Distorting Zimbabwe: West Indies Cricket and Media Propaganda
By Ras Tyehimba
July 03, 2007
The Express editorial of June 20th 2007, in arguing against a West Indies tour of Zimbabwe, describes Zimbabwe as an increasingly explosive place and adds that, "...there is another matter having to do with the legitimacy of the Mugabe-led government and the correct stance democratic nations in the world should adopt with respect to what continues to be a relentless assault on the human rights of not only politicians opposed to Mr. Mugabe but those of his own people."
This editorial titled "Mugabe deserves Windies bouncer" is a small drop in the ocean of Western propaganda regurgitated by local mainstream media about Zimbabwe. This is due in no small part to the unwillingness of local media to go past the biased reports of bigger international news agencies. The local mainstream media does not have a history of being critical of Western news stories and, as such, have a hard time reading between the lines or even doing their own analysis of varying perspectives on a particular issue. The local mainstream media has shown repeatedly that they can not properly analyze events closer to home, such as the recent "terror plot" or situations surrounding Venezuela and President Chavez, far less for an AFRICAN country thousands of miles away. Their subservience to Western international media means that they can do little more than peddle propaganda that is in line with the hegemonic interests of the United States and major European countries.
In this situation, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) as well as several media commentators are objecting to the West Indies 'A' Tour to Zimbabwe on 'moral' and 'safety' grounds. However, I do not recall any objections by the Trinidad Express or by WIPA when the West Indies toured Pakistan last year, where the present leadership came to power via a coup. Nor have I ever heard any protests by WIPA or by any local media to the West Indies touring Australia where White Australians have been committing human rights abuses against the indigenous people from the very day that they invaded the land of the aboriginal people.
Furthermore, the Australian objections to a Zimbabwe tour, which WIPA is mimicking, is not only political, it is hypocritical. The Australian government continues to stand upon a legacy of land dispossession, kidnappings, genocide, abuse and inequality that has characterized the relationship between White Australians and the indigenous Aboriginal population. In Australia, where non-Whites are sometimes subject to open racial abuse and violence, for those who seem to be such staunch and moral defenders of human rights, there is an eerie silence.
Dinanath Ramnarine, the WIPA chief executive, said that the doubts about safety, "...resulted from discussions with various stakeholders and persons with intimate knowledge of the existing situation in that country." He added, "They have spoken of security treats, violation of human rights and a highly volatile situation that could threaten the safety of the players." In a similar fashion to reports from the Trinidad Express Newspaper, the Trinidad Guardian carried a story, originally published on the Cricinfo website which quotes an unnamed source inside Zimbabwe as saying that any assurance of safety from the police, "...was not only worthless but a sick joke." Without providing the context in which some parties may offer such opinions is not only misleading but also dishonest. Of course, quoting a source who is anti-government will give an exaggerated and unfavorable picture of the conditions in Zimbabwe in an effort to bring about an outcome that is seen as most damaging to the present Mugabe government. Journalists cannot act as if these dynamics are new to them.
Tony Cozier, writing in the Trinidad Express, quotes US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell who predicts that, "...the inflation rate would reach 1.5 million per cent by the end of the year, causing 'massive disruption and instability' that would result in the collapse of Mugabe's government."
To those who have been carefully following the situation in Zimbabwe, this is meant as more of a promise than a prediction, as the United States and Britain have been actively trying to bring about regime change through sponsoring Non-Governmental Organisations, media and opposition forces to create unrest, strife, suffering, chaos and economic collapse in their effort to topple Mugabe's government. The U.S. State Department has even admitted to sponsoring public events aimed at discrediting the Zimbabwe government, as well as sponsoring opposition forces, some of whom have publicly endorsed the violent removal of the Zimbabwean government. It is clear that the actions of the US are tantamount to sponsoring terrorism, if ever people can get past the present biases of terrorists being bearded, Koran-toting Muslims.
The targeting of the Zimbabwean government by the US and Britain is very much connected to Mugabe's moves to reclaim the land that was stolen by British colonialists. Before this, he was very much the darling of Britain and the United States, and was conferred with honorary doctorates and awards, some of which were retracted after he went against the interests and desires of the White farmers. Since then, Western interests have had a vested interest in not only instigating instability and economic collapse, but also in exaggerating the nature of social conditions in Zimbabwe to reinforce their point that Mugabe is a corrupt dictator whose policies are destroying the country. This hides the fact that the negative social conditions being experienced in Zimbabwe today are largely as a result of DELIBERATE policies and sanctions by Western interests (including the IMF, international charity organisations and the international media). These entities have no genuine interest in the well-being and human rights of Zimbabweans, but are intent on preserving colonial privileges and ill-gotten gains.
WIPA's chief executive, Dinanath Ramnarine and Tony Cozier have been na´ve in buying into Western media reports about instability and unsafe conditions in Zimbabwe, especially as this type of imperial interference has happened numerous times in world history. A good example is Haiti, who, once it seized its freedom and independence, was isolated from the international community while deliberate external influence was exerted to ensure that successful running of the country was extremely difficult, if not impossible. It has also been happening in our neighbouring Venezuela, where the US through organisations such as the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have been sponsoring and supporting opposition forces who are against Chavez and his social reforms, which are aimed at reversing the ill effects of decades of corruption and oligarchic rule in Venezuela. The local mainstream media have also been irresponsible in peddling Western propaganda about President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution.
Clearly, WIPA and others have not understood the issues properly, but rather are just following the lead of Australia who has cancelled their tour to Zimbabwe and bitterly condemned the Zimbabwean government. The Australian cancellation is part of the very deliberate plan to isolate and undermine the Zimbabwean government to cause economic instability and social chaos that would hasten the departure of the democratically elected government. Local mainstream media and their blind subservience to Western aligned international news agencies also contribute to the suffering in Zimbabwe with their one-sided reports on Zimbabwe. Of course, this is no different to how they generally report world news.
It is important to note that President Mugabe is by no means a saint, and there will be people in Zimbabwe who will have legitimate reasons to be against him. This is no different from any country in the world, where there will be people who will have valid objections and criticisms against their government. However, what I am concerned with is the high degree of foreign interference in the affairs of Zimbabwe that started after the moves to reclaim the estimated seventy percent of arable land that remained in the hands of the White settler elite in the post-independence period.
Even given that there are economic problems being experienced in Zimbabwe, how does this translate into safety risks to players, above and beyond risks that are encountered in any country that is being toured? The safety issue raised by Australia, and swallowed by WIPA, is a smokescreen for deeper motives of Western interests that are centered around a hypocritical and paternalistic dissatisfaction with Zimbabwe's land reforms. It is no wonder that West Indies Cricket is in such a bind, as so many of the main actors depend on England and Australia to lead and think for them. The WIPA Executive, Tony Cozier and the local media deserve a collective bouncer for their blind subservience and lack of thinking skills. I am not so much concerned with whether or not the West Indies 'A' Team tours Zimbabwe, but more with the willingness and enthusiasm of WIPA and some cricket commentators to unwittingly be a part of an imperialist and politically motivated effort to discredit and undermine the democratically elected Zimbabwean government. However, all is not lost, as the general population, who have also been victims of the poor coverage of international news (especially on Venezuela and Zimbabwe), can take the opportunity to become familiar with alternative perspectives on world news and their implications for Trinidad and Tobago.