The danger of a single story

Mercy Kanda

In her 2013 Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk, prolific writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns against the danger of a single story, a scourge which seems to be haunting Zimbabwe's ruling party.

Chimamanda talks about how it is impossible to talk about a single story without talking about power.

"Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of Nkale (to be greater than another). How they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, is really dependent on power. Power is the ability not to tell the story of one person but to make it the definitive story of that person.

"The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. The consequence is that it robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of equal humanity difficulty. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar," Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Zanu Pf has been accused of the most gruesome atrocities entailing murder, kidnappings, harassment and many other human rights violations one can think of such that the name Zanu Pf has become synonymous with the above.

In as much as western media is responsible for tarnishing our country’s image, we are also not innocent in this malicious attack on our beloved Zimbabwe.

When Moreblessing Ali was abducted, Zanu Pf was blamed and even the international community was up in arms, telling the President that if he was serious about engagement, he was supposed to put a stop to the political violence in Zimbabwe. When Mbongeni Ncube was killed, Zanu Pf was also blamed, yet it was an in-house clash amongst the Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) members which caused his death. Hence, Zanu Pf has been reduced to a party of scoundrels, of killers and abductors, because of people who create false narratives and run with them.

Chimamanda goes on to say, "Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and malign. But stories can also be used to empower and humanise. Stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity".

Zimbabwe’s dignity has been injured by people who choose to tell the single false story about Zanu Pf and Zimbabwe at large. I remember my university lecturer telling us in class how she would be bombarded by questions of how she survived in Zimbabwe, a country riddled by so much political violence. What we say about our own country just to spite government and gain political mileage crosses borders like wildfire and that becomes the single story about Zimbabwe. Our country is put in a box and labeled ‘undemocratic’ thereby cementing stereotypes. That’s the danger of a single story.

Why don't we then as Zimbabweans put the above into practice and use stories to repair and build rather than break our nation's dignity by continuously peddling lies about the ruling Party. Why not use our voices to tell the true Zimbabwean story about how Government is making strides to make Zimbabwe an Upper Middle Income Economy by 2030, rather than spreading lies and yearning for the Rhodesian era, a move that gives our former colony and her allies energy to desire the reverse of the gains of our independence.

Why not use our voices to advertise Zimbabwe and showcase her beauty so that we can draw in investors, rather than concocting abductions, inciting violence and carrying out acts of violence, a move which actually scares away investors.

“When we reject the single story, when we realize that there never is a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise,” says Chimamanda.