HARARE - In a shocking development, it has emerged that hawkish permanent secretary for the Information ministry, George Charamba, is apparently calling Daily News advertisers and threatening them not to do business with the country’s top daily newspaper.
The Daily News, which only came back to the market five years ago after nearly eight years of forced closure by President Robert Mugabe’s government — in which Charamba played a prominent role — has since its relaunch been reporting accurately and consistently on the ruling Zanu PF’s brutal infighting, which is impacting negatively on the country as a whole.
As a result of the newspaper rightly playing its watchdog role, it has faced sustained pressure from some Zanu PF officials, including being slapped with vexatious lawsuits, and often being banned from circulating in certain areas and covering some State functions.
Charamba himself has not only used his position as Information permanent secretary to publicly threaten the country’s independent media, he has also abused his State media column in which he uses the pen name Nathaniel Manheru to churn out malicious lies and hate speech targeted at the Daily News.
A number of advertisers confirmed yesterday that they had since last year been receiving “not-so-friendly calls” from Charamba, accusing them of “the sin of giving business” to the Daily News, which he claimed was portraying Zanu PF in negative light.
“We are not keen to be at the centre of this issue, as we do not want to fight with Zanu PF and the government.
“But it is true that we have received not-so-friendly calls to the effect that we should stop supporting the Daily News,” a representative for one of the companies which have been threatened said.
SUCCESSIONIST?: Controversial presidential spokesperson George Charamba at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare yesterday.
Efforts to get comment from Charamba yesterday, who routinely refuses to speak to the Daily News, were unsuccessful — as he did not answer his mobile phone, even though it was ringing.
Group Editor for the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News — Stanley Gama — said if the claims were true, “and at the moment we have no reason to believe that our advertisers would make such grave allegations in vain”, it would be “a shocking and profoundly sad development”.
“We are talking here of the top civil servant in charge of the government ministry responsible for the sector in which we operate, including the licensing of our business and the registration of our journalists.
“If it is true that this is what he is doing, it is shocking beyond words, perhaps only comparable to the heinous bombings of our printing press in 2001 and the unjust closure by the government of our company two years later.
“And obviously, anyone who is guilty of what is being alleged clearly wants to cripple and silence us once again, by starving our company of advertising revenue.
“This is contemptible thuggery which ought to be condemned by all right-thinking Zimbabweans, including senior government leaders,” Gama said.
The belligerent Charamba — who stands accused by senior Zanu PF officials and the women’s league of manipulating State media and playing destructive factional games within the ruling party in support of embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — has lately been in the news for the wrong reasons, fighting with Cabinet ministers.
When the Daily News started reporting on the rampant factionalism devouring Zanu PF, the newspaper was attacked left, right and centre by the likes of Charamba, amid claims that its reports were a figment of the paper’s imagination.
These crass denials have since been laid bare for the pathetic lies that they are, with Charamba himself recently at the centre of a Zanu PF storm after he savaged senior party officials opposed to Mnangagwa in a controversial interview with ZiFM Stereo.
The pressure being brought to bear on the Daily News has invoked memories of the bombing of the newspaper by suspected State security agents in January 2001.
The popular daily was subsequently forced to close in September 2003, and only came back in late March 2011.