On Friday, June 27, the Zimbabwe Independent and its Johannesburg sister newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, published an article in which a number of false allegations are made about me as chairperson of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (Impi).
It is stated in the article for instance that I had what the newspaper calls clashes with Impi panellists Dumisani Muleya, the editor of the Independent, Susan Makore, the chief executive officer of AB Communications and musician Plaxedes Wenyika.
I asked your reporter Owen Gagare to consult Muleya, Wenyika and Makore on these allegations and gave him the telephone numbers of Makore and Wenyika, so that he could phone them.
I pointed out that the reporter should have Muleya’s number as he was his own editor.
The published article did not contain any input from the three panellists. They tell me they were never consulted by Gagare before his article was published.
Effectively the Independent makes serious allegations against me on the basis of claims by an anonymous third party without consulting the people who are accused of having clashed with me.
The Independent alleges, for instance, that I clashed with panellist Gift Mambipiri on two occasions.
This statement is completely false. I never clashed with Mambipiri. In the morning of Thursday, June 26, hours before Gagare interviewed me, Mambipiri sent a statement to TeldahMawarire at the Mail & Guardian in Johannesburg.
In this statement Mambipiri stated:
“I notice that you have included my name in an email requesting for comments from Mr Nyarota, the chairperson of Impi. Let it be known to you that I personally have never “clashed” with Mr Nyarota over any issue, and in particular the issues you raise in your mail.
“I personally never spoke to Mr Nyarota about sleeping in Gweru, neither did I “clash” with him over any refund. I hope you respect my side of the story. Ndatenda Gift Mambipiri”
Mambipiri’s side of the story was not respected. The two newspapers completely ignored and deliberately omitted it from their article.
Yet when Gagare interviewed me I brought Mambipiri’sstatement to his attention. Clearly, he and Mawarire did not want the true facts to stand in the way of their good story.
Nowhere is the malice intended in this article clearer than in the allegation that I personally granted a printing contract to Collin Chiwanza of Interlink Advertising out of nepotism, as earlier alleged by Daily News editor, Stanley Gama, in an e-mail he circulated to Impi panellists.
For the information of the public, which has been so misinformed by the Independent, three companies submitted quotations for the printing of Impi posters.
Collin Chiwanza’s quotation at US$2 700 was by far the lowest. The other quotations were for US$4 500 and Interlink’s at US$5 600. It is for this reason that I told the Daily News editor that if his intention was to maliciously soil my name he would have to try harder.
Long before Gama’s allegation was printed in the Independent and the Mail & Guardian I discussed this matter with him after an Impi meeting in our board-room.
After I explained the actual circumstances surrounding the awarding of the contract to Interlink by the Ministry of Information, Gama apologised to me.
He said he knew Chiwanza well and had personally used Interlink for printing jobs because they did a good job.
I pointed out to Gama that he was now apologising to me in private while the rest of the panellists to whom he had circulated his false allegation in writing remained blissfully unaware of this happy turn of events.
The very headline over the Independent article, “Internal conflicts scar Impi” is totally misleading.
If a manager takes steps to prevent staff from seeking to earn money for services not rendered while playing truant from duty for whatever reason, is that conflict? If the same manager rightly demands to be presented with receipts to back a claim for reimbursement, how does that become conflict?
The Mail & Guardian and the Independent are highly respected newspapers in South Africa and Zimbabwe, respectively.
Their performance over this issue, however, leaves a lot to be desired and falls far short of the high standards expected of them.
Rather embarrassingly the editor of the Independent Dumisani Muleya, who is on leave as these events unfold, is an Impi panellist.
So is Vincent Kahiya, the Editor-in-Chief of Alpha Media Holdings, publishers of the Independent.
Effectively, Muleya and Kahiya are among the 26 panellists who were falsely accused in an article that appeared in the Mail & Guardian on Friday, June 20.
It is alleged in the article in question that Impi panellists earn up to US$900 a day, which, of course, is totally false.
It is then further alleged in the same article that the panellists are being paid handsomely by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo to promote some unexplained political agenda of his.
I wrote to the editor of the Mail & Guardian to complain about the defamatory tone of this article, copying the communication to the newspaper’s Ombudsman.
I immediately received a message from the Ombudsman acknowledging receipt of the communication.
He made an undertaking that he would revert to me as soon as possible. Up to now, two weeks later, the learned Ombudsman never reverted to me.
As for the editor of the publication not a word has been heard from him.
Impi was set up to inquire into various aspects of the performance of the media, including the upholding of the standards and ethics of journalism. Its membership comprises the editors of Zimbabwe’s leading newspapers.
Impi accepts criticism, but such criticism should be couched on the basis of factual observations, not on the basis of some half-baked and malicious assertions submitted to the media by one disgruntled Impi panellist.
This episode serves to underline why there is a dire need for an initiative such as Impi in Zimbabwe, judging from the alleged prevalence of publication of falsehoods, polarisation, misrepresentation, outright defamation as well as general journalistic malpractice.
The beneficiaries of the Impi programme are many. They include members of the public, the media industry itself, the general political establishment as well as many other media stakeholders.
Incidentally, when the media reported anything on my brief sojourn into the world of politics in 2013 it was to announce that I was standing for parliament in the constituency of Makoni South in my capacity as an independent candidate, not a candidate for the MDC-T.
This distinction is vital to me.