HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday lashed out at State media, singling out The Herald newspaper, for running disparaging and destructive stories about deadly factionalism within his embattled Zanu PF party.
And just as Mugabe was rubbishing the State media at a Zanu PF politburo meeting in the capital, it emerged that heads were already rolling at Zimpapers, the publisher of The Herald.
Information filtered out late last night that the company’s group chief executive officer, Justin Mutasa, and finance director, Adolf Majome, had been sent packing unceremoniously amid a cocktail of negative factors bedevilling the media house.
Sources told the Daily News that the departure of Mutasa and Majome was linked to the anger of senior Zanu PF bigwigs against Zimpapers “for being sucked in factionalism”. The two men’s fate had apparently also been sealed once the company came out publicly this week to say it had recorded massive losses in its interim results.
The Daily News had not seen the official statement on this that was due to be released yesterday evening at the time of going to Press.
But it is understood that the statement was to contain a well-managed public relations piece explaining that Mutasa had requested to retire while Majome’s contract had allegedly expired.
The Daily News was reliably informed last night that following Mugabe’s statement, more big names were to fall at Zimpapers.
Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF’s spokesperson, earlier on told journalists soon after the politburo meeting yesterday that Mugabe had registered serious umbrage over The Herald’s coverage of events within Zanu PF, which was exposing his party to unwarranted criticism.
“The president also went further to denounce factionalism in the party. He was very critical of the media,” Gumbo said.
“He felt that the coverage in the media particularly The Herald, where the headline all the time is destructive statements about the party, disparaging the party, exposing the party to unnecessary criticism,” Gumbo added.
The Zanu PF spokesperson said the president urged the media, together with party leaders, to concentrate on development issues rather than abuse power.
“He felt that the media and also the leaders must focus on issues and not on personalities and abuse of power,” Gumbo said.
Some Zanu PF leaders’ in the past have raised their reservations on how the State media is covering developments within the party.
Just on Monday, Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chair Temba Mliswa accused Information minister Jonathan Moyo of allegedly being a “gay gangster” who is manipulating the State media to attack his political opponents.
“The gay gangsters are controlling the State media. Some of you won’t write what I’m saying here to appease Prof Moyo,” Mliswa said.
Mliswa’s outburst was precipitated by a series of stories carried out by the State media alleging that he and 11 other Zanu PF legislators (the so-called Dirty Dozen) were working with American intelligence operatives.
Mugabe, during the burial of the national hero Nathan Shamuyarira, openly tore into Moyo branding him a ‘devil incarnate’, while accusing him of appointing editors of State-owned newspapers who were sympathetic to the opposition.
Mugabe also accused Moyo of using the government-controlled newspapers to sow divisions with Zanu PF.
The president further complained that his Zanu PF had been infiltrated by “weevils” (a crop pest) bent on destroying the party from within.
Didymus Mutasa, the minister of State for Presidential Affairs, also lashed out against State media in November last year for taking sides in the Zanu PF succession drama.
Mutasa, who is also Zanu PF secretary for administration, said he was particularly not happy with being portrayed in the State media as a “dwarf in huge robes.”
“Please stop it, leave us alone, please regard us as your leaders, we come from the people who voted for us, and the president. We want to work in harmony,” Mutasa said.