Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Ups and Downs of 2015 and a Prognosis of 2016.^

A Presentation to the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) Public Meeting
26 November 2015, New Ambassador Hotel, Harare
By Takura Zhangazha*

Cde Chairperson,

Reviewing the political developments of the year  2015 initially appears to be an academic exercise. That is to say it may be more for the purposes of recording history than it is for learning from our national successes or mistakes.  In some instances remembering the last twelve months may be more for entertainment than it is for serious reflection and mapping a way forward based on lessons learnt from the passage of not only time but also political acts.

In preparing for my contribution to this important discussion I sought the help of colleagues and comrades via the new phenomenon that is social media.  I did so because no matter how much expertise one is deemed to have and as our own local proverb implies, one person alone cannot encircle a hill (rume rimwe harikombe churu).

The  feedback that came via these colleagues was apparent.  The year 2015 in their views was largely about electricity shortages, vendors, Grace Mugabe rallies, succession within Zanu Pf, the splits within the mainstream opposition MDC-T; the impact or lack of it of new media and digitization; ineffective political opportunism via small opposition political parties; the effects of the bond coin on Diaspora remittances; unemployment; the dire state of the economy; the parlous state of our national reading culture and the elephant in our national room which is the national drought that we are faced with.  

Overall however there is no sense of optimism for Zimbabwe’s 2016.  There is the general assumption and prognosis that there is no silver lining in the cloud for next year. 

There are several dimensions that must be examined for the purposes of this discussion. The first is that of the national economy, the second being the political state of affairs, the third being civil society, the fourth being generational praxis, the fifth as  our national environment and finally the social democratic way forward.

In relation to our national economy the most significant development has been the abandonment of the people by the state.  Over the course of the year we have definitively become a free market economy. That is, we have become an elite centered economy where we, in neo-liberal fashion, place the ease of doing business as the cornerstone of our economic development and prosperity. This is evidenced not only by President Mugabe’s sole state of the nation address in August this year but also the general courting of the world Bank/IMF and other investors to our country.  We are a country that is on the borderline of being for sale to the highest bidder, so long they leave something for our political and business elite.  While it is a given that our country is in desperate need of foreign direct investment, it is the lack of a people centered economic baseline in our international begging that will eventually be our undoing.  

Furthermore, we are faced with high levels of formal unemployment which government wants to dispute on the basis of the reality that most Zimbabweans are trying out of a lack of choice to be self employed.  Its economic blueprint, ZIMASSET has in the course of the year been shown to be largely for pontificating purposes with no progress being made.  Our economic infrastructure largely remains embedded in the colonial settler states development plans particularly where one considers electricity supply, road networks and industrial capacities.  An ironic indicator of this lack of infrastructural development is when President Mugabe recently  officially opened the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport road.  This is a road that should have been completed in 2010 for the South African edition of the FIFA World Cup.

Further to this, we have failed to consolidate any benefits of the fast track land reform programme (FTLRP).  Instead of ensuring people access to this precious resource, what has emerged in the course of the year are land barons and new land taxes that essentially point to privatization and elite re-capture of land. 

And privatization of state services appears to be a key component of our governments economic master-plan.  It is keen on ensuring that it shed responsibility for the provision of social services such as access to water, transport, health, education and electricity.  The most fervent attempt at privatization is currently that of energy where we have all sorts of tenders for the supply of either solar or coal power stations being awarded without publicly acknowledging the future increase in the cost for our majority poor citizens.  Government will also pursue its state capitalist model through for example acquiring private companies such as Telecel and then distributing ownership to those that are politically connected.

The expansion of ICTs and internet reach will essentially remain slower and more costly than in other countries primarily because government views this sector as one of its key cash cows.  This will also include the digitization project where government has already announced its policy intentions but with the intention of keeping the latter more commercial than it is about open access for all. Furthermore these new technologies will continue to negatively affect the profitability of the mainstream media, a development that inevitably leads to less public accountability of government. 

