Open letter to President Robert Mugabe

Your Excellency,

IT IS good to see that the First Family, like many other important people in the ruling Zanu PF, is showing a keen interest in the life and business of the media, particularly independent newspapers such as the Daily News.

Indeed, for much of last year, a fired up First Lady not only led from the front Zanu PF’s moves to take out many of the party’s leading lights, she repeatedly confirmed the fact that she reads independent newspapers voraciously — even as it also became very evident that she was not well informed about both the operations and ownership of media houses such as Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of the Daily News.

In that light, it was good and most impressive to see you recite headline after headline of many of the riveting stories that independent newspapers have churned out over the past few weeks, as you spoke at the luncheon that followed your most interesting opening of Parliament on Tuesday.

Regrettably, and just as the First Lady has tended to do, you chose to blame the messenger for your Zanu PF’s and Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges, rather than reflect properly on the real reasons why and how you, your party and the country are often the recipients of not so flattering press coverage.

More concerning Your Excellency, is that even the ever “patriotic” State media quoted you threatening the private media with unspecified future action — which is ominous for newspapers such as the Daily News, which was forcibly and unjustly shut down by your government in September 2003, for eight long years: all for the crime of telling it like it is, without fear or favour, as our motto goes.

You did not say a word on Zanu PF media, oops I meant to say State media, their role in Zimbabwean politics and society over the past 35 years, and how they have the singular and rare gift of sniffing out enemies of the State out of anyone who disagrees with you, your wife, Zanu PF or your government — no matter how well-meaning.

Nary a word on the country’s fundamental problem — serious governance deficiencies, that have seen Zimbabwe move from being the bread basket of the region in 1980 to a much derided basket case, where Masters’ graduates are desperate street vendors.

And nothing about the First Lady’s egregious lies about the ownership of the Daily News; absolutely nothing about worsening Zanu PF infighting and corruption that has brought Zimbabwe to its knees; and zip about our leadership’s despicable tendency to blame the West, travel restrictions, the opposition and the private media when their legendary incompetence and misrule is highlighted.

Surely, you cannot blame independent media for Zanu PF’s deadly ructions, which resulted in former Vice President Joice Mujuru being purged from the party together with other bigwigs?

It would be equally bizarre if anyone accused these puny media outlets of being the cause of the serious corruption that is devouring the heart of this troubled nation and that is seeing political heavyweights build monstrous and multi-million dollar mansions in Harare’s northern suburbs despite earning relatively low official salaries.

And it would be strange to blame the independent media for Tuesday’s so-called speech mix-up in Parliament which saw you, Your Excellency, being duped into embarrassingly reading the wrong speech!

No wonder, following your surprising Tuesday comments, media lobby group Misa Zimbabwe objected to your speech, saying your threat underlines the dangers that continue to confront the media in the country despite the adoption of a new Constitution guaranteeing media freedom.

“Besides, such blatant threats can potentially trigger extra-legal violation of media freedom by political activists, who in the past have — with impunity — harassed and beaten up media practitioners as well as torched and barred from circulation media products they deemed reflected badly on their political parties and leaders.

“Misa-Zimbabwe therefore calls on the country’s leadership to exercise restraint and desist from issuing such threats, which are not only in conflict with the letter and spirit of the Constitution but inherently border on incitement to media freedom violations,” it said.

Which brings me, Your Excellency, to a critical discussion I have always wanted to bring to you and your lieutenants’ attention — that of patriotism and patriotic media.

Indeed, how should a patriotic media report on issues?

Is a patriotic media one which ignores corruption and incompetence, or one which reports on these scourges?

Does a patriotic media also pretend that the Zimbabwean economy is not dying, or that there is no serious infighting within Zanu PF, when every Zimbabwean stands witness to these obvious realities?

All this is not to say that you, Your Excellency, are not entitled to your views, or that there isn’t a lot to criticise about local journalism. But we need to face up to the real issues confronting our country.

To say the independent media are oppositional, as many senior Zanu PF officials do with the egging of their hangers-on, is as bad as making a sweeping statement such as that all black people are inherently corrupt.

At the heart of this crass mentality is a lack of understanding and respect for journalism. Thus, in our politicians’ twisted minds, if you support or praise Zanu PF, then you are a good and objective journalist.  If you dare criticise the party and its leaders, then you are a sell-out serving white or foreign, interests.

It boggles the mind.

Your Excellency, here is the nub of democracy and media freedom: It should mean that you and your Zanu PF colleagues respect the right of newspapers to be even oppositional if they so choose — which Zimbabwean independent newspapers certainly aren’t.

Ironically too, the most problematic areas of our media, in my view, are, and have always been those in which the government has the most influence — ZBC and State newspapers!

Surely this is not rocket science, even when one analyses the coverage of Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars.

In summary, the view that privately-owned newspapers should only publish positive news to demonstrate their patriotism and to supposedly encourage social cohesion and national pride is twisted, to say the least.

Your Excellency, one of journalism’s most important functions is to be a watchdog over those who wield power, no matter how uncomfortable this can sometimes be.

Indeed, journalism is most useful to society and at its most patriotic when it is challenging and probing — not fawning on our rulers.

