Prof Moyo Demotion: Is IMPI Defunct and Moribund?

By Sij Ncube

HARARE, July 8, 2015 – AS CITIZENS digest and debate Professor Jonathan Moyo’s dramatic departure from the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services analysts fear recommendations of the much publicised Information and Medial Panel Inquiry (IMPI) he commissioned to investigate goings-on in the country’s Fourth Estate could gather dust in government offices.

The former government spin-doctor was demoted on Monday by President Robert Mugabe from the powerful information and broadcasting portfolio to the lesser influential ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education in what is viewed as a re-alignment of factional politics in faction-riddled Zanu (PF) by their leader.

Moyo commissioned IMPI after his appointment as Information and Broadcasting minister in September 2013 in which the polarisation of the media and the need for wide-sweeping media reforms appeared as some of the highlights.

But during its outreach exercise there appeared to be little buy-in towards the project particularly from within Zanu PF.

Moyo’s critics in the Zanu (PF) administration rightly or wrongly accused him of setting up IMPI to advance his factionalism agenda by allegedly roping in the public and private media in his fight against real and imagined enemies.

Sources maintain Moyo’s demotion has been down to his perceived amorous political ambitions, noting that the new Tsholotsho North legislator had no qualms in fighting his political opponents within and without Zanu( PF) using the state media he controlled with an octopus-grip.

He is thought to have also held influence in the small but vibrant media where he allegedly consorted with some editors.

But media watchers point out that Moyo, an astute and savvy politician, has left a mark in the media industry by setting up IMPI which ranks as a first for the sector since the country’s independence from colonial Britain in 1980.

But during IMPI’s public meetings some Zanu (PF) officials disrupted its meetings, particularly in Mashonaland provinces, ostensibly on the grounds the meetings had not been sanctioned by the local ruling party leadership.  

Some critics charged that IMPI was appearing as a sophisticated way of extending the patronage system all round, claiming that since the media is an organic institution, it does not need commissions and inquiries.  Nothing much has been heard from the government since the IMPI report was made public in March.

There are fears that with the demotion of Moyo the IMPI report is now defunct and moribund and now risks gathering dusty in government offices at the expense of the implementation of some of its recommendations which augur well for the polarised media sector in the country.

Rashweat Mukundu, a media consultant, says the new person in charge of Moyo’s former portfolio should move with speed to implement some of the findings of IMPI, saying the inquiry was a government project.

“The IMPI is a ministerial and not a personal document of Prof Moyo. The media sector must push for implementation of recommendations regardless of the departure of Minister Moyo to Higher Education,” said Mukundu.

“While some sections of the government are still anti media, generally there is a thawing of relations that must be bolstered.”

Tabani Moyo, an advocacy officer at the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe Chapter, noted that the IMPI report is a referral point for purposes of academia, lobby and advocacy, among other things but doubts after Moyo’s departure there would be political will to implement some of its recommendations.

“It is difficult to predict it shall sail through cabinet but in essence, Moyo departs from the ministry with his ‘baggage’ and the acting minister cannot fit in Moyo’s shoes by every measure. However the report remains a very strategic scientific document commissioned by the government through the ministry. So it will remain a living document on condition that the media stakeholders maintain pressure points on the imperative need for the implementation of the recommendations which are progressive in outlook,” said Moyo.  

It is unclear why Mugabe has failed to appoint a substantive minister instead electing to appoint the minister of Public Service, Prisca Mupfumira, as the acting minister of Information and Broadcasting Services. 

Rumours are swirling in Harare Mugabe is likely to put the portfolio under his office with his spokesman, George Charamba, who doubles up as the permanent secretary of the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, running the show.  

Wallace Chuma, a Zimbabwean media expert teaching at the University of Cape Town, says with Moyo’s departure, the country is likely to see, at least in the short term, a continuation of the status quo.

“She (the acting minister) is most likely to avoid getting her hands deeply into major policy issues both with regard to the state media and the country as well. Another reason we are likely to see continuity is the simple fact that the acting minister is part of the same government that Prof Moyo is part of. She may perhaps have a different personality and approach to things, but that is unlikely to effect a fundamental policy shift,” said Chuma.

Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for MDC Renewal Team, added his voice on the likely fate of IMPI, saying in a normal function government, the IMPI report should be implemented.

But in this case where we have a dysfunctional government, it might mean that the IMPI has been taken to its graveyard”