Another key component to consider about our national economy has been the rise of our non-currency, the bond coin.  Initially meant for utilitarian purposes it has become a default means of exchange of goods and services at levels that many ordinary citizens had not foreseen.  Pegged to the US$ via a loan from the AfreximBank, the bond coin is currently the preferred ‘currency’ of choice over the South African Rand. There will however be no return of a local currency in the proper sense because this state of affairs remains quite profitable to parallel money market operators who have proximity to state power.

The civil service, not necessarily the security services, will be downsized significantly in keeping with the requirements of the IMF staff monitored programme. This also coming against the dramatic backdrop of the court case that changed the rights of employees to benefits upon termination of contracts. This however will not mean the government  intends to be leaner, it just requires balance of payments assistance from global financial institutions.

So if one was to gaze into Zimbabwe’s economic horizon, the probable reality for 2016 is that if the economy improves, it will improve for the politically connected. It will be a neo-liberal economic template characterized by political patronage and cementing of elite but primitive accumulation of the few. 

Where it concerns our politics, this has been the year in which Zanu Pf internal politics has dominated the everyday narrative. Not only due to the purging of senior Zanu Pf leaders but the continued flexing of political influence by First lady Grace Mugabe.  It is an influence that she will take into 2016 though with less alacrity as was the case when she maneuvered for the ouster of Joice Mujuru.  President Mugabe, will however increasingly demonstrate who he trusts to take over within the course of the year.  This person is most likely to remain current vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, though he must demonstrate indubitable loyalty to the first family and its interests.  

What is certain is that Zanu Pf hegemony is not in any form of direct crisis.  Its internal purges of 2014 and beyond are essentially the worst that it will face until its next elective congress. 
However the jostling for political influence in a post Mugabe era has brought into play one of the most dangerous dimensions to our national politics. This being the rise of crass materialism as a key value in politics.  Distribution of goods, services, tenders and turning of blind eyes to corruption (as is the case with the Public Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) shall increasingly become intrinsic to our politics if left unchallenged. 

Where we consider the mainstream opposition, there will be little left to say save for the fact that it appears to have been hoist by its own petard. It has split once again to no real democratic benefit. These splits have cost it seats in parliament as well as hemorrhaged its share of state sanctioned funding.  It is least likely to recover its form of 2008 even with a coalition. At best the opposition will continue being exactly that, the opposition in the coming year.

This latter point brings me to the Joice Mujuru factor as regards her ability to effectively challenge for political power.  The fact that she has taken so long to launch her envisaged People First political party while pointing to caution, is essentially underestimating the importance of being clear, forthright, principled and consistent in the eyes of the Zimbabwean electorate.  Indeed there are various factors at play that would make her bide her time, especially the possibility of a Zanu Pf without Mugabe at its helm, but the longer she bides her time, the more likely her impact will be minimal. 

The third dimension of a prognosis for 2016 is to view the functioning of civil society in Zimbabwe.  This with particular reference to civil society that actively lobbies government and broader society for democratic and human rights reforms.  In the year under review it has been on a serious backfoot that stems largely from the fact that it no longer has a common agenda.  It is divided into disparate sections that seek to curry the favour largely of the donor community and in part government institutions before it seeks to embed itself with people-centered strategies.  With the new constitution, it is faced with the primary challenge of picking up from where it left off in its elitist ‘yes’ referendum campaign  to make the constitution not only known but appreciated by the country’s citizens.  It will also face the evident dilemma of dwindling donor funds and will inevitably compete among itself for whatever funds that will be availed.  All of which will point to an activism that is increasingly disconnected from the masses and more keen on satisfying the multiple intentions of donors and government institutions.  So in 2016, civil society will function to achieve elite incremental progress with regards to major democracy issues.  It will however not reach as popular levels of support as that which characterized the period between 1999 and 2010. 

