The series of tweets below got us thinking about an article Ranga Mberi wrote last year about how the media and people in general use numbers to shape their version of events.
Last year July, the MDC held a huge rally on the eve of the election. NewsDay, Associated Press, Reuters put crowd at 50,000. Daily News said over 100,000. MDCT said 165,000.
In April, when Prophet Makandiwa held Judgment Night, one paper put the crowd at 100 000. Another said 165 000.
Now, this past weekend, Prophet Magaya managed to pull in “over 300 000” (The Standard), “a staggering 350 000” (Daily News) and “an estimated 350 000” (Sunday Mail). I won’t blame the press. Hard to argue given there is no independent body (like police) to make these calls.
Therefore, I hereby make myself available to count people at large gatherings, henceforth.
I have experience. When I was young, back at the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (Chechi yeDutch) in Kwekwe, I would always be the kid instructed to stand at the door at the end of the church service, counting people as they left church. I would then report the week’s number to the deacon (Mutariri) on duty.
The fact that the total number would usually be in the region of 37 or so – seven of which were members of my own family – is beside the point. I still have experience at counting people.
Because, at this rate, we will have people claiming they get one million worshipers in their church every Sunday service. Or, even, a Sungura musician claiming he had 239 000 people at his show in Braakpan last weekend. Numbers – and their alleged inflation – are a huge weapon. Always has been the case. From parties to churches, singers, everyone gets to pick a number to try show their influence.
Look, as Nelson Banya pointed out on Twitter, the 2012 census says Bulawayo had 350 000 females and 303 000 dudes. Think about it. Context is important.
But, you know, if the prophet says there was a million, the press will say there was a million.
But no more of this.
Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org