CANDIDATES involved in the March 31 parliamentary election have slammed the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings’ panel which interviews contestants in the month-end poll for acting as ruling Z
anu PF “political commissars”.
The candidates said the ZBH Newsnet current affairs panellists, who include publisher Ibbo Mandaza, Supa Mandiwanzira and Happison Muchechetere, were behaving like “semi-literate political activists” in their professional roles.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate and economic affairs secretary Tendai Biti said the panellists were hopelessly partisan.
“If there has to be genuine national debate Zanu PF must not bring political imbeciles like Mandiwanzira and Muchechetere who masquerade as journalists to interview us,” he said.
“If there has to be inter-party debate then there has to be proper individuals not these semi-literate and ill-informed youth brigades posing as television panellists,” Biti said.
Another MDC candidate, Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said the ZBH programme has turned out to be a Zanu PF propaganda platform.
“They ask irrelevant questions which they do not allow us enough time to respond to before their clumsy interjections,” she said.
Candidates say the majority of the screened programmes so far have turned out to be a farce with the panellists disrupting and interjecting before the interviewees have responded to questions.
Political analysts said the panellists were doing a disservice to the candidates and viewers.
The Independent Candidates Solidarity Network coordinator Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni said the interviewing panel was biased because it was composed of “known Zanu PF apologists”.
“Those people are there to serve one purpose and that is to belittle everyone who is not Zanu PF and give the impression that non-Zanu PF candidates are shallow-minded, unorganised and useless,” Ndiweni said.
“What they are doing is not acceptable in journalism and as for Mandiwanzira, he is just practising politricks (political tricks). Mandaza should not even be in that panel discussing what the opposition thinks about the land reform when he himself has been exposed by Matabeleland governor Obert Mpofu to be a multiple-farm owner.”
Political analyst Jethro Mpofu said he was alarmed by the unprofessional conduct of the panellists.
“The panellists are conducting the interviews like they are engaged in beerhall arguments,” he said.
President of the Zimbabwe Liberators Peace Initiative, a local group assessing the conduct of elections, Max Mnkandla, said the three panellists were not behaving like interviewers but interrogators. “They are like CIOs and CIDs, not interviewers,” he said.
However, Mandiwanzira said: “I am surprised that the same Biti who congratulated me for asking President Mugabe tough questions is himself so naïve to expect me to pay him back by asking wishy-washy questions. He is displaying political immaturity.”
He said politicians must expect tough questions on issues they promise to deliver.
“My duty is to probe people and not glorify them or to ask questions they would like to be asked so that they appear intelligent to viewers. I do not represent any political party but I play the devil’s advocate,” Mandiwanzira added.
Mandaza defended the panel, arguing that interrogation to a certain extent was necessary to get the best out of politicians. “We want politicians to reply beyond rhetoric for the benefit of the voter because sometimes people make empty promises,” he said.