The other dimension to be considered in analyzing the year 2015 is that which I refer to as generational praxis.  This is to do with the young people of Zimbabwe and their understanding as well as expectations of the country in which they currently live.  These young citizens who have not known a sensitive and caring state are being captured by elitist and materialist tendencies that emphasise individual than collective well being.  As a  direct result of the state of the national economy , especially unemployment and expensive education, their ability to be good standing citizens is several compromised.  Hence you will find that a majority of our youths are increasingly seeking either to depart the country, work for the security services, become hired political activists or immerse themselves in various other vices that afflict Zimbabwean society.  I would however hazard to say that they remain our country's best hope going forward.  Whoever mobilizes the young people of Zimbabwe in 2016 on the basis of democratic values and principles is certainly set to change the country for the better. Especially if they include fostering a reading and knowledge acquisition culture that goes beyond formal qualifications.

Penultimately I must make mention of the environmental aspect of the year that is coming a close.  We are faced once again with a drought. The levels of its severity are yet to be officially measured or announced but as the case almost every third year, the drought shall negatively impact our environment and our livelihoods.  Furthermore, the generally accepted fact of climate change shall increasingly show itself as we go forward.  Where we do not undertake clear and strategic interventions over and about the pollution of our rivers, bio-agriculture, fossil fuel consumption and preservation of our flora and fauna we are set for harder times in 2016.

In conclusion, I may have painted a rather bleak picture for both 2015 and 2016 but the way forward appears to be fairly clear. We have to confront our realities with intrinsic social democratic values and principles.  We have to understand that progressive, peaceful but revolutionary change, will come from an activism that is contextual and people centered.  If anything all of us must heed that famous quotation from the global revolutionary icon, Che Guevara who once said, ‘at the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.’ It is democratic love for our people and our country that will move us toward a better 2016 and a social democratic future. 

^With special thanks to colleagues and cdes who also contributed to this presentation via social media

*Takura Zhangazha spoke here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Zim Cabinet Ministers Pursuing Full Time Degrees, On Whose Time?

By Takura Zhangazha*^

A friend recently sent me an image of three serving cabinet ministers outside the University of Zimbabwe Law Faculty. Carrying what appear to be folders, they are pictured with one of their lecturers who incidentally happens to lead his own political party.  As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words.  These three ministers are Prof Jonathan Moyo (Higher and Tertiary Education), Patrick Zhuwao (Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment) and Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government). 

As already reported in the media, they all recently enrolled for the four to six year and full time (continuous learning) undergraduate law degree programme at our country’s oldest university. Their reasons for doing so are not necessarily in congruence but one can only guess it is to further their professional qualifications in one way or the other.  And that is not a bad thing in itself.  We are all encouraged in our highly competitive and small job market to get further qualifications where we can. Even if we are politically ambitious.

The only peculiarity that cannot escape notice is that these three ministers are obviously very  busy men. Just by dint of being elected (Moyo and Kasukuwere) and appointed (Zhuwao) members of parliament.  Add this to their ministerial and party portfolios, Kasukuwere is national political commissar of Zanu Pf, Moyo is secretary for Technology while Zhuwao  deputises the latter.  Where they find the time to study for a  full time law degree is baffling to say the least.

Even if they have special arrangements such as getting lectures in the evening, the last I checked the UZ Law Faculty does not offer part time studies for its undergraduate programme.  Once registered, it is assumed that you can make all the lectures on time and as per schedule with limited special arrangements. If there are exceptions then the Dean of the Faculty of Law has a bit of public explaining and justification on his to do list. Especially if the degree programme is to retain its credibility. 

This penchant for full time studies by those we assume to be ever busy and conscientious cabinet ministers should however be a cause for some national concern. 

Not least because it appears their priorities are clearly set elsewhere but also because they have not claimed study leave from the business of running the country.  Even as they reform the civil service to limit the ability of others to pursue similar knowledge acquisition endeavours for shorter periods of time.  To the extent that some civil servants, particularly teachers,  have opted to forego working altogether in pursuit of furthering their education after being denied study leave.

