Your humble author: less dangerous than African-American trade unionists

It’s too easy to pick apart the biased, inaccurate coverage of Zimbabwean state media. But there’s the occasional story so absurdly deceptive that it makes it worthwhile to shoot a few fish in barrels.

Let’s begin with the opening paragraph of a story from yesterday’s Zimbabwe Herald:

AN attempt by the United States government to play up the flopped Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) mass action hit a snag yesterday, when a five-member delegation from the US-based rightwing Coalition of Black Trade Unions (CBTU) was promptly deported after touching down at Harare International Airport yesterday afternoon.

I admit that I don’t understand much about the Bush administration foreign policy and that Condoleeza Rice rarely consults with me on matters of African policy, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that the US government isn’t spending too much time trying to undermine the Mugabe regime. If they were, it’s hard to believe they’d choose the Coalition of Black Trade Unions as their actor abroad. A member organization in the AFL-CIO, it’s hard to imagine what planet they’d be considered “rightwing” on.

Most of the coverage I can find on CBTU is in that noted rightwing paper, “The People’s Weekly Word“, which describes itself as follows:

The PWW is known for its partisan coverage. We take sides — for truth and justice. We are partisan to the working class, racially and nationally oppressed peoples, women, youth, seniors, international solidarity, Marxism and socialism. We enjoy a special relationship with the Communist Party USA, founded in 1919, and publish its news and views.

Just so you understand where they’re coming from. They reported a speech by Bill Lucy – CBTU’s president, and the leader of the banned delegation – in an article titled “CBTU Calls for Bush Defeat“, there Lucy outlined CBTU’s feelings about the Bush administration:

Lucy condemned the Iraq war as a “weapon of mass distraction – a distraction from the failed economic policies that devastated American families; a distraction from the fact that 2.4 million jobs have been lost in the last 29 months.”

To repeated and enthusiastic applause, Lucy also criticized Bush’s handling of the national debt; attacks on affirmative action; tax breaks for the rich; attacks on civil liberties; and efforts to stack the courts with right-wing, racist ideologues. Lucy condemned what he called the “unchecked immorality of Corporate America,” aided and abetted by the Bush administration.

In a more recent speech (May 26,2006) reported on the AFL-CIO weblog, Lucy’s tone was pretty similar:

The failed policies of this administration are visible in every segment of our lives—jobs, education, health care, economic development, pensions and retirement security, Social Security, prescription drugs, trade, immigration. Unemployment is up and wages have been stagnant since 2001, forcing desperate working parents to get a second, and sometimes a third job, or max out their credit cards just to make ends meet.

(He’s talking about the Bush administration, not the Mugabe administration.)

The Herald “clarifies” that the BCTU weren’t always bad guys:

Formed as a progressive trade union movement to champion the rights of black American workers in 1972, the CBTU has since become embedded with the Bush administration’s policies of illegal regime change as it actively supported the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Right. All that talk about failed administrations is really a sinister form of “active support”. But the Herald has to acknowledge CBTU’s past because they were very active in bringing the anti-apartheid movement to the US, and Mugabe’s legitimacy is based on his revolutionary cred, his anti-colonialist legacy. He and CBTU were on the same side against apartheid – they must have gone the wrong way in the interim.

CBTU has announced that they’re planning on focusing on Zimbabwe, using progressive media in the US to bring attention to the conditions in Zimbabwe.

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has launched a major campaign to clip Mugabe of his “liberator” image in the African American community by exposing the thuggish actions of his regime against the Zimbabwean people.

The Herald attributes the quote to Dwight Kirk, writing in the “rightwing Washington Informer newspaper.” The Informer is an African-American woman owned weekly that refuses to publish crime news because it “reports only positive news” and covers crime by talking about community solutions and responses… typical behavior for a right-wing American paper.

If I were writing this story, I’d offer an opening paragraph that looked something like this:

In the wake of violent suppression of a demonstration by the Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions, union leaders from the US were unceremoniously deported from Harare over the objections of the US ambassador. A five member delegation from the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, led by former anti-apartheid activist William Lucy, was denied entry into Zimbabwe without explanation by Zimbabwean immigration. CBTU is leading a campaign to call attention to the human rights abuses of the Zimbabwean government in the US labor movement. The trip was intended to display solidarity between the black labor movement in the US with ZCTU and to investigate violence against ZCTU members in the wake of 9/13 protests.

But hey, I’m not a certified Zimbabwean journalist, so what do I know?

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3 Responses to Your humble author: less dangerous than African-American trade unionists

  1. Kwasi Appiah says:

    Circa Ghana in the late 70s and early 80s; that’s what your description of the Zimbabwean situation reminds me of. Someone, I just can’t remember who, has written a good book on this phenomenon, on how rotten and violent regimes drive people inward. Great reporting. One shocker to me…. Condi doesn’t talk to you? How outrageous!!!

  2. ExAfrica says:

    I’ve been here before… but am back for good now. (When I switched commputers I lost my bookmarks)

    Your reporting on the situation in Zim, on what you saw, heard, and learned about, is excellent.

    Very (with a Zimbabwean “rrr”) interesting blog you’ve got here.

  3. Ethan says:

    Kwasi, if you can get Condi talking to me, there’s a lot of link love in it for you.

    ExA – welcome back, and thanks for the kind words. Zimbabwe’s fascinating – both depressing, and in an odd way inspiring. I’m very grateful I had the chance to visit…

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