INFORMATION, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa has commended the Zimbabwe Independent for holding government officials and institutions to account in the past 25 years as this publication celebrates its Silver Jubilee.
Speaking at the Independent’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in the capital this week, Mutsvangwa said the media plays a vital role in democratic societies.
“I would like to commend the Zimbabwe Independent as it continues to play a fundamental role in holding us as leaders accountable and contributing to democratic processes — values, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa and government have sworn to uphold and committed to,” she said.
Mutsvangwa said free media systems give voice to citizens, truth test political parties during elections, inform policy debates in parliament, investigate corruption, hold public officials accountable, enable democratic governance and facilitate more effective development.
The Independent, Mutsvangwa said, had many achievements, including becoming the first local publication to have a website in 1997.
She challenged the company to continue investing in technology and remain a force to reckon.
Gender and Media Connect (GMC) said the publication was a pacesetter, having made efforts to mainstream gender in its recruitment, operations and career advancement policies.
“These policies provide a good base in ensuring a gender inclusive workplace,” GMC said.
“In 2019, we saw the rise of a woman to the helm of the paper — Faith Zaba — who was promoted to the position of editor. This to us and the rest of the media fraternity was a big milestone as there are a few women occupying decision-making positions in the media sector in Zimbabwe.”
The Independent founding chief reporter Basildon Peta said the publication allowed journalists to thrive professionally without fear or favour.
“Journalism became alive. By the second edition in the initial editions, we started exposing the scandal about the large-scale looting of the War Victims Compensation Fund. The subsequent Godfrey Chidyausiku inquiry confirmed most of my reporting of that scandal. But most of the culprits were never prosecuted, partly because Robert Mugabe’s brother-in-law, Reward Marufu, was among the prime looters,” Peta said.
He said though it normally takes a couple of years for any new newspaper to assert itself, the impact of the Independent was sudden. He described the newspaper as a game changer.
“Despite the mushrooming of outlets over the years, the Independent remains the best and most serious read. It has held firm throughout its editorships, including Dumisani Muleya and Faith Zaba,” Peta said.
The Independent founding news editor, Barnabas Thondhlana, said setting up the newspaper was no stroll in the park.
“Of course, the market was sceptical that we would make an impact. Many thought us foolish to leave an established media house and venture into the unknown. Many before us had tried to launch newspapers and had fallen by the wayside, never to rise again,” Thondhlana said.
“But we took to the challenge with aplomb, and soon, the market and the readers noticed.”
He said the team broke big stories and the publication became a newspaper of record while others slowly lost their steam due to political interference, lethargy and conformity.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) director Thabani Moyo applauded the newspaper for remaining resilient over the past 25 years.
“The independent media had all along proven to be resilient in the face of assaults, arrests, torture, closure and in certain instances bombings. These are the snares that punctuated the journey of the press in Zimbabwe, post-independence,” Moyo said.
He encouraged the Independent to avoid being entangled in government interference and hold power to account.