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15 May 2004 00:00
May, so far, has not been a particulary good month for Zimbabwean Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo.
Last week Moyo was jeered in Maputo at the headquarters of the Mozambican Journalists Union (SNJ) by a group of journalists who prevented him from addressing a press conference.
Earlier in the week the petulant minister was also the subject of a veiled attack by the small Zimbabwean Tribune newspaper.
The paper’s publisher, Kindness Paradza, is a Zanu-PF MP.
Moyo’s Department of Information and Publicity two weeks ago attacked Paradza’s maiden speech in Parliament, describing the MP’s contribution as “ignorant”.
Paradza’s crime, it appears, was to criticise on Zimbabwe’s media laws, which he said did not promote investment in the industry. A former journalist, he has since been suspended by the provincial executive of his party on charges of denigrating party policy.
As Zimbabweans read the uncharacteristic attack on Moyo by Paradza, the minister was receiving similar treatment in Mozambique.
Reports from Maputo said protesting journalists accused Moyo of trying to address a meeting “in the victims’ house” — a reference to the imprisonment of journalists and lack of press freedom in Zimbabwe.
The protesters carried banners reading “A snake is always a snake, wherever it is” and “Moyo, go away, you are not welcome here”. They protested loudly against the closure of newspapers in Zimbabwe.
Moyo, who was on an official visit to the Mozambican capital, was not prepared for such antagonism. He had enjoyed cordial talks with Mozambican government officials, and visited various media institutions such as the Mozambique News Agency and Radio Mozambique.
The reports said he remained in the room, hoping the protesters would eventually calm down. However, he finally had to leave without speaking.
HilÃ¡rio Matusse, general secretary of the union of journalists, expressed surprise at the demonstration because he was “fully convinced that the press conference was in the interest of all journalists”.
Moyo returned from Maputo to be greeted by invective directed at him by the usually demure Tribune in an article titled “Paradza back in town”.
Paradza was responding to allegations published in the state media that he was planning to team up with exiled Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa — a major shareholder of the closed Daily News — to run the Tribune newspaper.
The state media also alleged that he would get money from the Britain for the venture, and to obtain the funds he had to attack the government.
Paradza was abroad when the allegations were made. This week he confirmed that he was suing the publishers of The Herald newspaper and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, which owns the television and radio company Newsnet.
While the article did not name Moyo specifically, Paradza’s comments left little to the imagination. He also made a veiled attack a senior party official in Mashonaland West.
“I know the two elements that tried to destroy me,” he said. They should be ashamed of what they did.
“Actually after this unprecedented onslaught on my person, I have emerged stronger than ever before.
“The good thing is that the whole nation knows that these elements have no morals. Both of them joined Zanu-PF in 2000 and their past smells like rotten eggs.”
He said the party leadership should take action against the “unscrupulous characters who want to destroy the party from within by peddling falsehoods”.
He added: “If they can abuse the state media and spread a lie like this, how much other false information have they told the party leadership, let alone the president?
“It is not surprising, because one of them is a former Rhodesian police reservist who used to kill freedom fighters during the liberation war, while the other worked for an imperialist organisation with direct links to the American spy agency, the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Moyo worked for the Ford Foundation, a US think-tank, before joining Zanu-PF in 2000 when he was first appointed to the Constitutional Commission.
Vincent Kayiha is the news editor of the Zimbabwe Independent
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