HomeOpinionMuckraker: Is the Herald turning over a new leaf?

Fireworks rage at politburo meeting

AT long last! We are glad the Herald now knows the media have a duty to promote unity among Zimbabweans and not foster hatred by carrying falsehoods and propaganda that poisons the mind.

“We agree with the president that the media can play a key role in promoting national unity, reconciliation and healing and ought to respond positively to that call,” the Herald said in an editorial on Monday.
President Mugabe had last Thursday invited editors from news organisations in the country to Zimbabwe House to reply to questions on current developments. He told them the media had a role to play in promoting national unity.
It appears for the moment the Herald has responded positively to the president’s call to embrace good journalism. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, previously a target of the paper’s vitriolic attacks, was accorded front-page coverage on Monday.
The paper carried a picture of the PM planting a tree at his Strathaven home with his son in honour of his late wife, Susan. He was also shown in the Sunday Mail attending a memorial service with Mugabe in Mabelreign.
But did it have to take the president’s intervention for these papers to suddenly realise they have a responsibility to behave professionally and report in a balanced way?
Let’s hope this will be sustained and we will no longer read articles about “terrorists”, “enemies of the people”, and “tools of the imperialists”.  We also hope we will not be reading any more “letters to the editor” manufactured at Munhumutapa Building.

President Mugabe’s “meet the press” gathering seems to have gone down well with those attending who reported that the president was frank and affable throughout the lengthy proceedings last Thursday.
But it was unfortunate that it ended on a note of dishonesty.
Mugabe asked where all the white journalists were — “the familiar faces”. His spokesman George Charamba replied that they had all been invited.
“We invited everyone,” he said. He mentioned Angus Shaw (AP)  by name.
But both Shaw and Jan Raath of the Times deny being asked.“It’s not true, we were not invited,” Shaw said. “My phones were working.  I have three office numbers.”
Raath said he was certainly not contacted.
“My cellphone was on all day,” he said. In which case the president was misled.
We wonder how often this goes on? In what other matters regarding the press has Mugabe been told something that simply isn’t true?
Responding to Charamba’s claim, Mugabe said the white journalists had “chickened out”.
So there you have a conclusion based upon a falsehood! Fortunately this time it was overheard by a large number of people and therefore can’t be denied.

The same goes for Charamba’s remarks on the Zimbabwe Media Commission. He suggested that the ZMC members needed to be sworn in. “That was our understanding.” Fortunately Deputy Media minister Jameson Timba was sitting next to the president.
“What is the correct position, Timba?” Mugabe asked.
Timba said only the Human Rights Commission and Electoral Commission members needed to be sworn in. The ZMC should already be doing its job.
“I concur with you,” Mugabe said. “The ZMC should be getting on with their work.”
This was a significant rebuke to Charamba who we suspect has been holding  things  up for several months, at enormous cost to media investors.
And it is also a rebuke to ZMC chair Godfrey Majonga who has been stalling progress, no doubt on Charamba’s behalf, claiming an administrative infrastructure needed to be in place before they could entertain licence applications.
Applicants had been turned away several times as Majonga and his colleagues waited for a green light from Munhumutapa Building.
Let’s see whether they will now heed the president’s remarks and get on with their job. Majonga says applications will be attended to “next week”. Let’s see!
The ZMC’s lack of initiative so far has been nothing short of disgraceful.

What these episodes demonstrate is how poorly the public media serves the public interest. Only about 10% of Mugabe’s comments were reported in the Herald the next day. Nothing about the number of farms he owned. Nothing about the arrest of journalists. And nothing about reconstituting BAZ.
Some of his remarks began to filter through on Saturday and Sunday. It would be interesting to know who was holding up the flow in order to spin things in a way that was palatable to power.
A question from Chengetai Zvauya led to Mugabe’s welcome remarks on the arrest of journalists. It should not happen, he told the meeting. A pity there wasn’t time for Zvauya to recount his own experience.
A story he wrote in the Standard in 1999 regarding the work of the constitutional commission landed him with a criminal defamation charge. That included acting editor Andy Moyse and publisher Clive Wilson. We recall Patrick Chinamasa inviting members of the commission to “come and feed” at this trough.
The three were convicted by a magistrate. But their conviction was overturned on appeal to the High Court.
Media and Information Commission chair Tafataona Mahoso however continued to regard Zvauya as guilty and withheld his accreditation as a journalist. As a result Zvauya was prevented from practising his profession for several years. Only recently was he finally given his press card.
Mugabe didn’t appear to be familiar with  any of this. But he welcomed self-regulation as a means of dealing with complaints against the press.
At which point Charamba intervened to point out that there was still a need to maintain criminal defamation  on the statute book to deal with criminal charges against journalists.
In response to a question from Pikirayi Deketeke on the GNU, Mugabe took a swipe at the Standard which had suggested cracks in the GNU were widening. Mugabe objected to “cracks” saying all was going swimmingly well between the principals including tea on Monday afternoons.
But his remarks generally on the need for the press to support the GNU were ignored in the Sunday Mail which published one of Mahoso’s hate-mongering diatribes against the MDC and the West. Mugabe’s view evidently has yet to penetrate the cobwebbed corridors of power at the Sunday Mail where they think a front page picture will pay sufficient lipservice to the GNU while Mahoso rails against it inside.