Furthermore, if the cabinet handbook permits ministers to use their influence to get scarce places at universities, then they must cite the relevant  sections for the public to understand that all of this is above board and based entirely on academic merit.  Or alternatively the Office of the President and Cabinet needs to explain how exactly three of its members handle a weekly dilemma of either missing school or a cabinet meeting while serving its core values of loyalty, patriotism, commitment, confidentiality, integrity, humility, accountability and professionalism.  Unless it has issued a special order that specific cabinet ministers are in need of further educational training and are therefore exempt from being expected to serve the country full time.

Perhaps in the broader scheme of things, there is an assumption that ordinary Zimbabweans accept anyone in a position of influence such as being a cabinet minister pursuing some sort of further education.  And in return those that are in these positions of national influence may not anticipate being asked about it.  Or even failing to achieve the required pass results.

The key questions however remain those to do with their political priorities  together with their own sense of self worth as elected leaders. And Zimbabweans do have a right to ask of their elected leaders on whose time they are pursuing what are essentially personal qualifications while having sworn a national oath to serve the country?  Furthermore, in the passage of time between starting and competing their full time degree programmes, how does that compliment government work and in any event, how did they get to where they are if they felt that their qualifications to hold political office are inadequate?

But then again, these are questions that can be avoided by those with political influence. Or they will answer via way of gloating about their educational qualifications to each other or senior civil servants via social media applications such as Whatsapp. How they pass their exams with such busy public office schedules is up to the degree awarding universities but we cannot be faulted for at least asking for a decent explanation as to how all of this really works.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha,
^ Blog was edited to note that the degree programme is four to six years full time (continuos learning) at 1522 hours CAT

Monday, 16 November 2015

Zim 2015 Drought, Waiting for the Rain Minus an Urgent National Action Plan

By Takura Zhangazha*

The rains have sort of started falling in Zimbabwe.  The general public impression is that they are late. For many citizens resident in the Southern, western and south east parts of the country these rains are for the next harvest. Between then and now they are now already experiencing the effects of a drought. Food and water are becoming scarce and the grass is no longer green for livestock.  So once again the begging bowls are out in parts of rural Zimbabwe. The givers, mainly in the form of government and food aid agencies, are beginning to mention importation of grain but perhaps without as much urgency as those that are waiting for help.

Not that the drought is unique to Zimbabwe. Its predicted to affect much of Southern Africa with the region’s biggest economy South Africa already feeling its effects through water shortages.  In Zimbabwe the government has initially presented it as largely being the main cause of the sharp drop in water levels at Kariba Dam.

The reality of the matter is that it is not just about the electricity crisis as largely felt in our urban and industrial production sectors.  It is more about its debilitating effect on the lives of a majority of citizens who reside in rural areas.  Nor is it just about the vulnerability assessments undertaken by the Meteorological Department or the early warning systems of Fewsnet. Or grand ministerial statements confirming what is already being experienced across Southern parts of the country. 

Understandably government will want to demonstrate that it is not only in control of the humanitarian disaster the drought will cause but also the equitable distribution of food aid.   In this, it will seek to manage the food aid distribution as carefully as possible because essentially a drought is and can be a big political mobilization issue. Especially in our own local context where the opposition political parties have generally and not without some credibility, accused government of politicizing food aid.

The problem here is that this is no different a typical response from previous and recent droughts.  In fact the major problem has been that government appears to have a singular short term template to respond to our increasingly cyclical droughts.  This generally involves a broad and vague statement from the responsible minister, a mention of it from a presidential address, claims of importation of maize from a neighbouring country and then general chaos about the latter’s distribution.  In the end, it is food aid agencies that eventually fill the gaps amidst tight monitoring by government.  In between both, it is private players, either millers or their middlemen that enter the lucrative business of maize distribution and selling in the most affected areas.

