The editor’s job used to be the most secure job at Zimpapers. It was a reward for hard work or for loyalty. But since the arrival of Jonathan Moyo 19 months ago, it has become the most dangerous and insecure job.
The Herald had had only four editors since independence: Farai Munyuki, Tommy Sithole, Charles Chikerema and Bornwell Chakaodza. Munyuki left the paper to head the national news agency while Chikerema died on the job. The Chronicle had had only three editors: Tommy Sithole who left the paper to head The Herald, Geoff Nyarota who was moved to Harare – read fired- after the Willowgate Scandal and Steve Mpofu.
But since Moyo’s appointment, each paper has already changed an editor or two. Edna Machirori, the only editor who had survived Moyo’s purge and had been promoted from editor of the Sunday News to editor of The Chronicle was sacked this month barely three months after her promotion, which was seen by many, as affirmative action as she was the first black woman to head a daily newspaper.
This did not count at all to Moyo. Ironically, Machirori had been promoted against all odds. Moyo had told Zimpapers Bulawayo employees that he wanted editors below 35. Machirori was older than Moyo, who is 44. He probably has problems working with people older than him but Machirori was perhaps the best qualified editor.
Machirori was fired for not being hard enough on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change as well as being soft on the Daily News team of Geoff Nyarota and Bill Saidi, both former editors of the Bulawayo papers.
Having worked with both, Machirori probably found it unethical to simply attack them for no apparent reason. She also had a problem lambasting the MDC if there was nothing to report. At the end, she was sold out by her own staff, who were reportedly reporting directly to Moyo.
In fact, Moyo, has become the de facto editor-in-chief of Zimpapers. Though he works from his Munhumutapa offices, he tells the editors he is only a phone call away. Editors have therefore been reduced to pen-pushers who have to toe his line.
The two new editors at the Bulawayo branch, Stephen Ndlovu and Brezhnev Malaba, seem to be following the cue. Ndlovu had been doing a “sterling job” as Sunday News editor, reproducing articles written by Bill Saidi in the early 1980s. The stories are purportedly to expose the hypocrisy of the Daily News staff. The Chronicle did it for only a few issues with articles by Nyarota soon after Machirori took over but seems to have given up too early.
Ndlovu seems to have brought the same zeal he had at the Sunday News to The Chronicle where he seems to be expecting wonders from Bulawayo mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube who beat the ZANU-PF candidate George Mlilo clean despite having no publicity from the local daily. Ndlovu, though playing to his master’s voice and wishes, is taking Bulawayo readers too much for granted.
By grilling Ndabeni-Ncube and trying to paint the picture that he has failed to deliver, Ndlovu is ignoring facts that any average citizen of Bulawayo knows. Ndabeni-Ncube barely knows his way around town house. He has been in office for just over a month. He has not even been sworn in yet. He is heading a council that is still dominated by ZANU-PF councillors, yet he is expected to be delivering.
His only sin, is that he belongs to the Movement for Democratic Change. Ndlovu has not even allowed Ndabeni-Ncube a chance to spell out his plan to the electorate. Ndabeni-Ncube has not been afforded a platform to tell the city problems he faces. He is simply expected to deliver, yet he is working with people who did not want him in office in the first place. He is working with media that branded him a cheat before his election.
Ndlovu has not spared the MDC either. Almost every issue of the daily has a negative story or letter about the MDC. Reading the daily one would think that the MDC has collapsed as one of the headlines said.
The Chronicle would like its readers to believe that ZAPU, which failed to win a single seat last year both in Parliament and in the Bulawayo City Council, is cashing in on the demise of the MDC which apparently is being accused of abandoning issues affecting the region and failing to deliver on its election promises.
Like in the case of Ndabeni-Ncube, The Chronicle does not explain how it expects the MDC to deliver when it is not in government. Worse still, the paper is now giving the impression that the MDC is not only collapsing in Matebeleland where it swept 21 of the 23 seats last year, but also in South Africa.
What wishful thinking. One is bound to ask, is Ndlovu not going the way Bornwell Chakaodza went when he misled his paymaster into thinking all was well when people rejected the draft constitution?
Is he preparing for a hefty package that some of his colleagues have been paid?
Instead of bowing down and acknowledging that the paper was in the wrong and was against popular opinion, The Chronicle, now wants to be the mouthpiece of the majority that it ignored prior to the election. What arrogance! One only hopes that the arrogance does not affect the company’s profitability.
Zimpapers management must be on cloud nine having turned around the company from a loss of $73.2 million last year to a profit of $35 million in the first half of this year. Already new board chairman Enock Kamushinda is attributing this turnaround to increased advertising revenue following the new look papers introduced in the first half.
One only hopes this is true as the results for the second half should clearly show the direction in which the company is heading as the country prepares for the presidential elections scheduled for the first half of next year.