Saviour Kasukuwere has urged local journalists to “protect the nation from negative publicity from Western countries that seek to undermine Zimbabwe’s sovereignty”.
Does he mean we must devise ways to counter the negative publicity generated by the arrest of the Mexican journalist who, although carrying a letter of introduction from Water minister Walter Mzembi and travelling in the minister’s car with his driver, was nevertheless held by police for several hours and only released after the minister’s intervention.
How will Mexicans receive that news?
Then there is the local journalist arrested and fined for filming outside the Magistrates’ Court? How should we convey that news to the world? This by the way was his umpteenth arrest for just doing his job.
And what about the case of Kasukuwere himself imposing draconian regulations upon the business sector that are self-serving, damaging and racist?
How do we explain to the world that our recovery has been jeopardised by one of Mugabe’s ministers claiming he is advancing black economic empowerment when everybody knows where this is going?
And then there are the land seizures just in case foreigners didn’t get the message that a delinquent gang exercises power in Harare.

Needless to say, Gordon Brown was able to use much of this as evidence in responding to President Jacob Zuma’s plea to lift sanctions. It came as the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union secretary-general fled to South Africa after saying she had been receiving threats for revelations she made on the plight of farm workers.
Local journalists, who see much that foreigners don’t, have a duty to expose the greed and hypocrisy of powerful politicians. That begins with those who are undermining the best chance we have had in years to secure recovery. It is a crying shame but that’s the way things go in this tragically misruled state.
Beware whenever you hear “no going back”. That invariably means they haven’t finished pillaging the country even when there’s little left to take.

President Zuma got a rather hostile media reception in the UK. And he has come under fire in the South African press for not handling it in a more statesmanlike way.
On the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison last month, the Observer published an account by John Carlin of how things had turned out so well in South Africa given the underlying tensions in 1990.
“If one makes a fair assessment of where the country stood when Mandela was released, right now there is rather more to admire than to despise,” he wrote.
He is right. Things have turned out reasonably well: a “sound and stable democracy”. No hint of the Yugoslavia FW de Klerk feared. Or “Zimbabwe-style basket-casery”.
But how Carlin could write a lengthy op/ed piece on the Mandela miracle without once mentioning crime or corruption in the current era is an impressive exercise in mind over matter. Yes, there is rule of law. But there is also extensive interference in the rule of law. Witness Zuma’s own Houdini-like escape from prosecution and the recent appointment of Menzi Simelani as National Director of Public Prosecutions.
The opposition DA has drawn attention to at least 13 errors in his CV including the spelling of curriculum! He is not a “fit and proper” person to lead the National Prosecutions Authority, as required by law, the DA said in a high court challenge to his appointment.

A question for Muckraker’s old adversary Alexander Kanengoni. How many foxes do you think there are in the Scottish Highlands? Have you seen any? And if you want to tell somebody to “go to hell” why can’t you say so yourself? Surely something so facile doesn’t require attribution?

The Manica Post caught our attention when it reported John Nkomo’s tour of DTZ –OZGEO gold mine in Penhalonga last week.
The gold mining project is a joint venture between the Development Trust of Zimbabwe and a consortium of Russian investors. The paper told us Vice-President Nkomo commended the Russian investors for choosing Zimbabwe as a preferred investment destination saying they should also venture into more lucrative ventures such as diamond mining.
“We expect you to be our ambassador so that more investors from Russia and elsewhere come into Zimbabwe,” the VP said. “Our indigenisation laws and regulations must not be viewed as a ban on foreign investment, but as a tool of promoting foreign investment while empowering our own people.”
We know the VP is not being sincere because we saw that only supporters of Zanu PF and those connected to chefs benefited from the “land reform” process.
We would have wanted  Nkomo to also encourage the Russian investors to improve the conditions of service of workers at the gold mine.  Workers at the mine say conditions are akin to those of a Siberian salt mine.
The same Russians have also turned some parts of the eastern border city into red-light districts. They are nothing if not enterprising these Russkies!

Finally, we were interested to see the president’s remarks on the civil war taking place between the war veterans’ outfits. He said when he was approached by one of the factions he impressed upon them the need to uphold the importance of the ballot.
Now don’t we recall him saying during the 2008 election campaign: “We fought for this country and a lot of blood was shed. We are not going to give up our country because of a mere X. How can a ballpoint fight with a gun?”
And weren’t the generals saying much the same thing?
Perhaps we misheard!

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading