The vice-president's allies won Mugabe to their cause, and the information minister is down – but not yet out.
President Robert Mugabe’s unprecedented verbal attack on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo was a culmination of several anti-Moyo briefings from the Zanu-PF faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru that claim he is using the media to advance factional politics while also destroying the party from within, officials have revealed.
Mugabe accused Moyo, a former political science lecturer, of fanning divisions in the party in a politburo meeting last Wednesday before repeating the attack the following day while addressing mourners at the late national hero Nathan Shamuyarira’s home, where among other things he blasted the information minister for appointing editors who have worked in the private media to the public media.
Mugabe took the verbal attack a step further during Shamuyarira’s burial on Saturday, calling Moyo a fool, a devil incarnate and a weevil, resulting in widespread speculation that Moyo’s days in the Cabinet were numbered.
Meeting with Mugabe
Sources close to the minister revealed that an unsettled Moyo requested a meeting with Mugabe, which took place on Monday.
He reportedly presented Mugabe with a written report in which he defended the media appointments and denied promoting factionalism.
The meeting started in the early evening and went on late into the night. The director general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Happyton Bonyongwe also attended.
There have been reports that Moyo had roped in the military to defend him against the attacks.
At the meeting, Mugabe and Moyo reportedly ironed out their differences. Mugabe was said to have demanded answers from Moyo and urged him to have a cordial working relationship with his colleagues and not behave as if he knows everything.
The Mail & Guardian is reliably informed that Moyo will continue in his ministerial post after the heart-to-heart talk with Mugabe. To show that he is staying put, Moyo attended a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and lined up a number of activities this week, including a tour of the Chisumbanje ethanol plant on June 13, to which journalists have been invited.
“He [Moyo] has not spoken much after the three-day verbal onslaught, but the activities could be a message to his detractors that ‘I’m around and I’m here to stay’,” said a senior government official.
In the complaints to Mugabe, Mujuru’s faction also complained about the Information Media Panel of Inquiry (Impi) that Moyo put together last year to assess the state of the information and media industry in Zimbabwe.
Among the aims of Impi is to promote and elevate the standards of media practice in the country as well as to look into the challenges affecting media operations.
Impi consists mostly of editors from the state and private media, including those from the M&G‘s sister company AMH. It has been on an outreach programme to collect the views of the public.
“We believe though, Moyo is fashioning Impi, which in his own vernacular means both a war regiment and war itself, to fight his political battle,” said a senior Zanu-PF official in the Mujuru faction.
“It’s clear he wants to have the editors across the board in his pocket for an onslaught ahead of the December congress. That’s why he is paying them handsomely for the job.”
Impi panel members are being paid $300 a sitting; they sometimes have up to three sittings a day. Their transport and accommodation for the outreaches are also catered for by the ministry.
The issue of Impi was also discussed at length in Moyo’s Monday meeting with Mugabe.
Apart from Mugabe, Moyo also came under intense attacks from members of the Mujuru faction during last Wednesdays’s politburo meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, Mugabe and other politburo members were given a report on the state-controlled media believed to have been again prepared by the Mujuru faction.
A Zanu-PF official said the report detailed how journalists from the private media had been appointed into key positions in the state media. That had been, it was believed, at the expense of journalists who had served Zanu-PF’s interests for years.
It also alleged that the state media had now turned on the government, publishing negative stories about the government and ministers.
The journalists were mentioned by name, including those who had been appointed to less influential positions.
“The controversial appointments include that of Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi who wrote several critical stories about Mugabe.
What really angered Mugabe is that a website that Kudzayi ran, African Aristocrat, ran a story claiming that Bona, the president’s only daughter, had been gang-raped by a group of Tanzanian students. His wife Grace had to publicly deny that story,” said a politburo member in the Mujuru faction.
Since Moyo’s appointment, the state media has played a crucial role in exposing corruption in state enterprises, some of which have sucked in ministers and high-ranking public officials.
State enterprises exposed include Air Zimbabwe, which lost millions of dollars through insurance fraud; the Public Service Medical Aid Society where chief executive officer Cuthbert Dube was earning $500 000 monthly despite the society being mired in $38-million of debt; and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) where Moyo has ordered an audit after allegations of fraud.
Air Zimbabwe fell under Nicholas Goche’s ministry of transport communications and infrastructure development, whereas ZBH was under Webster Shamu. The two are key members of the Mujuru faction while Dube is also a close associate of Mujuru.
In February, Mujuru reacted angrily to these exposures of graft and chastised the media, saying the exposures were being leaked by government officials who wanted to destroy the party from within.
Her remarks were largely seen as being targeted at Moyo, who hit back, saying individuals who spoke out against the media’s exposure of corruption were doing so “against Zanu-PF policies, against government policies, against the national interest and against the laws of the country”, adding that “the fact of the matter is that corruption is criminal and not political”.
There was a belief in the Mujuru camp that the corruption exposés were targeted at members of the faction, hence the vice-president’s public protests, which drew a huge public outcry.
Factional wars Mujuru is a stern Moyo critic and reportedly tried to influence Mugabe not to appoint him to the information ministry, arguing that he would abuse the media to achieve his political goals.
Although Moyo is reportedly working with the military, having abandoned the faction led by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, which has been jostling for power with the Mujuru faction for years, his work to “destabilise” Mujuru’s faction has been seen as a massive boon to Mnangagwa.
The minister of state in the vice-president’s office, Sylvester Nguni, had not responded to questions concerning Mujuru’s unhappiness with Moyo. Since his appointment as information minister in September last year, he has clashed with several key figures in the Mujuru faction. He has been at odds with the party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, Mashonaland West chairperson Themba Mliswa and Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Francis Nhema.
The state media has often sided with Moyo in the media battles. Mujuru in particular was subject to intense media scrutiny after she condemned the graft exposures.
“All these things have not gone unnoticed, including the blacking out of Gono in the state media, which even the president complained about when he toured Gono’s farm in March. But to show how stubborn he is, Moyo went on to say Gono should use his newspaper the Financial Gazette if he wants coverage,” said a politburo member.