There is an interesting trend in Zimbabwe where people tend to make light and reduce to memes and jokes otherwise depressing economic issues in Zimbabwe. Remember the fuss made about zvihuta? It is out of this movement that people such as Prosper Ngomashi (the comic), Boss Keda, Gonyeti and others have emerged to take the social media limelight.
People have also found other inventive ways of accepting uncomfortable subjects by reducing them to memes and jokes that circulate for entertainment.
Take for example the latest one about the young men who stole from people, raped women, but were eventually apprehended by soldiers and whose recorded testimonies went viral.
All of this is circulating over social media. However, it got me wondering if this is not a distraction from crucial economic questions about the state of our economy, for example, following up on the progress of the recently commissioned Beitbridge to Harare highway.
Never mind the state of our roads in urban and residential areas, where these roads were declared a state of emergency just six months back.
There are numerous other important questions that we can ask about the state of our economy and its possible futures.
Examples include the mega deals that the state has time and again claimed will be coming from China and Russia.
There have been claims of memorandums of understanding that have been signed but these things never seem to materialise.
This includes the $1 billion to be injected into Ziscosteel, and yet the details of all of this are still not available.
Yet, as it has emerged, the R and F company touted as promising to inject this heavy capital into what could be Zimbabwe’s main heavy Industrial projects that could create many jobs and help boost the economy; is really not into engineering but real estate and tourism.
This is curious how such a company would suddenly diversify into heavy engineering works, investing such amounts of money into a company that many other initiatives and investors have failed to resuscitate. Not that Ziscosteel cannot be resuscitated, indeed it can and needs to be, but I really wonder if the chosen investor is well placed to do so.
More importantly, the perceived banknote shortage is still stifling the economy through the shortage of US dollar notes that can be used for no-question-asked imports. Cash barons are now selling cash at anything from 20 percent upwards, seriously causing inflationary pressures.
The budget deficit for this year has reached $1,2 billion before the year is even out. On the back of this, despite the bullish performance of the stock exchange, companies continue to close down adding to the mass of unemployed.
All of these are the crucial issues affecting the country, but which are relegated to intellectual discussions by a very few, while social media is dominated by viral jokes and videos.
I was prompted to write this by the recent mass of attention on the Anne Nhira versus Zodwa Wabantu issue which has also gone viral. In this case, Nhira petitioned that Wabantu, a South African socialite be banned from performing at a Harare tourism carnival.
True, social issues are just as anything else, but it got me wondering why the social issues always seem to be much more prominent than economic ones.
It got me wondering whether Zimbabweans have taken to social media to divert attention from other seriously depressing issues. Perhaps people have adjusted to making light of very important issues as a strategy to try and cope with them.
Perhaps it is commendable that people have found ways to circulate information, talk about otherwise sensitive issues through comedy memes and viral videos and threads. But in reality, the issues that continue to affect Zimbabwe are no laughing matter.
Granted, the light moments are necessary, and our comedians are doing a great job of covering these issues, but I still call for people Zimbabwean society to continue checking mainstream news to see what is going on, to keep a good balance between enticing social media and sensitive news so that we never forget to really confront out political and economic decision makers to fulfil their mandate and produce the results of all the grandiose promises they make to the citizens of Zimbabwe.
Tinashe Nyamunda is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Studies group, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. The views expressed in this article are his own. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org