Zimbabwe ranks highly among corrupt countries with Chikuhwa (2004:72) contending that corruption is destructive to the growth of nations.” Previous studies, like Dube and Chisango (2015), examined the local media’s framing of corruption. However, these studies only focused on written texts, unlike this study, which tackles the same issue through analysing editorial cartoons, which are “the most intense form of expression found in newspapers, as it is not bounded by norms of journalistic objectivity but a source of satirical critique of the existing socio-political and socio-economical state of affair (Jayal, 2013:1). Editorial cartoons distinguish “themselves from the rest of print media products in that they allow the cartoonist to express views that would be too ‘extreme’, ‘mean-spirited’, or ‘politically incorrect’ to express in a news article” (Mazid, 2008 in Mushohwe, 2008:2). It is against this background, that the study unearths the messages hidden in the Newsday and Chronicle editorial cartoons on corruption-related issues in Zimbabwe from 2014 to 2016. The study starts by appreciating meanings put across by editorial cartoonists in the two publications before comparing and contrasting their frames and agendas while also locating the role of cartoons in political communication.
The Chronicle and Newsday were selected because of their differences in ownership and control. This enabled the study to establish how the cartoonists in the two publications frame corruption across the political divide as Jayal (2013:1) citing Koetzle and Brunell (1992) argues that editorial cartoonists “they are free to discuss, investigate, and lampoon topics that are… generally left untouched by the media at large.” This is further supported by Walker (2003: 16) who posits that “One of the most powerful weapons that a cartoon has is its seemingly innocent humour whose messages can be absorbed easily, without much reflection or resistance.” Given this liberty that cartoons appear to have at their disposal, the study, using the cases of the Newsday and Chronicle, therefore, seeks to understand how editorial cartoons use humour and satire to communicate serious issues affecting the public like corruption.
1.1. Background of the study
Corruption is destructive as it is “a cancer that eats into the cultural, political and economic fabric of society, and destroys the functioning of vital organs” (Amundsen, 1997:1). Previous studies established the serious implications of corruption in society (Cameron, 2008; Amundsen, 1997). In Zimbabwe corruption has generated a lot of debate in the political and academic sphere. On academic level, scholars, like Cameron et al. (2008), focused on setting parameters and causes of corruption. Cameron et al. (2008) cited in Hlatywayo and Mukono (2014: 266) define corruption as “violation of the norms of duty and welfare, accompanied by secrecy, betrayal, deception, and callous disregard for any consequence suffered by the public.” Understanding corruption and its causes, however, is different from appreciating its framing by editorial cartoonists. It is from this position that the study interrogates the Newsday and Chronicle’s framing of corruption which is rampant in the country as explained by Hlatywayo and Mukono (2014: 265) who argue that “in recent years Zimbabwe has witnessed cases of corruption involving big businesses and highly placed individuals in society.”
Studies on corruption and the media in Zimbabwe are largely limited to textual analyses. For example, Mbwirire and Kurwa (2016) focused on the conflict over coverage of salary gate by the Herald. They only focused on the role played by the Herald in covering news stories of the salary gate scandal. Mbwirire and Kurwa (2016: 19) “wanted to understand the views of journalists and editors on the phrase salary gate.” In that regard, they observed that “the popular views of journalists indicated that salary gate was a far-reaching scandal, where executives in State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) and other public entities pocket exorbitant salaries at the expense of service delivery” (Mbwirire and Kurwa, 2016: 19). Also to note is that the term was a result of the reports on Premier Services Medical Aid Society’ (PSMAS) Chief Executive Officer, Cuthbert Dube and ZBC’s CEO, Happison Muchechete, who were earning more than their expected monthly salary at the expense of the unpaid workers (Mbwirire and Kurwa, 2016). It is important to note that the scandal triggered a huge debate in the academic and political sphere as evidenced by the literature locating the role played by the media in exposing corrupt practices during this period. However, Mbwirire and Kurwa (2016) only analysed written words that are not as free as editorial cartoons to “discuss, investigate, and lampoon topics that are generally left untouched by the media at large” (Jayal, 2013:1 cited in Koetzle and Brunell, 1992).
The Zimbabwean media’s framing of corruption should be understood within the narratives of media polarisation. The Zimbabwean media is polarised with the state-controlled siding with the ruling party and the privately owned supporting the opposition parties (Santos and Ndhlovu, 2016; Chibhukwe, 2016). The Chronicle is state-controlled while the Newsday is owned by Alpha Media Holdings. Studies on the polarised nature of the Zimbabwean media, however, were only confined to written words, which is understandable as words do not offer the writer a leeway to attack the establishment and escape scot-free like cartoons (Jayal, 2013 cited in Koetzle and Brunell, 1992). This is further supported by Walker (2003), who notes that cartoons tackle serious issues using humour and satire without much resistance. This means that cartoonists have a leeway of attacking the establishment without facing any consequences. It is against this background that the study selected publications from the opposed positions of the Zimbabwean media landscape to appreciate how cartoonists framed corruption in the light of media polarisation.
Cartoons were of interest to the study as they “are the most extreme form of expression found in newspapers” as they are not objective and thus distinguishing “themselves from the rest of print media products in that they allow the cartoonists to express views that would be too ‘extreme’, ‘mean-spirited’, or ‘politically incorrect’ to express in a news article” (Mushohwe, 2008:2 cited in Mazid, 2008). It is also important to note that the hidden meanings in editorial cartoons can be easily absorbed without much resistance as compared to text (Walker, 2003). Cartoonists hide behind humour and satire while exposing wrong practices and corruption in a manner which does not cause panic. Based on this, the study was motivated by the ability of editorial cartoons to use humour and satire while highlighting serious issues that news stories fail to cover due media regulations. In that regard, the study examines how editorial cartoonists framed corruption given its devastating consequences in the country.
Zimbabwe is one the countries with the least developed media in Africa (Saunders, 1999). The state of the media in Zimbabwe does not allow journalists to fully play their watchdog role (Hondora, 2002). The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) among others, restrict the operations of journalists and media organisation (Hondora, 2002:56) as well as severely curtailing the ability of Zimbabweans to exercise and enjoy their fundamental civil liberties (Media Institute for Southern Africa, 2010:1). The violations of these laws attract stiff penalties, including heavy fines, imprisonment or both. It is important to acknowledge the possibility of stories on corruption being shunned by news stories due to editorial restrictions and laws regulating the media. However, the situation with editorial cartoons is different as Jayal (2013:1) citing Koetzle and Brunell (1992) argues that editorial cartoonists “are free to discuss, investigate, and lampoon topics that are generally left untouched by the media at large.” Based on this, the study focused on how the Newsday and Chronicle cartoonists used humour and satire to discuss corruption-related issues in the country.