By Sij Ncube
HARARE, October 12, 2015 – President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba has intimated the administration wants to fast-track more repressive media laws to deal with what he views as an errant private media but analysts say the spin-doctor is cementing his status as Zimbabwe’s real media hangman.
Charamba, who also doubles up as the permanent secretary for new media, information and broadcasting services, told The Sunday Mail that Mugabe is being irritated by private media stories on alleged factional fights in Zanu (PF) as camps battle to succeed his boss.
However Charamba charged that Mugabe was not losing any sleep over what the private media wrote about him and his party but warned of looming draconian measures to further stifle media freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.
But analysts canvassed by Radio VOP point out that if Mugabe is unfazed by the private media reports why would Charamba push for more repressive media laws.
The analysts are adamant Charamba is not being sincere, saying it is abundantly clear the Zanu PF strong-man is battling to contain the internecine bickering in his party in which two clear and distinct camps have been identified.
Rashweat Mukundu, a media consultant, said Charamba’s frustration with the private media is ironical as the state owned media is also part of the factional fights and was at the centre of factional fights that saw Mujuru being expelled.
“The media will always report on the leading story of the day and the uncertainty of our politics and the glaring instability in the ruling elite as well as inconsistent government policy are stories of the day. The private media cannot patch the cracks in Zanu (PF) or ignore them. If a Zanu(PF) MP Mayor Wadyajena attacks a Zanu(PF) Minister and Politburo member Jonathan Moyo, is the media supposed to ignore such a story,” he asked.
“Charamba must expend his energy in patching Zanu(PF) and leave the media to do what it does which is to report the story of the day. No doubt the media selects, interprets, angles a story but we all do that, none of us talks and engages in life like a computer we make decisions, take sides, interpret events from as many biases and baggage that we carry.
“The media is not a mathematical book, but interprets and writes about social events from various frames. Instead of being angry with the private media, Charamba must celebrate and promote media diversity. In this day and age Zimbabwe cannot go back to the Stalinist era. As social interpreters the media is bound to make mistakes, such mistakes cannot and should not be criminalized nor legislated. Various platforms for grievance settling exists the VMCZ, courts among others. It is also important to note that politics is a voluntary job and those in politics hence with power, Including Mugabe, cannot insulate themselves from scrutiny and criticism. If they feel violated they have the option of resigning,” added Mukundu.
MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu, said Charamba “must have taken leave of his senses”, pointing out that Zimbabweans are not living in the Stone Age where Mugabe’s spokesperson would like to operate as a later day Josef Goebbels.
“The MDC will strenuously oppose any machinations to muzzle freedom of the press. We shall ensure that Charamba’s delusional and Stalinist agenda to come up with repressive media legislation will never see the light of day,” said Gutu.
In his interview with the Zanu (PF) controlled Sunday Mail, Charamba claimed there was no factionalism in Mugabe’s party since the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru and others accused of plotting to kill his boss.
But Gutu charged that Charamba was trying to denial the evident factionalism riddling Zanu(PF) even after Mujuru’s dismissal.
“It simply means Charamba is yesterday’s man. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that the Zanu(PF) regime has now virtually broken into several irreconcilable factions. Things have fallen apart. The centre can no longer hold. Charamba must have taken leave of his senses,” he said.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for Tendai Biti’s party, described Charamba’s threats to gag the private press as “senile rumblings” which “probably reflects the state of mind that the person who is his boss is in.”
“The idea that he feels it fit to threaten the media over the accurate description of the state affairs that his party is in is a sign of despondency and alarm that the old man feels,” said Mafume.
“That the party he belongs to currently resembles a dog’s breakfast is an open secret in fact a dogs breakfast looks more organised that the current Zanu(PF) and its government. If he is not losing sleep over the state of his party and the economy then he must be suffering from an acute case of cognitive dissonance.
“The country is on fire and threating journalists is simply adding petrol to the fire. Press freedom is fundamental and is enshrined in our constitution. What’s is alarming is that he seeks to rope in our erstwhile colleagues in his push to punish the media and up to now they have not corrects the impression that he creates which is that the media will suppressed by both parties in parliament.