Principals open up, stop hiding!

HARARE - At A time Zimbabwe is confronted by a number of socio-economic issues, one would have thought the country’s political leaders would readily avail themselves to explain these numerous conundrums through the press.

But alas, the reaction and signal from both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai — ever since the Government of National Unity was established — has shown an uncanny reluctance, which probably brings to the fore their almost similar leadership style.

While one would have been inclined to think the coalition government will usher in a new era in media relations, there has been no real or tangible change in the rules of engagement by these two key pillars of society three years down the line. It is business as usual for these politicians and their offices.

Getting an interview with Mugabe or Tsvangirai is like extracting water from a rock, and the opportunity for ample interaction has been limited to infrequent news conferences.

While people appreciate that these political principals are busy and have a hectic daily schedule, they must make an effort to make time to explain many of these vexing issues such as the state of the economy, constitution-making process and its likely fate, given the perplexing political signals so far.

In this regard, one man who has tried his best in availing himself to journalists and people alike is Welshman Ncube, and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

He is one person and “principal” you can talk to directly, without any bureaucracy at all.

There is always the temptation of calling Tsvangirai and other politicians directly, but they seem stonewalled in bureaucracy and endless protocols.

This behaviour by Mugabe and Tsvangirai is an affront to the free flow of information, and the need for our people(s) to be informed in terms of the Global Political Agreement’s Article 19 on press freedom.

Curiously, these same principals gleefully grant exclusive interviews when its the foreign press corp making the call. For the record, an interview request to Mugabe is exactly what it is: a matter of record and it seems the octogenarian leader is wont to renege on his constant promises to engage the media regularly.

As an organisation, we have routinely asked for interviews with the state President and the promises are yet to come to fruition. As a paper, we stand ready to talk to him on many, many of those confounding issues, including the Constitution, elections, flow of diamond money and others, and one hopes the promise does not remain a pipe dream.

While Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been key protagonists for many years, it seems though that there is a convergence on their rules of engagement with the press and this is lamentable.

On that note, we hereby present a challenge for them to open themselves up to the press and nation at large in the hope that together we can build a better Zimbabwe.

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