Stir the pot: Paidamoyo Muzulu

THE Zimbabwe social media — Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp — suffered a meltdown this week as the tech-savvy individuals went into overdrive discussing the death of basketball star Bryant Kobe in a helicopter crash Sunday morning and the wedding of raunchy dancer Beverly Sibanda to a Zimbabwean man based in the diaspora.

Kobe, a star who won five NBA championships and two Olympics gold medals in United States colours, perished in a helicopter crash in California, sending the whole sporting community into a sombre mood. Dying at the young age of 41 was not the only shocking thing as he died together with his daughter, 14, a promising basketball player whose light was snuffed out in the horrific accident whose cause is not yet established.

The news was on the front pages of many if not all mainstream news services, a revelation that sport transcends political and economic differences.

More tellingly, it was a running story on all cable news networks despite the ongoing US President Donald Trump impeachment hearing in the US senate.

Kobe’s death is news, whichever way one looks at it. The death of a star who inspired many by his antics on the court, drew a pay cheque that many can dream of and not earn even if given three lifetimes. However, this event showed that Zimbabwe is really part of the global village, nay — only its elite who can afford the astronomic data costs to be on social media in a moribund economy.

Kobe’s death reminded me of last year’s social media meltdown when music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi passed on after a long illness. Zimbabweans across the political divide wanted him to be part of them.

Some enterprising women went to lengths of coining a hashtag #doekforTuku, urging women to wear headwraps as a sign of their respect for the music icon.

More noteworthy is how social media has enhanced the elite interest in paparazzi reportage, worshipping celebrities and unintentional efforts to conform to the new global (United States) ethos. Cultural scholars have long called globalisation as Americanisation of the world.

This trend has developed over the years, starting with the death of Princess Diana in August 1997, pop star Michael Jackson in June 2009, Apple founder Steve Jobs October in 2011 and former South African President Nelson Mandela in December 2013. In most eulogies that were given, true to African dictates, no evil was said against the dead.

When you are a celebrity, one’s blemishes be they accusations of rape, child molestation or adultery are whitewashed.

By and by, the world shares a common grief and seeks to remember the better side of the deceased.
We share our pain, share our excitement but hardly share our poverty or wealth. These are some of the things that globalisation has failed to globalise, but only widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

Back in Harare, many could not believe that dancer Bev could tie the knot and earn herself the coveted title Mrs.

This is a title that in our culture is reserved for the well-groomed women and not the independent women and those of free spirit inclination.

There were many memes on social media attacking the union instead of wishing the new couple well.

Tabloids did not give the newly-married time to enjoy their newfound happiness as they were already speculating about Bev having a bun in the oven.

To her great attitude or lack of it, Bev went out in the open saying she was not pregnant but suffering the side-effects of an injectable contraceptive that she is on. Did the world need to know that? Only in the celebrity world, nothing is secret.

In all the hullabaloo, Zimbabweans never bothered to discuss the latest poverty datum line statistics — that a family of five latest needs $4 100 a month to be considered not poor. Poverty means nothing when there are celebrities to be mourned, mocked or congratulated for doing an ordinary deed like getting married.

Celebrity moments give the community a necessary respite from the economic problems that each day are becoming harder to overcome. The new university fees are secondary to celebrity lifestyles, their highs and lows, despite that tertiary education is the foundation to an industrialised and enlighted community.

For now, the big thing is celebrity news.

May Kobe’s spirit rest in eternal peace as much as we wish Bev a long and blissful union.

Next time we are deep in trouble may a celebrity come out again to give us fodder to use our data pursuing the trivia than the real life that confronts us.

What a week.

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.