MEDIGATE remains hanging over the Mirror Group of Newspapers and the Financial Gazette as more information consolidating reports that the papers are controlled by the state security agency co
ntinues to trickle in.
Sources said the Mirror CEO Ibbo Mandaza has confirmed to his friends in the aftermath of the reports that his papers were owned by the CIO.
Although the CIO ownership of the Mirror newspapers has never been in doubt in intelligence and government circles, sources said Mandaza had admitted privately that the papers were owned by the intelligence service.
This came as readers alerted the Zimbabwe Independent to a Financial Gazette story published last year in January in which central bank governor Gideon Gono reportedly declared his assets to a parliamentary caucus meeting.
The Financial Gazette reported on January 29 last year that Mashonaland East governor Ray Kaukonde, then Zanu PF chairman for the same province, had taken Gono to task over his assets.
It said Gono “told the caucus that the laws of the land required him to disclose his interests to President (Robert) Mugabe and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Herbert Murerwa”.
However, the Financial Gazette said Gono all the same made disclosures to the caucus that “he operates a ranch, a flower project and a farm”. He did not mention that he owned a newspaper. This was consistent with what Gono has always said.
Gono has made it clear from the beginning that he did not own the Financial Gazette although the paper’s editor Sunsleey Chamunorwa has been struggling to maintain the line that he was the owner.
Chamunorwa himself when he was still Gono’s spokesman at the CBZ said Gono was not the owner. Gono said he was the financial advisor to the new owners of the paper, whom sources maintain are the intelligence service. Sources said Gono told senior government officials he was doing the project for the CIO.
Further information obtained from intelligence sources shows Mandaza approached Gono in 2002 looking for money for the Daily Mirror which was first published on September 9 that year.
It is said Gono agreed that he would give Mandaza money but would bring other investors into the paper. Sources said Gono then brought the CIO to invest in the paper at a time when Mandaza was desperately looking for money to get his project started.
“Gono then brought in the security guys into the project, apparently without Mandaza’s knowledge,” a source said. “He initially wanted four CIO directors on the board of Southern Africa Publishing House (Sapho) Pvt Ltd, which owned the papers, but a row erupted after Mandaza realised the CIO was part of the deal.”
Sources said the fierce clashes drew in the CIO bosses and ended up on a compromise in which there would to be only two intelligence directors instead of four. That was how the CIO came to have two directors on the Mirror board, the source said.
The Mirror group was initially registered in 2001 as High-Portfolio Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd. Its directors were Mandaza and Joyce Kazembe. The company then changed to Sapho and then to Mirror.
Its directors were Mandaza, Alexander Kanengoni, Thomas James Meke, Ambassador Buzwani Mothobi, John Marangwanda, Charm Ndaba Mukuwane, Tendai Mangezi who has resigned, and Jonathan Kadzura. Amy Tsanga was appointed later. Musi Khumalo resigned.
The two CIO representatives on the board were Kanengoni and Meke, the immediate past CIO administration and finance director. Several other CIO officers were deployed to work on the Mirror project as reported in the original story.
Sources said Kanengoni, who was suspended by Mandaza on allegations of causing chaos in the newsroom by threatening journalists and shouting abuse – claims which insiders say are not true – was due to appear before a Mirror disciplinary hearing soon.
They said students on attachment at the Mirror group were this week kicked out because Mandaza was no longer sure who was a CIO and who was not. This was widely seen as a sign of growing paranoia by the Mirror managers who are desperate to limit the mediagate fallout.
The CIO were said to be allowing Mandaza limited space to manoeuvre in the meantime because they did not want to worsen the crisis by ousting him from the group before the dust settles.
The CIO was reportedly investigating an alleged abuse of funds at the Mirror which could claim the scalps of managers at the group. It was said the Mirror got money from the productive sector facility and the CIO that amounted to $38 billion.
The money was disbursed in tranches of $10 billion, $6 billion and $22 billion. There was also a fight over the payment of money from the Mirror group to Mandaza’s origination company, Pre-print. A row was also brewing over a printing machine Mandaza imported from India.