Mangoma's right of reply

HARARE - Over the years I have respected the Daily News as an alternative news source in a country whose public media is abused by Zanu (PF), which has used both The Herald and the ZBC as propaganda mouthpieces of the party.

It was therefore bewildering to read the paper’s 31 December 2013 issue, which carried an article that was not only malicious but was also a brazen attack on my character and my position as the MDC Deputy Treasurer General.

The article entitled “Mangoma cost us Manicaland” insinuates that I was sorely responsible for the party’s  “loss” to Zanu (PF) in Manicaland Province because of what the writer erroneously refers to as my opposition to the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project.

The article is devoid of facts and smacks of a desperate attempt to tarnish my image by people who appear to be working with certain political figures to achieve some political objectives.

The nameless and faceless writer of the article, who choses to hide behind the “Own Correspondent” veneer, ignores the basic principles of ethical journalism by publishing inaccurate information about me without asking for my side of the story.

If this is an opinion piece, is it not a journalistic principle that the Daily News is obligated to publish the name of the writer?

The article’s reference to so called sources in the form of some shadowy names appears to be a desperate attempt to give credence to what is clearly a newsroom generated ‘opinion piece’ that is designed to tarnish my good name.

Ironically, an article with the same subject appeared in The Herald issue of the same day which raises questions about the source of the articles and the motive behind their publication.

For the record neither myself, nor the MDC, the party that I represent, are or have been opposed to the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project, to the extent that it must benefit the Zimbabwean public.

As the minister of Energy and Power Development I welcomed any projects that would help the country improve its energy supply, bearing in mind that the country was coming out of a decade-long fuel crisis that saw huge amounts of man hours being lost as workers spent hours and days in fuel queues.

However, while the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project has the potential to benefit Zimbabwean citizens through the reduction of fuel prices and the generation of jobs for the local communities, there were issues that I felt needed to be addressed before the full implementation of the project to ensure that it was not turned into some personal enrichment project.

My concern was that the price that Green Fuel was proposing to charge consumers on a mandatory basis was too high and would squeeze motorists.

Ironically I made the very same point with one of the Daily News reporters Mr Guthrie Munyuki in an interview that was published by the same paper on the 9th of December 2013 and I even gave comparative figures from other countries such as Zambia to make my point.

As Minister I had issues with the fact that Green Fuel was proposing to charge consumers $0.95 a litre and yet studies from other countries have shown that the cost of production can be as low as $0.50 per litre.

For me it was clear that the pricing model was exploitative and result in super profits, at the dire expense of the public.

To this extent, I voiced against the designing of a policy meant only to benefit a single individual.

Another of many concerns I had, which is also the concern of several other organisations and individuals, was that Green Fuel was violating the terms of its  nullified agreement with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) by cultivating an extra 3500 hectares without government authority.

This was pushing thousands of villagers out of their much-valued land thereby affecting their livelihoods.

This callous displacement of villagers was reminiscent of colonial practices when our fore fathers were dispossessed of land and got confined to barren and dry Tribal Trust lands and as a responsible minister I had a constitutional and moral obligation to protect citizens from losing their land without equitable compensation and a right to participate in the project.

The liberation struggle was waged principally to reverse this inequity among other cherishable reasons.

The other problem is that the mandatory blending was being done without sufficient research on its mechanical effects on certain vehicles.

Some vehicle manufacturers have now brought forward irrefutable evidence that certain models of cars will be damaged from blended fuel and that mandatory blending has not taken this into consideration.

In simple terms, I disagreed with this approach on the basis that citizens who purchased vehicles before the proposed policy were now confronted with a reality that some  of these vehicles were no longer compatible with the fuel made available, without any options and choices at all.

The fact that some citizens are now challenging the mandatory blending in the courts vindicates my concerns.

To say that raising these concerns as I did was the cause of the MDC’s “loss” in Manicaland in the July 31 election is the highest level of dishonesty.

In any case it is false to say that the MDC lost in Manicaland or any other province for that matter.

The party has made its position very clear that this was a rigged election in which state security agents colluded with ZANU (PF) and other foreign agents to manipulate the voters roll and electoral process, abuse the public media, disenfranchise millions of potential voters and intimidate voters to deny the MDC deserved victory.

Is the writer of the article suggesting that I was also responsible for the party’s ‘loss’ in Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Midlands, Matebeleland North and Matebeleland South?

The MDC has been at the forefront of seeking viable solutions to the country’s energy crisis, which is a result of three decades of ZANU PF ineptitude and poor planning. Our record in the inclusive governmemt speaks for itself.

As Energy minister I was able to build on the work started by my predecessor Engineer Elias Mudzuri to improve the country’s energy supplies.

Zimbabweans will remember that the period of the GNU saw significant reductions in power outages as we worked tirelessly to give households and corporations a better service.

In the liquid fuels sector we were able to stabilize a fuel crisis that had affected both individuals and corporations, resulting in improved industrial productivity and job creation.

Our energy policy, whose drafting I proudly contributed to, has proposals for increasing energy production and an MDC government will invest in long term projects that include building the Batoka and Devils Gorges and regional projects like the Great Inka, which have the potential to solve the country’s energy problems once and for all.

While we are known sticklers for media freedom as demonstrated by our media policy, which espouses the self-regulation of both the public and private media, it is our firm belief that journalists and newspapers must uphold the highest standards that their industry demands.

The article in question demonstrates a serious and worrying deviation from the principles and values of ethical journalism, which must be worrying for many readers who have regarded the Daily News as a credible and reliable news source.

*Elton Mangoma is MDC deputy treasurer-general.

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