By Trevor Shiri
…dilemma action & agenda setting at play
The confusionist approach that has been deployed by the MDC Alliance, using the dilemma action strategy and agenda setting, is a futile attempt to divert attention from the deepening cracks in that party and to distract Government from focussing on the fight against COVID-19 and keeping the economy ticking.
The past few days have made me realise that agenda setting is real. During my journalism training, it was a theory that was taught. It was used to explain narratives, prisms, boxes, frames that we find in the media. For the uninitiated, the theory was propounded by Max McCombs and Donald Shaw in a study on the 1968 American presidential election. The scholars compared what voters in America thought was the most salient election issue and what the media reported as the most salient issue. The two sought to define the relationship between the media and the audience. They noted that basically, the media has no power to tell audiences what to think, but is crucial in influencing what they should think about.
The media points to salience. It sifts, shapes and excludes. It builds focus. It sets an agenda. It does not tell people what to think, but influences what they think about. Events in the country in the past few days bear testimony and the lived reality of the assumptions of this theory.
The country has been firmly focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic, with the media setting the agenda on this deadly disease. Discussions have been on effective responses to tame the disease and the spread of the Coronavirus. Similarly, the media set the agenda on the infighting in the MDC family, with debates surrounding constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law, and on the other hand, populism and sycophancy. The MDC family is at war with itself. It is imploding. The Western-sponsored project is crumbling. Its founding ethos anchored on democracy is in tatters. The centre can no longer hold. Nelson Chamisa is flummoxed and is unsure how to respond to the Supreme Court judgement. He is lost, serve for the meaningless angry rantings from Tendai Biti and Charlton Hwende.
Enter Jonathan Moyo. He spells out a two-pronged strategy. Initiate the dilemma action strategy through civil disobedience and a diplomatic offensive. The MDC-A has attended numerous Western-sponsored regime-change seminars, where the dilemma action strategy has been hammered on ad-infinitum. The strategy involves disrupting Government focus on salient, important issues by creating numerous fire storms. In this case, COVID-19.
Social media was the vehicle to roll out the evil strategy. Stage an abduction of female activists during lockdown. Break COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Provoke State Security Services. Blame abduction on State agents. Miraculously find the abducted. Western embassies are tagged left right and centre. The African Union (AU) and SADC are deliberately not tagged. The neo-colonial project knows its owners. Western embassies join the band wagon. Western-sponsored human rights organisations and civil society organisations issue stern statements. The agenda has been set. Instead of talking about COVID-19 and the dearth of democracy in the main opposition party, the MDC, suddenly the nation is focussed on the fake abductions.
The dilemma action strategy is in motion. Government is now on the back foot. It is distracted from fighting COVID-19. It now has to contend with distancing itself from the staged abduction. It has to respond to rogue diplomatic missions siding with the fake artists. Suddenly, the narrative is no longer about the wanton disregard of lockdown regulations by a whole legislator, Joanna Mamombe, amid rising prevalence of the disease in the country.
While Government is still processing this sudden change of media atmospherics, boom, MDC Alliance Secretary for External Affairs, Gladys Hlatshwayo, takes the fight on the fake abduction to the United Nations (UN). The diplomatic offensive is taken a notch higher. She calls on the UN Special Rappoteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Nilz Mezer, to send an international probe team to investigate the Mamombe et al fake abduction.
Hlatshwayo even resurrects previous fake abductions that hit the headlines a few months back, claiming they were never investigated and the perpetrators never brought to book. It is perplexing that Hlatshwayo expects the authorities to find perpetrators of crimes that never happened. The culprits are the MDC itself.
In fact, it is disingenuous of the opposition. The Police recently arrested six (6) rogue Police officers who brutally beat up two (2) Bulawayo women for breaking lock-down regulations. They have since appeared in court, while the ZRP has simultaneously instituted internal disciplinary proceedings against them.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been too accommodating and tolerant. These toxic divisive pranksters should be dealt with decisively. A law criminalising fake abductions that bring international disrepute to the country should be formulated urgently and applied on this treasonous lot.
The diplomatic offensive suggested by Moyo and being implemented by the MDC is deadly and fundamentally aimed at discrediting the New Dispensation and scuttling foreign funding in the fight against COVID-19, as well as the country’s re-engagement efforts to unlock development funds and investment. Government, instead of focussing on the pandemic, it is now forced to fight the MDC’s man-made drama.
The authorities should follow through with the arrest of the MDC-A youths who broke down the lockdown regulations. The law must be seen to be applied without fear or favour. In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended and docked the salary of a Minister who broke down lockdown regulations.
Mamombe et al should be punished for their highly irresponsible disregard for the lockdown restrictions. For her, as a legislator she ought to behave more responsibly as a whole constituency looks up to her for leadership in the fight against COVID-19. Moreso, she is a role model for young girls. Right now she is a rogue legislator. A breaker of the law, who is faking abductions and specialising in circulating sordid degrading nude pictures all to justify alleged torture.
While Mamombe et al are being objectified and used by cowardly male MDC leaders as political objects, and more cunningly, as sexual objects, the ladies’ moral campus is brought into sharp focus. Why take pictures of breasts and torsos with no visible marks of any torture, serve to be pornographic? What is lost on Mamombe is that she and the other ladies are victims of inhuman and degrading treatment from the MDC-A male leaders. These pictures will circulate till the end of time. Their children and grandchildren will see them. What is worse, given the history of splits and counter-splits in the MDC family, Mamombe and friends will find themselves out of favour after having undergone all this to please Chamisa.