To state the obvious, this sort of approach needs to be changed. In the first place a drought is a national crisis, not a selective provincial predicament.  The failure of crops in one part of the country inevitably affects all other parts and must therefore be handled through a national and symbiotic programme of action.

Because of their continual recurrence, these droughts require a much more urgent and  long term national strategic intervention that limits their impact on peoples livelihoods.  This is because we have to learn to accept their increasing permanence in our political economy.  That is why we should by now have a broader national drought strategy that addresses this particular natural problem in a truly integrated fashion. Not just from year to year but over longer periods of time and seasons. Especially given the data that we already have from previous debilitating droughts such as those of 1991-1992, 1994, 2004, 2012,  and now 2015 (the list is actually longer).

We need to shift from relying on colonial legacy infrastructure and plans such as the still to be completed Tokwe Mukosi dam which were intended largely for commercial agriculture.  This must be replaced by a much more people centered response that takes into account not only commercial/industrial priorities for water storage and consumption but also looks at those long neglected in long term central government planning for droughts, the rural and urban poor.

Furthermore, our climate change policies need to be more robust and with contextualized solutions that go beyond attending global conferences where again we rely on the biased knowledge production from the world’s worst polluters of the environment.  

As it it, we are not taking the drought as seriously as we should. Beyond the politics of succession, we have a bigger national crisis in the form of the drought that a majority of Zimbabweans are going to be negatively affected by. We need to talk about it and pressure government to do much more than it has previously done and press for longer term solutions that help all and not just the politically connected.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Monday, 9 November 2015

Africa in Sports Scandals: Starting with Football, Not Ending with Cricket

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The 2015 edition of the University of the Witwatersrand Power Reporting conference began with an outline of  the coverage of the FIFA corruption scandal by Insight investigative journalism division of the Sunday Times (UK).  

After a schedule that also included discussions on  ‘data journalism’, the ‘fatal activities of Australian mining companies’ and the role of bankers and lawyers in offshore tax havens a second sporting scandal was unearthed. And it was on the global  sport that is cricket. 

In contrast to the investigative report on football, the International Cricket Council (ICC) was laid bare via an incisive documentary film, ‘Death of a Gentleman’ done by two cricket journalists/bloggers that was shown at the end of the first day of the conference.

In both exposés there is damning evidence of corruption that however ends up being ambivalently dealt with or downright ignored.  But there is no doubt left in the mind of the newsreader or documentary viewer that there is definitely more than something fishy that has been going on in football and cricket over the last decade.    

And Africa or at least African member states of FIFA and the ICC get some mention too.  Nigerian football administrators are implicated in bribes while one of  Zimbabwe’s former cricket chiefs is seen at a controversial meeting to change the rules of the ICC.

Moreover, as part of the smaller countries that have disproportionate votes on both sports world bodies, Africa appears to be complicit in shady deals of powerful executives who want flagship world tournaments to be awarded in specific ways.  For example the simultaneous awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively is fraught with irregularities that included a dinner hosted in Johannesburg at a ridiculous US$1m cost.  The latter however eventually ended up costing US$200 thousand with the remainder unaccounted for. Both by way of actual money and not knowing from whence the money had come from.

In cricket, it is the power of the Indian Cricket Board that is brought to bear on South Africa through threats to withdraw its cricket team from touring the latter. This reportedly led Cricket South Africa to accede to demands for support of reform of the ICC.

It is these weak and vulnerable position that African member states find themselves in that make them susceptible to not only corruption but also a damning complicity in compromising fair competition in global sporting competitions. 

And it will not end with football or cricket.  There is obviously another can of worms that will emerge from the recently announced report on doping in athletics and we are yet to hear of the potentially shady deals that have been going on in the International Amateur Athletics Federation. At least it will be about doping. Though anyone would also welcome inquiries into how the International Olympic committee also awards bids to host the Olympics.

