Zimbabwe’s image problem: Facebook caning linked to human rights abuse

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Zimbabwe clearly has an image problem. When we posted a note on Monday about the caning sentence for a Chiredzi boy who ‘slandered’ a local woman on Facebook, we sincerely thought two cane strokes was not a big deal. Really. For us the important thing was that someone had managed to get some kind of assistance from the law for having their image tarnished on Facebook.

International journos and bloggers had a different take it. The case was liked to human rights abuses.

Large US media company ABC News for example says in a story they posted on the case:

Caning is a common judicial punishment in Zimbabwe for boys under the age of 18.  It is also frequently used as a discipline method in schools.  The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Human Rights R0065port on Zimbabwe noted there were numerous reported cases of children suffering severe injuries from corporal punishment at school.

Another site, New York Daily news, has a picture of a man being caned in the story. Anyone that knows a bit about Zimbabwe knows the photo has little to do with the country.

A Houston news site, News92FM, repeated the same human rights abuses line by ABC News. All these articles are showing prominently in Google News searches for the story.

To be fair, some Zimbabwe news sites did much worse reporting on the matter, preferring to twist the facts and make the sentence look ridiculously severe. Take this article by Radio VOP for example that says the boy will spend the next two months in prison. It’s just blatantly incorrect and you wonder why they had to lie about it.

The journalist chose to not even mention that a two months prison was wholly suspended on the condition that the boy receives the two cane strokes. Another internet news site NewsDzeZimbabwe just regurgitated the Radio VOP article.

Aren’t we our own enemies? No wonder they have all these horrible perceptions about us internationally.

What do you think? This is a human rights issue?

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  • Optimus Prime

    “Aren’t we our own enemies?” We most certainly are.
    How many times do you see Zimbos themselves, on social media, regurgitate the same banal prejudice that Western media have on Zim? Other day, a friend posted a link on twitter to an article claiming that, next to Somalia, Zim was one of Africa’s failed states. He was agreeing with it, maybe because he thinks it validates his political leanings.

    Now, we can argue about politics and stuff, but we should be looking beyond political parties and individuals. It will take a generation for us to recover on image. At the core of it, truth is there’s a lot of exaggeration out there, and Zimbos, on twitter, FB, etc, are aiding it.

  • Anonymous

    Thats how it goes Africans are too folish to go around preaching of the bad things in their lives. Journos preaching these things in are id__ .

    Busy kufugura chakafukidza imba yako.

  • http://www.3-mob.com Three Men On A Boat

    It is sad… we are are our greatest haters… We go out and sell each other down the river

  • Chaka

    Unfortunate. Perception becomes reality when the big boys have a word to say.

  • taf

    Canning happens in developed places like Singapore for instance. They even go to the extent of canning foreigners for crimes committed in that country. You don’t see them plastered all over the news for human rights abuse. 

    IMO, the problem here is really media sensationalism. The more bizarre the story, the better it will sell. Period. We find that all over the world – locally or otherwise. That said, we can only start building positive impressions of our country when we as Zimbabweans feel good about who we are and where we come from. At the moment I don’t feel like a lot of us are in this frame of mind and understandably so. The way I see it, people lash out on social media against their own country as a cry for help from the rest of the world. Hanzi imbwa kuzvarira pane vanhu…  Are the (sometimes exaggerated) rants and outbursts justified? – I think so. Do they help? – To some extent because they are meant to put pressure on our leaders to turn things around. Are they effective? – Probably not. Do I personally condone this behavior? – Absolutely not. Should people keep engaging in this self-demeaning behavior on the internet? Heavens no. we’d be better off focusing our energies on fixing the fundamental issues that we have as a nation.My point here is, rather than worry about what other people say/ think about us OR rather than force ourselves to be content with being part of country that has clearly seen better days; why don’t we focus on moving things internally so that we feel good about ourselves? There’s a lot of work needed to achieve this but I guarantee you that once that’s achieved and we’re all happy and proud to be Zimbabwean, this same attitude will automatically project to the outside world. All this negativity (both internal and external) will dissolve on its own. 

    To answer the writer’s question, yes we are our own enemies. Not in the sense that we propagate negative news about our country but rather because we spend lots of useful time raising our voices and making our thoughts heard on things that don’t matter. Discuss the important issues and work on improving the crucial problems and see things turn for the better. We shouldn’t be worrying about what the west thinks about us, but rather, what we think about ourselves. Pafungei.

  • Chirau

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, one wonders  if free will extends to getting away with falsehoods and tarnishing another persons image let alone without prior consent and expect absolutely nothing to happen. It’s not realistic, we don’t live in a society where a lawsuit and a hefty compensation would have been an option, getting caned is a reasonable way of saying don’t do it again, I think what would have been worse is getting the FB account deactivated and being barred from using social media for the foreseeable future, clearly such an extreme has not been reached yet.

    Nobody wants to be ridiculed or offended why should some be allowed to get away with that sort of offense, poor and biased reporting at the end of the day sadly this is not the first occasion where a “teenager” has gone out of the norm and the law has come down on them, even in the UK it has occurred but with no cry over human rights.

    I doubt Zimbabwe has come to that where Facebook is leverage to argue human rights abuses.

