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Afrophobia: Media must report responsibly, experts say

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‘…Africans must stop fighting each other’

JOURNALISTS must be informed enough to report responsibly to end Afrophobia that is more pronounced in South Africa where poor Africans are at war against each other leading to needless killings, experts have said.

MOSES MATENGA

Speaking during the University of Zimbabwe inaugural annual conference on media against phobias, Professor Ibbo Mandaza said the media must also be independent in reporting Afrophobia and xenophobia, adding that the killing in cold blood of Zimbabwean Elvis Nyathi while others were cheering and jeering was horrific and should have no place in society.

Nyathi was killed by a mob in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, on 7 April 2022, allegedly by a group of attackers who have since appeared in court.

“On Afrophobia, the hate of other Africans, the media has not been useful in that regard,” Mandaza said.

“One thing was the state in which Nyathi was stoned, burnt and killed in the presence of people who were jeering on. Imagine cheering and jeering while another man is being killed, that is horrific,” he said.

“The media did not do enough especially in South Africa to highlight the issue maybe because the individual killed was from another country. The media must explain why Afrophobia is so much pronounced in South Africa. Why?”

He said Afrophobia was class based as it was glaring in poor suburbs and not in affluent environs like Sandton and other places.

Mandaza said Zimbabweans who fled the country’s poverty and toxic politics including Gukurahundi in the 1980s and Operation codenamed Murambatsvina in 2005 were part of the people now under siege in South Africa and have become exposed to xenophobic attacks.

“No African should be a foreigner in Africa. For example, why do other Africans need a visa to go to other African countries?”

Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef) chairperson and The NewsHawks Managing Editor Dumisani Muleya said the media should change its framing of stories to do with foreigners, particularly in neighbouring South Africa.

“The stories on foreigners in South Africa are always packaged around the issue of numbers, the influx of foreigners, flooding of foreigners all over the place,” he said.

“The media needs to be informed and free to talk of these phobias. It has to be free, free in terms of ownership and its independence.”

Muleya added: “The way it is reported, it often lacks context. The media should not fuel hate like what the public media did during Gukurahundi where they were part of it. It also happened during the days of the late former president Robert Mugabe when he described gays and lesbians as worse than pigs and dogs. The media ran with it. Was it helpful?”

He said the fights in South Africa were mainly poor people targeting each other.

“It’s poor people against each other. In Sandton you can even leave your phone and nothing happens. Just across the road, go to Gomorrah there, it will be a different story.”

“It shows that there are deep social structural issues that have set those poor people against each other. The media has not really in that regard been helpful to explain that. Why is that the case? Why do we see eruption of xenophobia in poor suburbs in South Africa not within suburbs?”

Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu said the media must also be protected so that they report fearlessly on phobias.

“The media is friends to none but the truth and enemy to disinformation. The question is, is the media safe in telling the Afrophobia or xenophobia story?” he asked.

Academic and senior media lecturer Nhamo Mhiripiri said there was nothing wrong with the media taking sides in a responsible manner that protects people.

“If you get a journalist with a conscience, there is nothing wrong with taking sides. Ethics have everything to do with conscience, what is wrong and what is right,” he said.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) executive director Loughty Dube said the media should be knowledgeable in covering phobias.

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