No more business as usual for you social media liars

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There is no better combination in a journalist than possessing both intelligence and objectivity in equal measure, particularly so in this knowledge-based world where information and misinformation is communicated in realtime and on an industrial scale.

By Conway Tutani

Well, Hopewell Chino’no, one of the best and brightest minds in Zimbabwe, fits the bill. You can be so intelligent and so objective that some people will completely miss that and misunderstand you, especially those who fall into the category of fanaticism — and fanatics include degreed people. Not only that: Some fellow intellectuals will be so consumed by envy of you that they will resort to dirty attacks to destroy your reputation. Yes, terrorists are found at every level of society. Some people lose sense to professional jealousy. They are so small in professional stature compared to Chin’ono. They remind one, for instance, of a South African street sweeper complaining that a Zimbabwean medical doctor has taken his job. They are just not in the same league with Chin’ono.

But Chino’no struck back when one such apparently jealousy-consumed intellectual crossed the line. Posted Chino’no in an opening salvo — giving a promise, not a threat — to his stalker: “There are nasty human beings out there. There is a Zimbabwean who has falsely published on Twitter that I am @matigari and went on to try and stigmatise me as a psychiatric patient. I have had to get British law enforcement’s Thames Valley Police and Oxford County Council involved in order to put an end to these baseless attacks. My lawyers will be following up with a lawsuit. I am doing this to show people that they can’t say nasty, cruel falsehoods and get away with it simply because they are in another territory . . . This man is so cruel that he is willing to put me and my family in harm’s way by lying that I am behind a spoof social media account.”

Well, Chino’no lived up to his promise and within a day, the culprit, one Chofamba Sithole, tail between his legs, outed himself to suffer the indignity and humiliation of offering a profuse apology in realtime in front of a global audience which went thus: “Chofamba@chofamba: Pple, I do not have concrete evidence that can stand up in a court of law to prove Hopewell Chin’ono is @matigary, so legally I’m obliged to withdraw my mention of him & I’ve deleted the tweet. Apologies to you @daddyhope @CatrionaLaing1”

Chin’ono equally points out blunders and setbacks within both Zanu PF and MDC-T without fear or favour. For instance, no one is saying that everything MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa says is a lie, but why shouldn’t we say he has lied when he has lied? But, of course, we should challenge such lies professionally. We should stick to what we know is the truth. To me, Chin’ono is simply Zimbabwe’s best journalist in terms of professionalism while many others are like those football coaches who turn a blind eye to the fouls and hooliganism of their players and supporters.

But I need to make an exception that there is one person, Madinda Ndlovu, who is the equivalent of Chino’no in sport. Last week, a local daily reported: “The Premier Soccer League has praised Highlanders technical manager Madinda Ndlovu after he publicly dressed down Bosso hooligans two weeks ago.” Ndlovu had said this in the aftermath of a drawn game after a hooligan element among the club’s fans attacked Yadah FC supporters: “I am one person who really does not condone the behaviour that came out of the terraces. I believe we are a team that should win or lose with dignity. We should really keep our dignity and we should accept defeat. If we are not playing well, we should go back to the drawing board and work on what our objectives are with this project. But what happened on the terraces, I am really one person who does not condone that.”

As one can see, Ndlovu was neither ambiguous nor equivocal about violence. He called a spade a spade. He called Highlanders supporters to order without fear or favour. This resonates with what Chin’ono wrote this week regarding Sithole: “Compatriots, we should learn to argue and discuss with respect and dignity and not lower ourselves into the gutter.”

I am not a Bosso supporter, but I cannot help but notice that Ndlovu’s intelligence, maturity and professionalism is beginning to rub off on the players as they have no more distractions from the terraces making them focus on the game. Likewise, Chino’no — through his objectivity and intellectual integrity — has been trying to focus the nation on pragmatism in view of the many deep-rooted problems besetting Zimbabwe. A pragmatic approach entails solving problems in a sober and sensible way that suits the conditions that really exist now rather than obeying fixed textbook theories, ideas or rules.

It is best that people like Chin’ono and Ndlovu can complement each other from far by not pandering to extremities, excesses and ignorance.

The forthright Chino’no also pointed out this: “There is also a group of journalists going around seeking favours from politicians in exchange for lies. They should stop this or we will now expose them. You are meant to hold politicians to account, not to go in their pockets. These things will come out because politicians talk.”
That’s true. Readers, to give you an example, some of the polarising toxic stuff you are seeing in the media is contrived to mislead you and the manipulative hand of Jonathan Moyo is reaching Zimbabwean soil from far-away Kenya. That’s how some of us are being indirectly made to get angry on behalf of Moyo. If Moyo can influence events in defiance of geographical boundaries, what more about politicians from all parties domiciled here in Zimbabwe who wine and dine with some journalists? Is it any wonder then that the credibility of the media is currently at its lowest globally? But that should not deter you, Chino’no, from exposing them if they carry on doing that.

Back to Sithole, Chino’no continued: “It is inconceivable that a man who claims to be educated as he does in his tweets would call me a former psychiatric patient simply because I have made a film addressing stigma against mentally ill patients. This man has been posting scurrilous gossip about me on twitter for weeks, I have NO idea why he is so obsessed with me.

“After what happened to me, I am willing to use my money to help anyone bring to court anybody who behaves in this way. Social media is not a jungle; it is guided by laws.”

Well, I have also been at the receiving end of defamatory, stupid and ignorant insults from, among others, one stalker called Shishma Shymyeyey Jindwi — who can be deemed half-educated in comparison to Sithole — saying I am on so-and-so’s payroll. But I want to tell Jindwi and his ilk here and now that ignorance is no defence at law and I am coming straight at them — with or without Chino’ono’s money — if they do not cease and desist. It’s a promise, not a threat.

Social media liars, you better get it straight that it’s no more business as usual for you — ask Chofamba Sithole.

lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com