By Beatrice Mtetwa
THE debate on whether or not former Information minister Jonathan Moyo should be given coverage in the media, particularly in the independent press, has been an interesting one. I am surpr
ised that any media practitioner should advocate the deliberate blackout of Moyo in the media.
The enjoyment of rights, including the right to freedom of expression, is for all who inhabit Zimbabwe and Moyo is as entitled to it as the next person.
Consumers of media products are equally entitled to receive information about Moyo, including what he has to say about his revolutionary party and how it deals with issues of democracy.
It is equally wrong to only cover Moyo in a negative way as has been happening at one media house. This is precisely what we complain about in the state media where the incessant coverage of the opposition and its members is only negative.
However, this is not to say we should forget what Moyo has done to the media in the past few years. Moyo and the many “colleagues” he still has in Zanu PF must be reminded over and over again of their excesses and how these impacted on the lives of many Zimbabweans. He must be reminded that when human rights defenders advocate the enforcement of basic rights, this has nothing to do with opposition politics as human rights do not belong to a political party.
It is as wrong for Chris Kuruneri to spend a year in remand prison without a trial as it is for Roy Bennett to be incarcerated in the circumstances that he was. An independent judiciary equally has nothing to do with opposition politics as every litigant, regardless of political affiliation, is entitled to full protection of the law through a fair hearing by an independent and impartial judiciary.
Moyo was part of a coterie of Zanu PF ministers who were actively involved in the destruction of an independent judiciary. He was responsible for the vilification in the state media of judges who gave independent judgements.
It is not so long ago that Capital Radio urgently sought the protection of the courts against Moyo when he wanted to seize equipment while the matter was pending in court. When the late Justice Chatikobo issued an order against the government, Moyo directed the police to disregard the order on the basis that it had been issued by a night judge, in a night court which had dispensed “night justice”.
In short, the minister questioned the court’s right to hear and determine urgent disputes outside normal working hours. Yet Moyo only recently used the same urgent procedure when he had been given 48 hours to vacate the government accommodation that he occupied. Moyo must therefore appreciate that urgent relief through the courts should be available to all litigants without the need to call judges names.
The press should equally remind Moyo of the journalists he hounded out of Zimbabwe without so much as giving them even 48 hours notice.
BBC correspondent Joseph Winter and his family were hounded out of their home in the dead of night despite the fact that the courts had acceded to his request to be given a reasonable time within which to wind up his affairs. The correspondent, his wife and baby were forced to immediately leave Zimbabwe and it is ironic that Moyo now thinks 48 hours is insufficient to vacate residential premises when he previously refused to give journalists any notice to leave the country.
Guardian correspondent Andrew Meldrum was equally given no notice to leave Zimbabwe by Moyo. He was simply abducted and unlawfully bundled into a motor vehicle and deported within 12 hours of the abduction. This was despite Meldrum having been granted court orders allowing him to remain in Zimbabwe.
It is necessary that the media debate these issues which necessarily involve giving Moyo coverage. The media is entitled to ask Moyo when he realised that one needs more than 48 hours to relocate when he failed to give any form of notice to these journalists who had occupied their homes for many years and whose relocation involved leaving the country.
It is absolutely crucial that people like Moyo, Phillip Chiyangwa and other Zanu PF members who have fallen out of favour realise that issues of the rule of law affect everyone.
Judicial officers who were appointed to the bench for political reasons are not likely to change their modus operandi when determining disputes involving those who engineered their ascendancy to the bench if this will conflict with their political masters. The judges who were hounded out of office for their independence would most certainly have released Kuruneri from prison right now and the so-called “spies” would most certainly have been guaranteed a fair hearing in accordance with the country’s well-established criminal justice system.
The Jonathan Moyo story must therefore be given full coverage so that those who remain within the system can reflect on how their conduct might impact on them if their political fortunes take a dive.
*Beatrice Mtetwa is a Harare-based human rights lawyer.