HARARE - The sayings that lies have short legs and that no one can ever keep a good person down forever have been confirmed in the most dramatic fashion in the case of Zanu PF’s worsening factional and succession wars.
For the better part of the past five years, the country’s leading daily newspaper, the Daily News, was a lone and much-maligned voice as it reported accurately and consistently on the ugly ructions devouring the former liberation struggle movement “like it is”, as our motto goes, and without fear or favour.
For this courageous and much-needed journalism, our detractors — mainly State media, Zanu PF apparatchiks, a few dinosaur former journalists and other hired ruling party guns who falsely paraded themselves as analysts — excoriated us for “inventing” the rampant factionalism disembowelling the party.
Even when former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies were brutally purged from the party on untested allegations of plotting to oust and assassinate President Robert Mugabe, our haters did not relent on their well-calculated assault on us.
Some of the invectives that were thrown our way from all manner of quarters over the past five years bordered on the bizarre, and would have been laughable were they not so serious and maliciously intended.
There were the usual silly barbs that we are supposedly an opposition newspaper out to destroy Zanu PF, that we are unpatriotic and “anti-Zimbabwe”.
But our enemies went further, with their false narratives literally changing by the hour sometimes.
We were also supposedly on the payroll of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, as starved for resources as the main opposition is. Then Team Lacoste and Emmerson Mnangagwa — yes, the country’s embattled VP — were supposed to be funding us to destroy Mujuru and her allies.
Then the First Family was later persuaded (the better term is lied to) to pronounce that we had somehow received a whopping $2 million from Mujuru, who allegedly went on to acquire a 10 percent shareholding in the newspaper to fight Zanu PF.
Amazingly, some nutty heads in the brawling ruling party later claimed that it was in fact First Lady Grace Mugabe and the G40 who had since bribed us, this time to destroy Mnangagwa.
It all boggles the mind.
Now the truth is out, and the Daily News stands vindicated on its accurate and consistent reportage on Zanu PF.
Most satisfying for me personally and for my hardworking colleagues in our newsroom — who deserve all the credit and kudos that are finally going their way — our detractors have now zipped their foul mouths, and even the State media can no longer pretend that all is well in the ruling party.
But wait. There is even a firm belief within certain sections of Zanu PF that the Zimpapers flagship, The Herald, has in fact always been at the centre of the party’s savage factional and succession wars, as is being revealed by Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — who should know these things intimately as a former minister of Information who oversaw Zimpapers.
“There’s overwhelming & very serious evidence that (Information permanent secretary George) Charamba & @HeraldZimbabwe have gone rogue against the President (Mugabe). Handei tione (bring it on)!
“Record of his (Charamba’s) Manheru column proves he’s done so since June 2015 & he raised the stakes 2 wks (ago) with total collusion of @HeraldZimbabwe!
“Charamba declared in @HeraldZimbabwe June 2015 that he was going to lead the charge for Pres Mugabe’s succession or he would quit!
“Charamba in June 2015 in @HeraldZimbabwe: In the twilight of President Mugabe’s leadership, we badly need a frank debate on leadership!” Moyo tweeted authoritatively yesterday.
In this light, it is good to see that the First Family, like many other important people who are still in the ruling party, as well as many of those who have been purged from it, are showing an increasing appreciation of the positive role of the media in general, and the independent media such as the Daily News in particular.
May this long continue.
The truth too is that Zanu PF bigwigs were always aware and super-sensitive about their party ructions, with their vicious lampooning of the Daily News of the past five years betraying their fears about this reality getting to the masses at a time the country’s economy is dying and poverty levels reaching record highs.
This brings me to a critical discussion that I introduced in an open letter to President Mugabe last year — 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 as the Daily News does?
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 ugly realities?
To say the independent media are oppositional, as some senior Zanu PF officials crassly do with the egging of their hangers-on within State media, is surely as bad as making a sweeping statement such as that all black people are inherently corrupt.
At the heart of this stone-age mentality is a lack of understanding and respect for the role of journalism in a democracy.
Sadly, in our politicians’ twisted minds, if you support or praise Zanu PF, you are a good and objective journalist, and if you dare criticise the party and its leaders, then you are a sell-out serving white or foreign interests.
Yet the nub of democracy and media freedom as captured in the country’s new Constitution should mean that bigwigs respect the right of newspapers to be even oppositional if they so choose — which Zimbabwean independent newspapers certainly aren’t.
Indeed, journalism is at its most useful to society and also at its most patriotic when it is challenging and probing — not fawning on our rulers as State media do.
After all, 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.
And it is only 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.
As already alluded to above as well, the most problematic areas of our media are, and have always been, those in which the government has the most influence — ZBC and State newspapers!
We at the Daily News firmly believe that 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 and without fear or favour.
Will our overlords and their State media henchmen learn a lesson from this ugly episode?