“Don’t take any notice of what I say. Watch what I do.” This is a famous Mugabe quote, which was perhaps reassuring in the early days of Independence, when life somehow carried on without too much turmoil, despite the fiery political speeches, but in recent years the opposite has come to be true: “Don’t watch what we are doing. Just listen to what we say.”
Now that the so-called public media have been officially ordered to promote Zanu-PF and to avoid all positive coverage of the opposition, almost the entire nation is restricted to hearing only what Zanu PF wants us to hear. This is because most Zimbabweans only have access to the state media, not short-wave radio or satellite TV or even the limited-circulation Independent and Standard.
It is imperative that we ordinary Zimbabweans quickly find a strategy to counter the onslaught of Zanu PF propaganda in order to retain our freedom of thought. Yet without an alternative source of information, how can we do this? The answer is to manipulate their language, just like they are trying to manipulate our minds! So we adopt opposite language and interpret everything accordingly. It can work amazingly well and we can have a good laugh at the same time, quite often.
For example, Robert Mugabe says: “MDC are puppets of Bush and Blair.” In opposite language we can either interpret this: “MDC are Not puppets of Bush and Blair” or “Bush and Blair are MDC puppets” or “Zanu PF are puppets of China and Cuba”.
Let’s try another one. “Zanu-PF is the people’s party”. Opposite language makes it: “Zanu PF is not the people’s party” or “Zanu PF is the chefs’ party” or “MDC is the people’s party”.
On the news, the presenter announces: “President Robert Mugabe addressed a large crowd at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, where he castigated Morgan Tsvangirai for imposing sanctions on the country, and declared that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.” The opposite language interpretation makes it: “President Robert Mugabe addressed an empty stadium at Kuvanhu Primary School in the middle of nowhere, where he praised Morgan Tsvangirai for imposing sanctions on the country, and declared that Zimbabwe is always ready to be a colony again in terms of the Look East policy”.
Try it with public media news over the next couple of days. You will be amazed how insightful opposite language can be, and how much power you suddenly find you have over your own thoughts.
The important thing is to make a deliberate effort to keep our minds free of this unconstitutional and insidious state control, and to be aware that we can choose what to think, despite everything!
lTrudy Stevenson is former MP for Harare North.