Candid Comment: Hiding behind a finger…

THE Zimbabwe Mail (ever heard of it?) website has published an article entitled “Moyo planted MDC corruption story”. If you haven’t already read it, below is its gist.

The corruption story referred to was the Independent’s lead story last week headlined “Ministers named in graft probe”. Three ministers were named, Energy and Power Development minister Elias Mudzuri, Home Affairs co-minister Giles Mutsekwa, and Mines deputy minister Murisi Zwizwai.

The Zimbabwe Mail in their story allege that Tsholotsho North MP Professor Jonathan Moyo “planted” the story of the three ministers “as part of his petulant retribution over a story we (Zimbabwe Mail) broke about Tsholotsho Part II.”

It alleges that a source working for the Independent told its reporter that Moyo emailed the article with the fiction to the editor Nevanji Madanhire for publication.

The article apparently penned in the MDC-T information department was based on the assumption that if the publisher of the Independent, Trevor Ncube, and its editor can be linked to Moyo, then that rubbishes the story.

But that is to hide behind a finger.

And, to say that a source working for the Independent gave the Zimbabwe Mail the story is plain silly. If indeed there was such a source, he or she would have told the Mail reporter that Madanhire is not the editor of the Independent but only its deputy editor.

The Mail article also presupposes that our readers have got short memories. MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa thinks so too. At a hastily summoned press conference last Friday he had this to say: “We would like to state and place it on record that there are reports that are disturbing, reports that are malicious and mendacious that have been carried in the Independent that the party is carrying out a probe on certain ministers belonging to the MDC.”

Only two weeks ago Chamisa was the knight in shining armour confirming to the Independent that some ministers, councillors and legislators were under investigation for engaging in corrupt activities. (See the Independent January 8-14 page 1.)

Although he refused to disclose the names of the ministers under probe he said there would be no sacred cows because the party wished to demonstrate its zero tolerance of corruption.

“We are a party of excellence. Transparency, accountability and good governance are part of our fabric. We expect these from our Prime Minister, from our ministers and from, most importantly, our councils.”

He said his party’s major challenge at the moment was to deal with corruption.

“Our crusade to get rid of bad apples is unstoppable. There will be no sacred cows –– this goes for ministers, MPs, councilors. Zero tolerance on corruption is not for convenience but is our conviction.”

At the press conference last Friday Chamisa made a somersault: “What I wish to state as a matter of fact is that no such committee has been put in place by the party to probe ministers. And there is no such probe that is targeting ministers, and that our ministers do not have any allegations levelled against them.”

And to cover up for this shameful flip-flop, the Independent, its publisher and its editor have to be tarnished by crudely linking them to someone the public generally perceives as the devil incarnate.

Those who have followed the goings-on in the media over the past 10 years would be puzzled to think that I have become Jonathan Moyo’s confidant.

I was editor of the Business Tribune in 2004 when the Ministry of Information and Publicity under the tutelage of none other than Moyo caused the closure of the newspaper leaving me and 63 others destitute.

Moyo then had an axe to grind with the publisher of Tribune newspapers which was completely unknown to the staff. But in his vindictiveness he had to punish not just the publisher but the staff and their families by shutting the paper.

Three other newspapers, the Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Bulawayo-based Weekly Times were also banned on Moyo’s watch.

There were no media jobs because media space was continually being squeezed. Earlier a whole generation of ZBC journalists had been made destitute in a similar way. Journalists found themselves beggars on the street or working in menial jobs that sundered their dignity.

A lot found themselves working underground in the country of their birth. This was dangerous and those who were caught were tortured and/or imprisoned; one or two were said to have been killed. A lot of others chose exile. And if anyone were to ask each one of them the man who caused them all their misery, they would be unanimous in pointing a finger at Moyo.

And now I am said to be his bedfellow!

Personally I feel Moyo should eventually apologise for the anguish he caused so many people in the media or those connected to it. Obviously there are some in both the public and private media who are only too happy to work with him –– and that’s their democratic right –– but I am not one of them.

It is also important to note that journalists do not help their case when in fighting Moyo they write lies about him. Stories which cannot be independently verified and outright lies such as the alleged planting of stories in newsrooms may eventually strengthen him when the reading public fails to distinguish fact from fiction. That is a disservice to our profession.

 

Nevanji Madanhire

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