YESTERDAY the Zimbabwe Independent was pounced on with potshots from Australian-based Herald columnist Reason Wafawarova who thought he could get away with attacks on a convenient target in Harare from his comfort zone Down Under.
Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya
While Wafawarova has a legitimate right to express himself, we were astonished that someone who takes off from the premise that “it appears it is becoming hard to find examples of journalists who use their brains in carrying out their duties”, would self-righteously say something like that without a sense of irony about his own work.
For those who didn’t have to torture themselves labouring through his rigmarole dispatched from the comfort of Sydney, Wafawarova laid into the Independent on three key issues: ideology, funding and the case of former deputy editor, Joram Nyathi.
Of course, the article was not necessarily about the Independent, but many other things and individuals, ranging from Takura Zhangazha to Sir Richard Branson, the British business magnate best known as the founder of the Virgin Group.
Even though we accept the pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, we found Wafawarova’s unprovoked and untenable attacks in bad taste, largely because they were not based on facts, but malicious innuendo and falsehood.
Ideological issues first. Wafawarova claims the Independent is a “rightwing paper” in a context in which the term has a somewhat more derogatory flavour.
Our response is simple: anyone who has read the Independent long enough and its position on the political economy, social stratification (class)and social inequality as well as justice in society cannot in their right minds arrive at such a conclusion unless, of course, the approach is if you can’t make sense by reason just go for brickbats. But then once you ditch facts to embrace falsehoods on a fictional scale, you become the sport of every wind like a ship without a rudder.
As a paper, we interpret issues pragmatically guided by our desire to promote a plural and diverse society in which democracy, freedom and equality as well as equal opportunity are fundamental. This is in fact our vision as an organisation.
On the issue of funding, further malice drips from Wafawarova’s keyboard. Just like on the ideological issue, he states as a matter of fact that our paper is “Western-funded”. This is actually false like all his other claims.
The facts have been publicly explained. Alpha Media Holdings, the company that runs the Independent, is 39% owned by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) which “invests in independent media around the world providing the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies”.
Independent founding editor Trevor Ncube is the majority shareholder. This is common cause. It’s a business arrangement. In fact, MDIF is out to make a return on its outlay like any other sensible investor would do, not the other way round.
Wafawarova also sought to make himself Nyathi’s spokesman on how he left the Independent, claiming he was removed for expressing divergent views. Given this reckless sloppiness, it might be worth clarifying this as well.
Wafawarova should not pretend he is privy to business or editorial decisions made at this company. We are not going to say why Nyathi left because that is his prerogative to do so. Nyathi is a competent and professional journalist and can actually write his own story far better than Wafawarova.
What we can say though without fear or favour is that we are and remain a marketplace for ideas. Anyone, including Wafawarova, is welcome to write on our platform although we, like any other media organisation, have our own editorial policy and values. Nyathi appreciates this.
Consequently, the Nyathi issue, which has its own context and dynamics, should not be used to justify such needless and self-serving attacks on us.