  • anon

    Canning is a form of dicipline that i and most zimbabweans associate with images such as a kid getting a hiding over his mothers lap. That’s why it’s a punishment for kids under the age of 18. I cannot comprehend how this image i have in my head could be warped into a human rights issue… how incredibly sensitive of western world!

  • Learn Without Fear Campaigner

    Child Rights Activists will beg to differ with all of you guys. I still feel there are better ways of disciplining a kid rather than canning! You should visit some remote school out there and see how afraid the pupils are when a certain teacher walks in a class! Gone are the days where parents and teachers would needlessly beat up the minors and its high time the law makers have a re-look on this legislation! The publication was amplified of course but I am not amused at all!

  • Anonymous

    Yes Zimbabaweans, especially the so called Human Rights activists, are Zimbabwe’s worst enemies.

    Who indeed among Zimbabweans doesn’t know that we value decency, in speech and deed. For a boy of 16 years to call someone a prostitute, is deeply offensive. Two stroke of caning is light punishment. In the traditional setting he could have been taken before the Chief’s court and his family could have been fined, probably a beast which would have been far more expensive for the family.

    Now tell me how do the US court treat young offenders!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/instantmoyo Instant Moyo

    Canning this stupid boy was the only punishment available to the magistrate. If the boy had been sent to ail, even for a few days, he would by now have had HIV from activities too obvious to mention. He needed to know that what he did was wrong and that he should not think to do it again. 

    Those who object should suggest better methods of dealing with cases like this. Its not enough to look at countries such as the UK where wrong is treated as right and young people are busy knifing each other and abusing teachers, priest and elderly people, knowing the government will do nothing about it. 

    we are not our own enemies as such. We just have stupid leaders at the top. Some in the judiciary, like this magistrate, are still upholding the law. 

  • Petros Ruwocha

     Well said, taf. May I add that the real problem lies with mental colonisation that has yet to be exorcised from Zimbos. This is where our political leaders are a miserable failure. Zimbos need a leaf or 2 from Zambians. They have self-esteem – results are there for everyone to see, from elections to winning AFCON cup!

    Zimbos would rather snatch the ball from one who is ready to score for the team. They only put themselves first and don’t care about the next person: look at the politicians, how they are corrupt across the political divide: their leaders are no better or they would have dealt with the scourge!

  • Tondi

    For someone to use the social media to tarnish someone’s image is bad, we have groups especially in the Lowveld chiredzi which have destroyed families because of the stories they carry…viva with the canning the sentences must be much tougher going forward.

  • taf

    Couldn’t have said it better, Petros!

    We do have esteem issues arising from mental colonization and they are at the heart of ALL our problems – questionable leadership choices, inability to stand up to current leadership and have our thoughts and wishes heard, lack of productivity, lack of innovation, lack of support for homegrown initiatives – you name it.

    If we deal with our self esteem issues, we’re home and dry.

  • Naj

    The solution is simple, if anything goes viral we really cannot contain it, the best we can do is participate and commment on all those posts being put up. if we remain dark(not saying anything on the net) then people will just gubble watever is being feed to them without a single doubt. Our internet voice is still very weak if not in some instances non existent at all, but we have access to internet, sometimes i think all most zim people know of the net is facebook. Do your part, ama start foolowing up all those posts and giving them the real the real story.

  • Optimus Prime

    Well played Naj!
    I sometimes read the comments under Zim stories on world media, and it would be funny if it wasn’t tragic. Like this comment on Yahoo, under the Facebook caning story: “I didnt even know they had internet in Zimbabwe…I thought they were poor!”.
    Go figure!

  • Kzimuto

    we must comment most, if not all the issues that are put up on the internet. Thus how best we can advice and construct each other. The one who needs advice will then safe and adopt the right info from the comments that comes through.

  • Freedom0926

    I like both comment but I would like to share with you Violation of Human Rights in USA as well and compare the two cases.Read Below.
    VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL LIBERTIES OF HUNDREDS OF AMERICANS*  USA government, the mayor of New York Bloomberg and commissionerKelly  cooperating with the Department of Justice and authorizingviolate the civil liberties of hundreds of American. They put themunder domesticsurveillance including bedrooms and bathrooms and CONNECT them tomillions of citizens in New York!!!!!!!!!!!! They prevented them fromeven the fundamental freedom.* The USA government conduct es a violation of the civil liberties ofAmericans. They spy on them and make daily ANNOUNCEMENTS and rumors through theAmerican resident’s phones. They tell everybody about the very personallife of hundreds of American including the sexual profile!!!!Furthermore; they authorize MAKING sexual harassments and invasion ofprivacy for hundreds of Americans for no causes except” entertainmentgoals”!* The USA is violating the civil liberties not for any reason belongsto crimes or safety. They open there personal profile to the publicand prevent them from having any lawyer* The USA government ordered the media including the Human Rightsorganizations, United Nation, and even Wiki leaks; not to publish anynews criticizing those abusive incidents against the humanity.* American Government is violating the public funds of the country as well inthis bad economy (corruption cases); and spent the money on violatingHuman Rights!!!PLEASE e mail me on freedom0962@gmail for details. LET’S publish thisand SHOW the WORLD what is happening in America in the time of thespring Arab Revolutions!! 

  • Shehab Lina

    This is unbeleivable.Human Rights in USA is declining!!!!
    How could any crazy agency does that to people!