Contradictory HIV/AIDS rhetoric(s) in Zimbabwe: An analysis of selected online media texts: Paper presented at the African Association of Rhetoric 2nd Biennial International Conference at the University of KwaZulu Natal, 1-3 July, 2009.
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This article employs text analysis within the framework of the arena model (Mazzoni, 1991, Anfara, 2006, http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs), to examine fourty one online media texts to reflect on the Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS intervention model and how it impacted on HIV/AIDS rhetoric used by government officials and online media. The article reveals that HIV/AIDS rhetoric was mainly used by politicians from the previous government of Zimbabwe as a face and face management strategy (Goffman (1955/1967)/ Tracy (1990) in Bull (2008) to paint a positive image of government and ZANU PF before relevant stakeholders like potential voters, donors, regional and international communities. The article demonstrates that the strategy of using HIV/ AIDS rhetoric for political grandstanding did not yield success owing to inherent flaws in the HIV/AIDS intervention model used and lack of commitment. The article further reveals that the Zimbabwean HIV/ AIDS model that rests heavily on a subsystem arena which oftentimes overlapped as a political party engineered leadership arena that excluded the much vital macro arena, is the architect of the contradictory HIV/AIDS rhetoric under discussion. I proceed to argue that despite the government officials’ use of all sorts of appeals, imagery, symbolism and endorsements in the public media and other platforms, the online media’s use of whistle blowing, thematisation, visuals and intertextuality, managed to send effective messages locally and abroad that dislodged misleading rhetoric produced by political agents and emitted by pro- government media. Findings in this study lend to the conclusion that the Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS intervention model rendered government officials HIV/AIDS rhetoric as nothing beyond plain face saving acts that unfortunately did not yield the interlocutors’ desired effect for the macro arena’s experiences were overwhelmingly parallel to messages churned by politicians. In the article, I analyse speeches by political agents, HIV/AIDS activists, and online media reports by UN officials, Human Rights Watch (July 2005), UNAIDS and WHO (2005). Lastly, articles on rape committed against girls and women particularly during the 2002 and March 2008 elections are also examined.