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The limits of propaganda



THE whole of last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his cabinet ministers were endlessly boasting that Zimbabwe had successfully attained food security.

But barely three months into 2024, hunger and poverty are pain[1]fully exposing the absurdity of threadbare propaganda. Just this past week, we reported that Zimbabwe ranks 146 out of a total of 191 countries on the Human Development Index, while 61% of children are wallowing in grinding multidimensional poverty.

 According to Unicef’s 2023 annual report, the worst affected communities are in rural areas, high-density suburbs and peri-urban informal settlements. Poverty has reached catastrophic levels. Wherever you look, it hits you in the face at every turn.

Visit any hospital today and hear the anguished cries of patients who cannot afford basic medicines. Go to any college these days and see how poverty has soiled the dignity of students, forcing them into a life of fornication and crime.

Enter any supermarket and quietly observe how the sullen-faced shoppers are forced to abandon basic foodstuffs at pay points after failing to fork out the required money. Do we still have leaders in this country? Do they know the price of mealie-meal?

The human development indicators show that the problems are legion: economic instability, political unrest, corruption, and lack of investment in health and education. These factors have created a perfect storm that hinders Zimbabweans from experiencing a dignified life.

There are no social safety nets, universal medical aid and jobs. At any given moment, the average citizen is just one accident or one illness away from utter disaster.

Falling seriously ill — to anyone without medical insurance or savings — can be tantamount to a death sentence.

A road traffic accident can plunge you into financial ruin or even death. This is not a normal society. While the government claims to be implementing some poverty alleviation programmes, there are widespread concerns about their effectiveness and reach.

Many analysts correctly argue that these initiatives lack transparency, suffer from corruption, and fail to adequately address the root causes of poverty in the country.

How many heart-rending videos have gone viral after laying bare the horrific hardships faced by neglected children, orphans or the elderly?

 Pensions have been repeatedly decimated by chronic high inflation, policy inconsistency and corruption-induced poverty.

 Ultimately, the government must take greater responsibility for addressing the systemic issues that are perpetuating poverty. Sustainable solutions are needed to promote inclusive growth and development for all Zimbabweans.

Propaganda can play a significant role in statecraft, as it is often used by governments to shape public opinion, influence decision-making, and maintain control over the population.

However, the Zimbabwean government’s heavy reliance on propaganda is indeed problematic, especially when it is used to distort reality or distract from pressing issues such as untold hunger and poverty.

While propaganda may be effective in influencing perceptions and maintaining political power, it can also undermine trust in state institutions and erode the credibility of official information.

 When the authorities use propaganda to mask or downplay socio-economic problems such as hunger and poverty, they create a disconnect between the official narrative and the lived experiences of the wretched masses.

The credibility gap is often astounding. Ultimately, the best way to assess people’s livelihoods and well-be[1]ing is through transparent and objective measures that reflect the reality on the ground. Hunger and poverty are endemic.

Mnangagwa cannot continue claiming that Zimbabwe has attained food security.

Quality of life indicators, such as access to healthcare, education, housing, and basic necessities like food and water, provide a more accurate reflection of the standard of living than propaganda-driven narratives. El Niño’s raging fury is a stark reminder of this brutal reality.

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