INFORMATION minister Jonathan Moyo this week came under withering attack from opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MPs in parliament for abusing public media to further
his political ambitions.
Debating the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Aippa) Amendment Bill on Tuesday, MDC MPs said Moyo had become a “dangerous” politician who should be reined in by both Zanu PF and MDC legislators.
They accused Moyo of seeking to entrench his control on the media for personal political gain. They said he was writing vitriolic columns in the public media using pseudonyms and stories for Sunday Mail political editor, Munyaradzi Huni.
“We know the minister wants to have complete control,” charged MDC chief whip and MP for Mutare Central, Innocent Gonese. “We know it because in the Sunday Mail he calls himself ‘Under the Surface’. He also calls himself ‘Reward (Lowani) Ndlovu’ or ‘Mzala Joe’ or ‘Nathaniel Manheru’. We do not know what he will call himself next but that does not satisfy him. He even writes stories in the Sunday Mail under the by-line of Munyaradzi Huni.”
Harare South MDC MP Gabriel Chaibva said: “Since 1988, it is publicly documented that Professor Moyo is a man who cherished a free press, but he has now made a dramatic somersault. The man has gone on to trample on views that he previously held. There can be only one reason why a man wants to hear his own voice. There can only be one reason why he wants to dance to his own music. He is a dangerous man. If you support him, you will have facilitated the reincarnation of the devil himself.”
MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said: “It is the process that has been put in place which is threatening the security of the jobs of journalists and cause them to sing for their lunch. For that reason, we have ended up with what would easily be some of the professional men and women being turned into clowns of those that handle them. Unfortunately, those that handle them are not themselves intelligent.”
The MPs said parliament could not continue giving more power to an “ambitious man”. St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala said the amendments proposed by Moyo were criminal in that no one, including members of the ruling party, would be spared their effects.
“I can give you a simple example of being retributive, banning even a newspaper that belongs to a colleague, banning The Tribune that is owned by a member of his own party,” Sikhala said. “If it was owned by Prof Welshman Ncube, Gabriel Chaibva or Nelson Chamisa, we could understand, but not banning a newspaper of your own brother in the same party, who sits in the same caucus. It shows the man’s hunger for power.”
The MPs said the provisions of Aippa belonged in the doctrines of Nazism and Fascism. They called for the repeal of the whole Act.
“Aippa is a very evil law,” said Harare North MP, Trudy Stevenson. “It does not support good governance, and it is not in conformity with Sadc principles which despite what the minister believes, insists on a free and independent press.”
They said the proposed amendments to sections 40 and 83 of Aippa violate international conventions and national statutes.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 40 of the Act which requires that some members of the Media and Information Commission (MIC) be appointed from nominees of an association of journalists and media houses.
Moyo said since an association of media houses did not exist, the nominations should be received from either of such types of association.
The MPs said the proposal was absurd in that it sought to deny the existence of the Advertising Media Association, a body that represents media houses in the country.
“What Moyo seeks to achieve is to exclude publishers from taking part in matters that affect them. For instance, if MIC is to make a decision to penalise an errant newspaper, it should have representatives from publishers and journalists for it to be binding,” MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said.
Section 83 of the Act, which prohibits unaccredited or suspended journalists from practising, will be amended to provide a penalty which is presently absent. The Bill proposes that persons who contravene the section be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
Ncube said Moyo was attempting to criminalise the journalism profession.