Salarygate: Tilting towards national interest

HARARE - It is not easy to speak up against a man who has made a living discrediting other people’s public statements.

Now Jonathan Moyo, the Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister, declines to speak openly about national interest, saying his definition has been sledged in “vicious editorials.”

“On all the previous occasions that we have spoken on national interest, you have disagreed with us,” Moyo told a Zimbabwe National Editors Forum breakfast meeting with editors drawn from all media houses last week.

“You have even accused us of trying to monopolise the definition of national interest. But we have not missed an opportunity to try and explain what we mean by national interest. And this is a very important issue not just for the media, but for everyone in Zimbabwe.”

This was after editors had asked the government spin-doctor to explain exactly what national interest was, amid indications the State and the media hold different opinions on what Zimbabwe’s national interests are and how they should be combined with shared values.

Editors queried that the ambiguity of the definition of national interest provokes internal contradictions in its interpretation.

The State and the media seem to agree that Zimbabwe should be guided by the service of national interest.
But they disagree on the method for accomplishing that aim.

Rhetorically, ‘‘national interest’’ is treated like an impregnable fortress inside which reside patriotic, honourable Zimbabweans of all political stripes unified in their dedication to the protection of the nation — except they do not happen to agree on what constitutes this incontestable good, the national interest.

But Moyo insisted he will not talk about national interest because it would really get him in a jam with the media.

It took a lot of coaxing by editors for him to open up.

“You cannot continue asking us the same things we have said; in order to give you an opportunity to disagree with us,” Moyo told editors.

“You go there, you wrote your editorials to say, ‘ah, these guys think they have a monopoly on national interest.’

“Okay, we think we do not have a monopoly, but our views are known and we are very happy to repeat them today.  But I do not think that is a useful way of spending time.

“I do not want to repeat things that will be subjected to vicious editorials. Tell us what is the national interest as the media and why do you have problems about what we have said before about national interest so that we can see whether we can bridge the gap and  move forward.”

The national interest, often referred to by the French expression raison d’État (roughly translated in English to mean ‘‘reason of the State’’), is a country’s goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural.

Moyo said nothing that stands in opposition to the Zimbabwean interest can be in the national interest, adding the State’s security and its economic prosperity are the national interest.

Citing as an example, he said the polarisation in the media was not in the national interest.

“Polarisation is not good because it is not in the national interest,” Moyo said.

“It is in the  national interest to recognise that there is one mainstream media in the country.

“The reason being that media people, unlike others, are professionals, first and foremost there are certain common professional requirements that someone must fulfil or have, in order to be part of the media.

“Its not a bambazonke (free for all) kind of thing. There is media training, practice, backgrounds, ethics which can only become familiar to people who are trained in the profession. There is no reason why the so-called public media or private media should not behave in the same way since they are supposed to have the same background.

“And then we are saying these practitioners with a common training of professional background are Zimbabweans. They belong to a body politic that makes them have a shared history, shared values, even shared aspirations and that should create a common background not divide them.

“The difference can only emerge in terms of ownership, for example, editorial focus, and so forth. And that if they were informed by that kind of background, then this distinction in the country between public and private media is not constructive.”

Moyo said “corruption is public enemy number one” and the single biggest threat to national interest.
“Corruption is seriously harmful, seriously destructive to the national interest,” he said referring to the ‘‘Salarygate scandal".

“It is harmful to two obvious interests, it is harmful to public interest, it is harmful to national interest,” Moyo said.

“It is not in the public interest when public officials abandon their duties in pursuit of self interest. We cannot have a problem understanding the difference between self interest and public interest.”

Moyo said public interest can rise to national interest; “that if you allow a thing to continue happening in the manner that it is, you are harming not just the public interest, but you are harming also the national interest.”

“This kind of corruption that we are talking about, exemplified by the cases so far exposed, for officials in boards conniving to self enrich by abusing funds or assets is against national interest,” Moyo explained. “I hope there is no one who thinks that corruption is in the national interest.”

Turning to the beleaguered ZBC; Moyo said at a time the State broadcaster has been allowed to collect licence fees, it continues to argue that it has not received a government grant since 1998.

“But everyday (ZBC) they are collecting fees and they are the only ones with this dispensation and they are so corrupt that they cannot understand that collecting a fee is a grant,” Moyo said.

“You know, they think a grant is something that comes from government through a parliamentary budget process and ‘for the fiscal year 2013, ZBC is hereby allocated $2 million.’ They will be very happy even though they collect fees from the public.”

Moyo said in the ‘‘salarygate scandal”, the “media has in this case played not just a leading role, but a pivotal role in exposing it.”

“It has not been exposed by government, it has not been exposed by a political party, it has not been exposed  by the NGOs, it has not been opposed by Transparency International, it has not been exposed by churches, all very important actors in society, all influential voices,” Moyo said.

“It has been exposed by the media. And as people who understand how cancerous corruption is but also how difficult it is to deal with, will tell you that the first line of attack against corruption is by exposing it. There is no way anyone can fight corruption behind the scenes. And any attempt to do so is corrupt.

“So the best way of fighting corruption is by exposing it. Exposing it creates the possibility for various arms of the State to begin to do what they should do in terms of the due process of the law.

“After all we are a constitutional democracy, ...people are innocent until proven guilty. They cannot be proven guilty in a court of public opinion but in a competent court of law. Therefore exposing corruption is pursuit of national interest. Media has pursued national interest with a common interest.”

Moyo said national interest also entailed acknowledging the legacy of the liberation struggle, that Zimbabwe’s black nationalists waged a protracted 16-year bush war against colonial rule and won, ushering in national independence on April 18, 1980.

He said territorial integrity, sovereignty and the State’s ownership rights were also important in defining national interest.

Comments (3)

But Moyo knows to his collegues in Government protecting corruption is also called "national Interest' so you start wondering what national interest is prof. Other than talk and talk his boss was eating cake in Marondera and doing nothing about corruption which has sunk to the levels where some people have millions of dollars in their pillow cases and ask Chinamasa to go look for money in China. So media polarisation is in th eyes of politician where they expect all to keep quite to misdemenours of the ruling elite just to protect the party from disintegrating. Instead of cleaning the party since they have the looters in the open they would rather protect them and call it "National Interest"

maita - 24 February 2014

The "salarygate scandal" has been received well by the "public", Moyo. Just stop talking for the "public interest", sniff another scandal for the national good. Note, I did not use "national interest".

lorenzo - 24 February 2014

Jonathan botched it when he appointed a Priest,a Murderer and an Intellectual Thief to lead the Board at ZBC. It defeats the whole purpose of combating corruption and instilling discipline in Public Organisation.This combination doesn't work.

Guranyanga - 24 February 2014

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