WHY ZIMBABWE'S ELECTION IS BEING IGNORED BY THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA




"Nelson Chamisa is embarrassing and Emmerson Mnangagwa is very very dull," is what one American journalist with an international news network put it to me when she called this morning to get an update on the election and sentiment on the ground.

It is a stunning turn of events, this complete ignoring of Zimbabwe's 2018 elections by international media.

For the first time since 2000, the international media (CNN, BBC, SKY, even China Global Television) are almost completely ignoring the Zimbabwe elections. Haru Mutasa, at Al Jazeera, is the only international journalist who is getting the story of this election out, but in very small drips.

Previous Zimbabwe elections were a daily fixture on international news platforms before. Mugabe's rallies were covered on a weekly basis from the week he started campaigning to election day. Tsvangirai was never covered as much but featured as a counterpoint to the fiery rhetoric of Robert Mugabe.

This time around, there is an almost complete blackout on the international airwaves.

Why?

Since Operation Restore Legacy, the world and the world media have taken the default position that the election results are a foregone conclusion: Emmerson Mnangagwa is going to win the election. This has led to the ridiculous situation where we saw Nelson Chamisa supporters, especially, accusing organisations like the BBC of having been bought by ZANU PF! Even CNN was not spared.

But that is mostly because Zimbabweans, an immature democratic people, prefer partisan press. They want their leaders to be swooned over even if they have done nothing to deserve being hailed or newsworthy.

But that is a point for another day.

The assumption by the international community that Mnangagwa is going to win this election would not have been enough to guarantee the ignoring that is currently under way by the international media. There is more to it.

First, the evidence on the ground pointing to an election free from strife, violence and abuse has made this election largely dull for the international media.

Second, both President Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, the two main contenders, have proved to be immensely uninspiring speakers, nowhere near the calibre of Robert Mugabe who made any speech he delivered, no matter mundane, electric. Insults were peppered throughout, including insults directed at international leaders. Truth is neither Chamisa nor Mnangagwa are orators.

Third, there is a very strong presumption within the international community that these elections are going to be free, fair and credible, as promised by Mnangagwa, so the excitement is has been taken out of this whole thing. International media love controversy and neither Mnangagwa nor Chamisa has been able to create even a semblance of this.

Nelson Chamisa has failed completely move the needle of this election, which is the only thing that would have got the international community rushing to Zimbabwe.

He is the new dynamic here. He is the the unknown quantity and it is an incredible indictment that the world is not even remotely curious about him.

MDC Alliance supporters, who are mostly supporters of the old MDC-T, unfortunately, are doing to Nelson Chamisa what they did to Morgan Tsvangirai. A leader matures when his faults are pointed out by his own supporters. When he puts a foot wrong he is most likely to listen to his own supporters than to his opponents. It's just how humans are wired.

We know that there is no criticism of Nelson Chamisa in private or in public by his supporters.

When he embarrasses himself with Paul Kagame, for instance, and Kagame responds in the interests of not being dragged into Zimbabwe's internal election campaign, Chamisa supporters respond by hurling the crudest and most embarrassing insults at this respected African leader who has made his nation, Rwanda, the envy of the world and an example of what this continent can be.

Look, in any country, there are vocal minorities on either side of the political divide. They use language like "we the people", "the people", "the majority" etc. They tend to be the loudest voices on social media and even in the media. They are extremists and they exist in both ZANU PF and MDC. 

But, the vast majority are what political scientists have referred to as "the silent majority". They do not shout, insult or get excitable in public. This centrist majority is overwhelmingly large in most countries. Whether its America, South Africa or Zimbabwe. Which is why those who call themselves "independent" are the majority in the USA, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They will go and vote silently.

The biggest failure by the Chamisa Alliance of the MDC is their failure to speak to this demographic at all. Chamisa and his advisers have decided to appeal to their own support base's lowest common denominator.

Mnangagwa? The President's messaging has been shockingly dull. True, he has the pulse of the nation correctly. His actions are overwhelmingly resonant and even in Harare, which we call home, people are noticing small things like the complete resurfacing of roads that had collapsed (Harare Drive, Enterprise Rd and many others). 

But Mnangagwa's stump performance on the campaign trail is proving to be rather dull.

Which would have been a golden opportunity for Nelson Chamisa had he and his advisers decided not to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the MDC and opposition circles.

The truth of the matter is that Mnangagwa, through his actions and saying the right things (even in a rather dull manner), is giving the majority centrist population of Zimbabwe a reason to try him and continue the tentative, although disappointing, steps towards normality and even prosperity, that he appears to be giving the country a glimpse of.

Nelson Chamisa, mostly through the amplification of the radical, hateful voices within his support base, is giving the centrist majority every reason to not only fear his ascendancy, but also dismiss him and his support base as an excitable, crude and juvenile element of Zimbabwean society that should be treated with extreme caution.

You hear this on the ground across the country, from Harare to Hauna. But just as an ardent Hilary Clinton supporter would not understand why anyone would vote for or support Donald Trump and how an ardent Donald Trump supporter would not understand why a "liberal" would vote for or support Hilary Clinton, so it is with Chamisa's MDC radical base.

Because they are still fighting a Mugabe ZANU PF and have failed to strategise for even an appearance of a changed ZANU PF, they claim not understand how anyone can support a party that has destroyed the country, the currency and the economy, ZANU PF. A party that has beaten up and tortured people.

Chamisa's main problem is that he has chosen to play to this minority gallery in his own support base.

Keep this post, because I am going to repost it after the elections, when people start asking questions about how the results we all know are coming could possibly have come about.

I suspect, as has happened with other elections, you will find this analysis right here on this blog being quoted again by all international media houses as they try to dissect an election that they have shown a remarkable lack of interest in.


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