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Editor’s Memo

Patriotic press

Vincent Kahiya

WHEN Finance minister Herbert Murerwa told the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress in Nyanga last week that “there is no-one sitting at

his house saying ‘zvinhu ngazvishate (things must go wrong)'”, I almost believed him.

The fact that things have really gone bad in the country does not necessarily mean there are people working feverishly to ensure that the economy goes down the tubes. It could just be the absence of the right chemistry in those running the economy or people not doing their jobs properly.

CZI vice-president Florence Sachikonye revealed in one session she was chairing that she was one of three passengers who flew on Air Zimbabwe from Bangkok to Dubai recently. To apply Murerwa’s theory to this embarrassing performance by our debt-ridden airline, no-one at Air Zimbabwe or the parent Transport and Communications ministry is saying “zvinhu nga-zvishate”.

Whatever the airline’s motivation, it is not helping this economy move forward. In fact such poor decision-making must be exposed so it is not replicated elsewhere, thus becoming a drain on the economy.

When news media take issue with such imprudent business practices, the motivation is not to destroy the economy but to ensure that those entrusted with running it and creating wealth remain focused on that goal. It is called accountability and should not be such a stranger to ministers or their fawning friends in business!

So I was surprised when a respected businessman stood up at the congress to pronounce the culpability of this paper and our sister publication the Standard in the demise of the economy. David Govere seems to believe that we are saying zvinhu ngazvishate.

“As business people we must sit down with (proprietor) Trevor Ncube and his papers to tell them what they have done to this economy . . .” said Govere, blithely ignoring what incompetent ministers have “done”.

Then others chipped in with tired mantras about the need for the media to be patriotic and that we should stick together like Nigerians do when they are abroad. Perhaps I should ask why Nigerians stick closer to each other when they are in Europe or the United States than when they are at home! The media must be patriotic and serve national interests, we are repeatedly told.

The question is who defines the national interest and patriotism? According to our rulers, national interest and patriotism involves blind allegiance to a system which we can all see is failing.

It is flying a 245-seater plane empty in the name of a Look East policy which only the most gullible swallow. It is building dams and leaving them to silt instead of using them to support irrigation and boost agricultural output.

It is evidently unpatriotic to question why government would rather import maize from South Africa and pay $8-9 million a tonne while it pays local farmers $2 million a tonne. All these are not creations of the media but real issues raised at the CZI congress by business leaders and senior government officials.

Proponents of a patriotic press want the media to look the other way and tell the world that everything is fine even when we do not have fuel and food.

Ministers who drove to Troutbeck Inn should have seen the environmental degradation caused by the wanton burning of flora. Did they see the invaders at Ariston Holdings’ Claremont Estates and the disruption their presence has caused? If they didn’t, it is the role of the media to remind them that while they preach economic recovery and the need to generate foreign currency, land invaders are building shacks in the middle of fields where export crops should be grown.

Should the media pretend to be patriotic when Transport and Energy minister Chris Mushowe advocates the seizure of white-owned companies in the same manner as the land reform programme while in the same breath government claims to be wooing investors?

What foreign investor would want to put his money in such a risky environment where crude populism is rampant?

Those wanting to sit down and have tea with us (as RBZ governor Gideon Gono would put it) should be pleased to know that we are very keen to see this economy turning the corner. They should also be pleased to know that someone does not become unpatriotic simply because they refuse to repeat the party slogans with the same gusto as other political beings.

Equally so, patriotism is not parroting failed policies or celebrating success when there is none. Those who read newspapers are cleverer than that.

It is sad when the media in many developing countries are so worried about being perceived as unpatriotic that they shudder at the thought of reporting anything critical about the incumbent and the ruling order.

In any event, when did it become the job of the news media to be called patriotic? When news becomes “patriotic”, it ceases to be news and becomes propaganda. News media become co-collaborators in deluding the public, pretending the country is undergoing a turnaround when it manifestly isn’t. They are drooling cheerleaders for dimwits driving a bus straight off a cliff.

To my brother David Govere, we are prepared to sit down and talk to anyone because we want all those bright ideas which came out of the congress to work, kuti zvinake.

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