would in future, consider engaging their Zimbabwean partner in a vehicle assembly venture.

"Depending on the growth of the Southern African market we will seriously consider setting up a car assembly in Zimbabwe and we will be supplying the completely knocked down kits," said a YMG official.

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