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Zimbabwe’s state-controlled public media and the mediation of the 1980s genocide 30 years on

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Since the end of genocide in 1987 Zimbabwe has remained a zone of ‘conflicts’, and the enduring debates surrounding this genocide, especially in public-owned but state-controlled media, call for critical attention. Three years after independence, in 1980, Zimbabwe was plunged into a genocide named ‘Gukurahundi’ (meaning the rain that washes the chaff away after harvest) that lasted until 1987. This article argues that there has been a clash of ‘interests’ playing out in the mediation of this yet-to-be-officially addressed genocide. Through evidence from public-owned media, the media that carry the official voice of the ruling party, I argue that public media have seen genocide from conflicting and complex angles, making it difficult to reach a consensus suitable for national building based on genocide truths, meanings and effects to Zimbabweans. I specifically use the Unity Accord-associated holiday, the Unity Day, and its associated debates to pursue two arguments. First, public media have played an ambiguous role in appreciating the conflictual and multipronged nature of the genocide within ZANU-PF. Second, public media have largely been supportive of, and even complicit in, official silences on genocide debates and memory. The article uses public sphere and narrative analysis as frameworks for understanding the operations of public media journalism in the mediation of genocide nearly 30 years after its occurrence.
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Keywords: Zimbabwe; genocide; national identity; official silence; public media; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Johannesburg

Publication date: June 1, 2016

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