Criticism Has To Be Fair And Balanced

OF late Joram Nyathi has been attracting the ire of a number of  Zimbabwe Independent readers who feel that his criticism of the role of the MDC and leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the ongoing power-sharing talks with Zanu PF is unwarranted and unjustified.

 It is clear from Nyathi’s writing that his criticism of the MDC, unlike that from the state-controlled press, is not driven by hatred and self-interest. His frustration over the lack of progress from the talks is shared by thousands of Zimbabweans at home and abroad. The only difference is that while Nyathi believes that political compromise has to be reached urgently, some readers want to see a balance between compromise and the need to create a fairer and lasting agreement.
My own opinion is that Nyathi’s criticism of the MDC has been largely disproportionate. No political party or politician is without fault, but for Nyathi to suggest that the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai are as much to blame for Zimbabwe’s problems as are Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe is to be dishonest. The MDC has never been in government, and the party has never been involved in corruption and the abuse of power on a scale that is comparable to Zanu PF’s stranglehold on power for the past 28 years. Nyathi only needs to read back issues of the Independent to appreciate this.
 

The MDC has committed numerous political miscalculations since its formation just over a decade ago. Some of their mistakes proved to be very costly; for example their failure to go into the March 29 election as a united party is partly the reason why we are now faced with the prospect of power sharing today.
While Nyathi is within his rights to point out these shortcomings in the MDC, he has to appreciate that this comes nowhere near Zanu PF’s well documented rule characterised by abuse of power, corruption, disrespect of human rights and press freedom, mismanagement of the economy and lack of accountability by public officials.
Reading Nyathi’s articles of recent months, one gets the impression that he is fine with Zanu PF being corrupt and incompetent even though it is the party in government, yet he still expects the opposition MDC to be whiter than white.
Zanu PF is the party that embarked on a haphazard land reform programme and followed this up with “Operation Murambatsvina” which destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of hardworking Zimbabweans. Surely Nyathi cannot put this on the same scale with the childish power struggles within the MDC which only make their leaders appear foolish.  
 I also notice that Nyathi himself is averse to criticism. No one begrudges his right to freedom of expression when he savages the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai. But he thinks that those who criticise him back do so only because they are MDC party supporters who believe that their party should be supported every time. I also think that his selective response to people like Pettinah Gappah and his dismissal of others who dared to challenge him makes him no better than the “self-important” political leaders he criticises in his articles.
Nyathi cannot claim that some people’s opinions matter more to him because they come from people with recognisable names, and that the rest are not important because their names are less known.  In any event, Nyathi weakens his case against the MDC by appearing to endorse the long discredited Zanu PF propaganda suggesting that Tsvangirai was ever involved in calling for sanctions against the country.
As an individual, Tsvangirai is neither an Obama nor a Martin Luther King, and under normal circumstances leaders like him would not last very long. But considering the political environment he is operating under, Tsvangirai has acquitted himself well and any criticism of him should put this into consideration.
 Regarding the state of the talks, I believe that the MDC is right to demand at least an equal share of the key ministries in government. One of the blunders from the MDC was to sign the September 15 power- sharing agreement which favoured Zanu PF more than anyone else.
Nyathi is not being sincere when he says that “key” ministries are not important, yet he knows that it is through the control of the Information ministry, for example, that newspapers like the Daily News were closed.
Nyathi’s colleagues in the private press have been arrested, some even tortured, for publishing articles deemed to be in bad taste by the ruling party.  It would be difficult for the MDC to revive the economy in an environment characterised by media restriction and police repression, and it’s unfortunate that Nyathi cannot understand this.
 

The Independent plays a very important part in shaping the opinions of the nation. Everyone accepts that nothing remains the same, and that people should not always expect the MDC to receive fair treatment from the private press just to counter the bad press they receive from the state-controlled newspapers. But the criticism has to be fair and balanced.
 
Hudson Yemen Taivo,
United Kingdom.