What can we say about Didymus Mutasa. He seems to have honed his faux pas skills into an art.
By The MuckRaker
His latest pronouncement is that he doesn’t understand why the MDCs would want media reform when they already own a batch of newspapers.
“There are a lot of newspapers that are anti-Zanu PF,” Mutasa blustered. “That is where the MDC parties should demand reform of the media.”
That is not what the GNU had in mind in 2008 when the issue of media reform was first raised. The private press is owned by its publishers and other private-sector investors. It is therefore likely to reflect a range of views.
The state media on the other hand which should reflect a diversity of views doesn’t. Instead it reflects the views of the former ruling party which is seeking to recover lost ground by abusing its grip on the public media.
In any country purporting to be a democracy the public sector is that sector owned on behalf of the public so it can open up the media to a variety of views and thereby enable voters to make an informed choice at the ballot box. This is all set out in the Sadc Grand Baie principles and norms for elections which ministers should be familiar with.
If Mutasa is having a problem grappling with this complex issue, he can write to Muckraker seeking clarification. We will put him straight!
Speaking of partisan media the Herald on Tuesday carried a large portrait of Dr Paul Chimedza. The paper omitted to mention that Chimedza is chair of the Zimpapers board of directors and Zanu PF candidate for Gutu South.
His picture appeared in the paper because the Zimpapers board had resolved that all political advertising will only be published in its newspapers in the last two weeks before polling day.
The board had taken the decision, we are told, to safeguard the company’s business interests as political advertising tends to crowd-out all commercial advertising during the election season.
So why doesn’t Zimpapers expand its content to meet the need? Or is this a confession that many political advertisers (Zanu PF in particular) in the Herald or Sunday Mail don’t pay!
Whatever the motive is, it smacks of a concerted attempt by Zimpapers to shut out political adverts by parties opposed to Chimedza’s party.
Frills of fancy
There then followed a series of fanciful claims which the media community know perfectly well are divorced from reality. The group will continue “to report fairly on all political activities in the country and provide balanced and well-sourced news articles on all political articles”.
This is of course exactly what civil society had been pressing the state media to do since the inception of the GNU in 2008.
“The board reiterates its newspapers’ editorial independence,” the advert said, “which is guided by integrity, fairness and balance in its coverage of news as well as robust analysis and commentary.”
Excuse us while we have a good chuckle. Does Chimedza and his acolytes actually believe this –– because nobody else does!
Zimpapers editors are guided by an editorial charter whereby they agree to uphold the code of ethics and the principles of journalism as espoused in the country’s laws and statutes. These include the national interest and public benefit.
It doesn’t say what the national interest is or what their “mores” might be. Perhaps they are a board secret!
We have some idea how the two-week window will operate. Advertisers are likely to be told all the space has been occupied! The board says that given its shareholding structure, “the company is neither a state-owned parastatal nor state-controlled”.
No, but editors are not free to say what they think and columnists have to toe the state line without question. Generally they are lickspittle mouthpieces for Zanu PF. That’s what everybody thinks isn’t it? And why didn’t the Herald disclose who the person in the picture was? So much for ethics!
Kudos for a change
When we get an opportunity to say something encouraging about the government we will do so. In this respect we should record how hard and constructive Tourism minister Walter Mzembi is working on the UNWTO project.
And he is not getting much support from his colleagues in government. To help him out Alpha Media Holdings is running a media campaign to promote the UNWTO project ahead of the General Assembly.
It will run under the theme –– “It’s our time, showcasing Zimbabwe’s Seven Wonders”. At least the Zambians and our hospitality sector are coming up to speed on the project. In response to criticism that the Victoria Falls airport was falling behind, it was never meant to be on time for the assembly, Zimbabwe’s officials say.
Brand ambassadors hosting the event include Oliver Mtukudzi, Shingi Munyeza, Ozias Bvute, Douglas Mboweni, Peter Ndlovu and Tawanda Nyambirai.
Muckraker has found a newspaper even more grovelling in its posture than Baffour Ankomah’s New African.
It is called New Era and is based in Namibia. Its editor, Chrispin Inambao, recently conducted an interview with President Mugabe.
This is what to expect: “Your Excellency, this interview will be incomplete if I don’t bring in at least one question on the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe. What is the favourite dish among possibly many prepared specifically for you and your children by Amai Mugabe?”
So now you know the sort of thing Namibians can look forward to reading! And it will have at least one customer in Didymus Mutasa (The answer was fish).
But it actually gets worse. “Your Excellency, I know you are a very busy person and I’m really honoured and humbled to meet such a great African spokesman.”
Yuk! Really lickspittle stuff from the Mahoso School of Revolutionary Claptrap. And when Mugabe replied: “We are really great friends with Sam”, he meant Sam Nujoma, not Uncle Sam.
Empire Strikes Back
On the subject of Uncle Sam, the Zimbabwe state media seems to be up in arms over the fact that President Barack Obama “stuck his nose” into Zimbabwe’s affairs during his recent visit to South Africa.
This is really silly. Here is a deeply troubled country on South Africa’s doorstep where President Jacob Zuma heads a mediation exercise and the US president is supposed not to say a thing about it! Please, who dreams up this nonsense?
Of course he is going to say something. He has a responsibility to do so. Zimbabweans certainly expect the visiting US president to speak up on issues of governance and human rights.
By the way, it was at the University of Cape Town in 1966 that Bobby Kennedy, the president’s (JFK’s) brother, made one of the great speeches of his career in defence of freedom.
We were interested to hear that a Sadc Parliamentary Forum mission was briefed by Zuj on harassment and attacks on journalists.
The Sadc PF team was in the country for five days on an assessment mission.Among those journalists attacked by MDC-T officials, we are told by the Herald, was our reporter, Herbert Moyo, who was subject to a severe assault at Harvest House.
Our question is: Should the Herald not have spoken to Moyo before repeatedly citing him as a victim of MDC-T harassment? We don’t doubt the harassment but the Herald has a duty to check facts with the victim which it did not do.
The same goes for Zuj. In the Herald’s case they were simply having their daily go at Morgan Tsvangirai. In the case of Zuj they lifted other reports.
Blithering blue lights
A columnist in the Cape Times says nothing better symbolises the culture of entitlement that pervades the ruling party in South Africa than the blue lights brigade which he calls “a stepping stone to a banana republic if ever there was one”.
The columnist, Dave Marrs, was celebrating the move by the Western Cape government to gazette draft regulations criminalising the abuse of the blue light motorcades and sirens on the province’s roads.
Readers of this column will know we have also expressed opposition to the wailing motorcades, not least because they waste precious resources and often expose drivers to assault.
Tsvangirai, when he first came into office, sought permission for his own motorcade.
We are totally opposed to any such abuse of power and would urge the MDC-T to define their priorities in a more public-friendly way.