By Learnmore Zuze
“When the truth causes offence it is rather better that offence be caused than the truth to be denied.”
THE above statement, by anonymous, in my opinion, should be dear and near to anyone whose work involves informing and educating the public. It may be politics, religion, economic or social issues yet the philosophy applies with equal force. It is better, far much better that offence is caused than for truth to be denied. People who speak the truth may not, themselves, be perfect but that is definitely no reason to suffocate the truth.
The last week saw religious people, in one way or the other, caught up in a war of words between themselves and against both the print and electronic media. There are some who wish they could gag the media; who feel the media should turn a blind eye on particular matters involving some supposedly sacred religious cows, prophets in particular.
This position is a little unfortunate because the media, on its part, cannot neglect its role of informing and educating the nation on things of public interest. It cannot shy away from reporting what is in the public domain. In particular, there seems to be quite a number of people who will want activities of their church leaders kept under a lid and will vent their frustrations on the media who would simply be doing their job and analysts whose role is to give their opinions on pertinent matters.
Probably drunk with the ‘touch not God’s anointed’ philosophy, vitriol was poured on the media and media analysts for having an ‘obsession with prophets.’ In the last week, the media covered a number of stories on Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya. A public spat raged on over Emmanuel’s and Makandiwa’s alleged fake miracle video. The video in which Makandiwa is accused of performing a fake miracle on a woman with a fat belly had social media ringing with nasty exchanges. Makandiwa’s followers threw everything against anyone who spoke against their leader. Makandiwa himself had to uncharacteristically defend himself over the alleged fake miracle video that has gone viral.
In the alleged fake video, a person is caught on camera from behind the woman with a fat belly and allegedly pulls a string to deflate a balloon wrapped around the woman’s body while Makandiwa prays over her. The video is quite controversial and whether the miracle is true or not is for individuals to decide. What I find appalling, though, is to bash the media for reporting on it. On the other extreme, Walter Magaya made news for a donation he made to the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) accompanied by rants against officials whom he accused of abusing donated funds.
Again, update on his war with apostolic sects was covered and perhaps nothing raised emotions than the Kwekwe inquest which kicked of last Tuesday. After a PHD all-night prayer meeting last November, eleven people died and 43 others were left injured in a stampede. PHD leader Walter Magaya, members of the police and Kwekwe city council officials, are expected to appear before a Kwekwe resident magistrate to give their version of events on the fateful night on November 28. A local daily was blasted by Magaya’s followers for covering the issue extensively and for ‘having an agenda to pull him down.’
It’s crucial that the public is aware of the role of the media and analysts; there is absolutely no crime with media covering an inquest on the death of eleven souls. That is a matter of national interest. There is no crime in social commentators giving their take on such a matter. It is quite disturbing that, given Zimbabwe’s high literacy rate, quite a number do not have an idea what an inquest is to the extent of using expletives against journalists merely doing their work.
An inquest, far from the wild accusations, is simply an investigation into what took place including reports, post mortem results from doctors and witnesses’ accounts; it serves to bring out truth and, where necessary, serve justice to the deceased and their families and surely if this offends someone, little can be done to their frail egos. I see no reason for threats against newspapers simply carrying out their mandate. Prophets followers are all too happy when the good deeds of their leaders are reported but turn caustic when the other side is reported.
It does not matter the high sounding titles they have bestowed upon their church leaders; whether they call them, ‘holy man of God’, ‘anointed one’ or ‘another god’ that should not, by any inch, scare journalists and analysts into delving in matters of public interest involving them. If they should do well it gladly should make the news and also if they should fall spectacularly from grace, the media and analysts cannot be blamed for reporting or writing.
Again, I repeat, it is better that offence be caused than for the truth to be denied.
Learnmore Zuze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org