By Sij Ncube
HARARE, July 16, 2015 – A TOAD does not run in the daylight for nothing, so goes a proverb plucked from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
This rich West Africa saying resonated well on Wednesday evening when government chief propagandist Reuben Barwe held a lengthy interview with a barber who last attended and saw disappeared journalist-cum human rights activist Itai Dzamara.
Since Dzamarai’s abduction early March by suspected state security agents, the state media has largely ignored his predicament, leaving it to the private media to pursue as well as soliciting for views from the international community.
But suddenly this week Barwe and other goons in the print media discovered the courage to track down the innocent barber,a Mr Deketeke raising questions why the state media has developed an interest in Dzamara’s abduction.
Critics have been quick to point out that the last time Barwe displayed such haste, over-zealousness and innovation to “do a people story” was in 2003 when he was at hand to record live on camera the exhumation of the decomposing body of late veteran Cain Nkala who had gone missing from his Magwegwe home in Bulawayo for nearly a week.
The say the rest is history.
However, its Barwe’s zeal and the rest of the state media to prioritise the Dzamara story this week which has raised suspicions, with critics attributing the interest to pressure from the international community which has been incessantly speaking out against his abduction, demanding answers.
There is a consensus Dzamara was targeted by state security agents ostensibly for standing up against Mugabe. The Herald
But the state media has in the past few days leapt on the Dzamara story like the proverbial duck to water. For instance on Thursday alone, The Herald carried four items on Dzamara, including a cartoon and a piece justifying disappearances in the United Kingdom.
The guilty are afraid, critics say. Others ask: Could it be as a result of a change of guard in the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services following the recent demotion of former minister Jonathan Moyo? Is the government media adopting a different strategy to deal with issues?
“The head in the sand ostrich strategy by Jonathan Moyo on this issue was not working, the story was beginning to pick traction that Dzamara’s disappearance was a government abduction,” says Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for MDC Renewal Team.
“The Mugabe administration is now trying to do a colossal cover up. They thought the story would disappear like the morning mist. But in this day and age a government cannot terrorise its own people and expect to get away with.”
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, the director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter, concurred, saying it appeared the state media want to do damage control by coming up with a counter-narrative that is hoped will divert attention from government obligations to ensure the protection of all citizens regardless of their political beliefs, race, creed and ethnicity and religion.
“In any case this shoddy attempt at investigative journalism does not remove suspected state security agents from the story. It actually confirms suspicions that arms of state security were involved. Probably they are trying to say it’s the police that should give answers and not President Mugabe and his henchmen. Isn’t that what Zimbabwe and the whole world have been asking for from the very onset?”
Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said pressure is mounting from all sides for the administration to account on what happened to Dzamara.
“The abduction of Dzamara demonstrates the contradictions within the system in that while they appear to be working on repairing relations with the international community, they still have no respect for the rights of their own citizens. This contradiction is now being reflected in the panic to explain Dzamara’s issue which at some point did not seem to matter. The regime has too many heads and confused about its policies and actions.”
Others say Mugabe fears the disappearance of Dzamara could have the likelihood of galvanising the comatose opposition, pointing out that the last prayer meeting brought together MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Themba Mliswa and Jabulani Sibanda who were fired from Zanu PF for sympathising with former vice president Joice Mujuru.