Our emerging democracy can only get stronger if the opening marketplace of ideas continues to obtain in our beloved country. For, it is out of a healthy contestation of ideas that the best policies can emerge in the country and be implemented for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.

We at the Daily News earnestly believe that we have both a patriotic and national duty to play a central role in this marketplace of ideas. In this endeavour, our duty is to our country — not to individuals, businesses and political parties: which is why we, as a national and patriotic newspaper always “tell it like it is”, unequivocally without fear or favour.

And for your information, Your Excellency, 90 percent of our stories — whether some people may perceive them positively or negatively, are very often given to us by very senior people in Zanu PF, in government and in business; who all assist us in good and patriotic faith!

I hope this is useful as you continue to reflect on our media.

Stanley Gama
ANZ Group Editor


Comments (21)

Well said Mr S Gama. this is letter Bob and Giresi would not love to read but they will read it

bt - 17 September 2015

Nonsense, please Daily news stop your shameless hatred towards the President

buster - 17 September 2015

Matanga futi kusumudzira mai mujuru muchinyudza mudhara

sbt - 17 September 2015

Buster is trying to safeguard his I'll gotten goods.

Tiger Shona - 17 September 2015

Well said Mr. Editor. Zimbabwe needs such courageous cadres who tell it as it is without favor or frown. Hopefully the President will care to read.

Manatsa waDonono - 17 September 2015

Ko Dzamara akawanikwa here

changara - 17 September 2015

Hear, hear! We need more journalists and more citizens to speak truth to power like this.

Mercy - 17 September 2015

Stan...wagona fani......the truth shall remain the truth although it hurts......chokwadi chinorwadza..ZANU PF is now dead......hence the panic

Clemence Tashaya - 17 September 2015

His Excellency will not read this as the man is now too old to read newspapers. Very soon they will make him read his resignation letter to the nation. 91 years is not a joke guys.

anonimous - 17 September 2015

Baba ndiyambutsei rwizi, uru rwizi Jordan.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 17 September 2015

Truth is now always accepted in the zanu vocabulary. In fact, lies, corruption, stealing, cheating are the hall marks of zanu and its leaders from head to bottom. It is these lies that Mugabe and his government want Zimbabweans to believe in order to portrayed as patriotic. What kind of leader is it who banks on lies, stealing, cheating, and corruption never minding the gravity of these fouls and then putting blame on the west and sanctions which aren't sanctions but travel bans. It is time zimbabweans are exposed to the truth about what exactly is obtaining in our beloved country of which some of these ills are obvious.

pride - 17 September 2015

first line should read truth is not always

pride - 17 September 2015

Madhara anenge achiwerenga arere zvake. Cum 2018 uchanzwa achiti. Pamberi na Tsvangirai, Pasi ne wanovhotera ZANU.

zanu - 17 September 2015

This is a well thought piece. A master piece like no other. Thanks a lot Mr Editor for saying the truth as it is!!!

NDINI - 17 September 2015

I also know that he and she read this paper. ''Dont go and address the nation at Heroes Acre on Saturday . From there you will resign by yourself. Take Heed. I know you dont listen then the prophecy shall indeed manifest. Remember Peter ' I will never deny you my Messiah, ''

My Prophecy - 17 September 2015

Quite candidly stated Gama 'rays'...kkk...where is mr Chikede...i still reminisce his mentorship way back in 1994 at Chinembiri Sec Sch...maybe time may be the best judge of all things...what could a mortal man say in the fatherland...render to me your exact email address if u dont mind....cheers

mrForward - 17 September 2015

Regrettably President Mugabe will never admit that he is wrong. Its always somebody else s fault. Now they want a witch hunt on who swopped the speeches and punish them. He has been in charge for 35 years and it is not his fault that the country is so run d0own. Many people have been impoverished by his financial blunders. Well said and written Mr. Editor keep telling it like it is and lets see him squirm.

vortex - 17 September 2015

Tale of a villain and rascal Shame has no fancy stroking I write this tale with a bleeding pen and choking heart For the character is a braggadocio person A villain who wore his blinders like flamboyant apparel Wouldn't see the truth It hurt his jaundiced eye he would say And so he pretended the masses loved him And if his deaf ear could open He would hear the whispers of their acrimony The sizzling ambers of their rage The ones he bruised and would not care Clothed in rags and derided like his marionettes But they saw his strutting nudity A villain; a rascal; a buccaneer Donned in suits of the white men he abhorred Drunk in power that gave him his blindness Bob the plunderer would not see or hear That his end was nigh And like the grime he was To grime he would forever lie And the nation he once raped Shall piss on his rotting grave.

Slingshot - 18 September 2015

His excellency will not read this repeating message. He is tired of repetition. Write something new.

banho - 18 September 2015

Great piece, Editor, but given our leadership, its like casting pearls to swine.

pachedu - 18 September 2015

Grace mugabe is planning well to replace Robert when she thinks it is timely. It is good she dresses and lives a life of extravagance, as this shows the world that Zimbabwe respects and welcomes its leaders.

Bono - 22 September 2015

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