 In all of this, as it probably is the world over, it is African sporting fans that lose out.  They begin to not only doubt the transparency and fairness of global sporting competitions but are also caught between a rock and a hard place. From the love they exhibit for these various sports disciplines, expressions of nationalism and identity in global competitions through to the fact that it may all, in the final analysis, be contrived and patently unfair.

Not that this is or will be peculiar to the African continent but it helps to have Africans also joining the global derision of global sports executives, the administrative bodies and associated governments for a job badly done.

Finally, it was an Angolan journalist at the conference  who asked a question that was reflective of the broader dimension to these sporting scandals.  His question was, and I am paraphrasing here, whether these sporting scandals are not symptomatic of deeper disorder and lack of transparency in other bigger international organizations that deal with the global economy and peace.

*Takura Zhangazha wrties here in his personal capacity ( 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cameron, Sisi Diplomatic Incident and Africa's Dilemma in Polarised ‘Global War on Terror’

By Takura Zhangazha*

This week was a scary one for Africa in international relations. In what has turned out be a very dramatic and sudden turn of events, the government of the United Kingdom has suspended all civilian flights from its airports to the Egyptian resort town of Sham el Sheik. The reason for this immediate decision was reported in the mainstream British media as being intelligence reports had advised that the tragic Russian airline crash over the Sinai last week  had ‘most likely been caused by a bomb’.  Therefore it would be unsafe for flights to continue until such a time security and threat to civilian life in that particular part of Egypt had been established. 

Meanwhile President Abdel Fatar el Sisi of Egypt was enroute to the United Kingdom for scheduled talks with his British equivalent.  In a further dramatic turn of events, the British government then de-escalated its decision to allow civilian flights to ‘rescue’ its citizens out of Sharm El Sheik after the meeting between Cameron and el Sisi.  All without their luggage and with empty cabin holds in the aeroplanes.

The threat to civilian life it turns out is from the Islamic State (ISIS) which both governments have been fighting either directly or by way of proxies largely in Syria.

The diplomatic incident took another turn with the Russian government reportedly telling its British counterpart not to ‘quickly jump to conclusions’ about a bomb having caused the tragic accident.
What strikes the mind however is the fact that this was a major diplomatic incident that could have had far reaching implications including the possible escalation of global polarization, with an African country, Egypt, becoming a possible pawn in a bigger game of global superpower chess.

It is a given that the West (read as Europe and North America) have serious differences with Russia over the latter’s 'unilateral' actions in Syria. And the West also thinks that if it turns out ISIS was responsible for the tragic airline crash, then it is partly the Russian intervention in Syria that is to blame.

These are issues that are difficult to take sides on mainly because African countries are generally meek in such global superpower disputes and tend to hide behind the principle of sovereignty to claim that its hands are tied. Even when an African country is in the throes of a major international incident as is Egypt.

But Africa and Africans should at least be worried about these developments that are still far from being amicably concluded. Even if we know that there is no direct risk of war breaking out in Egypt.
What we must however be able to discern is the possibility that the war against ISIS is evidently expanding into what is increasingly a ‘polarized’ global war on terror.  In this, we once again will be asked to demonstrate what would be similar to the disastrous ‘cold war’ loyalties of yesteryear.

So Africa is in an invidious position that we cannot wish away by arguing that the current standoffs between Russia and the West are none of our business.  It takes a tragedy such as the one in Egypt for everything to all of a sudden become quite complicated. Including the oddity of having a sitting African president while on his way to meet a leader of a global superpower of sorts and finding out that there have been major foreign policy announcements about his country by the counterpart he is visiting before they meet.

But regardless of the arrogance that the United Kingdom government displayed toward its Egyptian counterpart, the global war on terror together with increasing international incidents  is taking on complicated characteristics that Africa will have to tackle with great caution.  The responsibility for this should essentially reside in the African Union but as in the past, the primary challenge continues to be the Nkrumaist warning of the ‘bifurcation’ of the continent. 

