Georgina Guedes

Mugabe gives us all a little comic relief

2015-02-05 13:00

Georgina Guedes

The “Mugabe falls down” media storm is my new favourite news story ever.

Of course, the media is hopping all over it because we are unanimously baffled by Mugabe’s appointment as chairman of the Southern African Development Community, which places him as the leading contender to be declared King of All Africa next year.

Sometimes it feels like the only good stuff we do in Africa is by accident. Because when we do stuff on purpose, we elect raging lunatic human rights abusers to run the continent.

So, that being the general temperature of the media’s reaction to Mugabe’s new position (seriously, how?), we were in need of a bit of comic relief. And Mugabe provided it by taking a tumble on the red carpet upon his return to Harare.

But that was only the beginning of the fun. In a display of a staggering lack of understanding of How Things Work, his handlers, spokespeople and mouthpiece media tried to make the story go away by insisting that it’s not a story.

Crisis management 101

The first step that they took to blow the news out of all reasonable proportion was to force some members of the press to delete their photos of the president on his hands and knees, immediately doubling the value of everyone else’s photos.

Then, when those photos hit the newsstands, the Herald, Mugabe’s government’s own newspaper pulled the whole “blame everyone else” trick. The paper said that the red carpet was “poorly laid”. Some carpet-layer is going to be shot at dawn in a further attempt to prove veracity.

Then, they came up with this gem, “Remarkably, the president broke his fall and landed on his knees.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but in my understanding, landing on your hands and knees is falling. You don’t break your fall by falling. And we’re required to think that he’s remarkable for this acrobatic feat.

It never happened

But then, and this is the really juicy part, his Information Minister Jonathan Moyo came out with a bundle of contradictory statements denying that the whole thing took place.

“Nobody has shown evidence of the president having fallen down because that did not happen.”

Er, yes we do. The photos are all over everywhere!

Then this: “The hump on which the president tripped was formed by two pieces of carpet which apparently had not been laid out properly.”

So he did trip?

And then, the best part of all: “To be honest with you, even Jesus, let alone you, would also have tripped in that kind of situation,”

Really, it’s just too much. The president fell down, so we’re going to deny it, blame someone for the thing that didn’t happen and then compare the president to Jesus. Good job, communications team!

Acknowledge and move on

You know how they could have handled it to make it go away as quickly as possible? “Yes, the president fell down. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt. Next question?”

So thank you to President Mugabe and his communications team for the laughs. With all the gloomy news we’ve been having, we needed a bit of a pick-me-up. I’m looking forward to your future coverage of the emperor’s new clothes to further the ends of media relations transparency.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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