Not by way of sovereign design but more by a repetition of history with the continent continuing to be the playing ground of global superpowers. Even if for development aid, but with limited contextualised continental solidarity and democratic consensus.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Citizens, Not Government, Will Protect Zim Journalists (if asked)

By Takura Zhangazha*

The recent arrest and charging of Sunday Mail Editor Mabasa Sasa and two of the papers journalists, Brian Chitemba and Tinashe Farawo is a sad and dangerous development for Zimbabwe’s media.  As journalists they do not in any way deserve to have criminal charges brought against them for stories they write. And media organizations are correct in condemning these recent arrests for being patently undemocratic and in violation of section 61 of the bill of rights in the constitution.

What has been most astounding has been the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s  (ZRP) justification of the arrests.  The force’s spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba  in a press statement argued that the journalists, through their story, essentially published a falsehood and undermined the authority of not only the police but also other security services. In her assertions she also accuses the media of abusing  what she refers to as 'journalistic privilege'.  It is however important to note that the police’s allegations and accusations shall now be determined by a court of law and until then, remain exactly what they are, allegations.

It is equally important to understand that the police’s actions are not necessarily to be viewed as out of sync with the attitude of politically powerful persons in the country.  Over the last months there have been veiled and direct threats against journalists and the media.  Not least from the President himself when he referred to going ‘rigid’ on what he perceives as errant journalism or the first lady who also has had no kind words for the fourth estate at her rallies.  This has not been helped by statements attributed to the permanent secretary in the ministry of media, information and broadcasting services who has been touting the government sponsored Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) report as pretext to introduce stronger (read as criminal defamation) regulatory frameworks for the media.

Even seasoned newspaper columnists, while using the same platforms, have recently begun an unfortunate habit of self righteous finger pointing at journalism’s faults within  context of evident acrimony that really does not help freedom of expression and media freedom.

So the police may feel that they are merely speeding up processes that political leaders and some opinion makers are anticipating or even comfortable with against media freedom.  Hence the loud silence from the ministry of media, information and broadcasting services.

There is therefore a pattern to this newfound hostility toward the media.  Some of it can be found in the fact that there is the ratcheted desire to control media content by varying political factions in both the ruling and opposition parties. Both for general political expediency but more in order to manage succession battles in the ruling party and leadership contests in the opposition.  These contests are to be expected. What is however undemocratic is the overreach of criminal defamation in seeking this sort of control. And acting in disregard of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and media freedom.

But the media itself is not without fault. And one of its major obstacles has been its continual inability to negotiate its professional space. Both by way of overcoming partisan positioning fueled largely by media owners (government and private entities).  The Zimbabwean media therefore has to espouse the democratic value of its own existence beyond the partisan politics of the day in order to garner greater public support for its democratically important public work. And the point must be made clear that this sort of solution is not going to be found in the contested IMPI report or trading petty accusations against each other  in personalised opinion columns. This is because it is largely the Zimbabwean public’s misunderstanding of the democratic importance of a robust, ethical and public interest focused media that allows state officials and even the ZRP to continue to act with impunity against journalists. 

There is a further caveat to this.  The media must also begin to ostensibly campaign against the criminalization of freedom of expression, not just for itself, but for the ordinary citizen because it is in the ordinary peoples perceptions and lack of knowledge of rights that government gets the wherewithal to act with impunity.  Where citizens are arrested for expressing a view of the president, or a public official and convicted via a fine or custodial sentence, the media must stand up for these citizens right to express themselves.  Where it does not, the citizen will not see the need to do so in return.  Hence sometimes there is the ridiculous argument that the media needs to be monitored by the state via the threat of criminal sanction as though expressing an opinion or writing a story in the public interest is as criminal as misappropriating medical aid services contributions.  And if you wanted an answer to the latter point, no it is not.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (