Last month’s statement by Public Service Minster Eddison Zvobgo that many ministers were tuning to the BBC and CNN to find out what was happening in the country “as a respite to our daily bread” and his praise for editors who were fired by Zimbabwe Newspapers, the late Willie Musarurwa and Geoff Nyarota, is a clear indication that there is something terribly wrong with our daily newspapers.
This is particularly evident because Zvobgo is one of those supposed to be “benefiting” from the “shrill personality cult syndrome characterised by the incipient extolling of often meagre virtues of the political leaders of the day”.
Worse still, he even went on to call this “dangerous journalism” which “leads to writing of the country’s history, the perversion of facts and the decay of the integrity of the journalists concerned”.
“A free press,” he said, “is the people’s policeman-at-large. Without fear or favour incompetence, corruption and crime in high places must be exposed. Public officers must be accountable to the people and the Press is the mill and laundry for making accountability more transparent.”
Zvobgo went on: “I believe that free debate, the right to disagree and the preparedness to defend to death other people’s right to disagree are crucial elements in a democratic culture.”
It is sentiments like these, coming from public figures, that make life tick. But the problem is that, are Zvobgo’s sentiments shared by anyone else in the ruling party’s politburo or cabinet?
Whatever the case may be, Zvobgo’s outspokenness is worth noting especially at this time in our history when people are generally believed to have resigned themselves to trust daily gossip than the daily papers.
Indeed, as a politician, some might argue, Zvobgo has his reasons for saying what he said. It is not uncommon for politicians to say one thing and do the other (not that we are trying to imply that that’s what Zvobgo is doing) but this was in keeping with what he told civil servants last year that there should be “less government” to enable people to become self-governing and that it should not be a shame to expose one’s wealth.
There is no doubt that it is probably only those who acquired it honestly, or through other means difficult to trace any dubious activities, who can openly come forward.
If it is also true that he was one of the only two ministers who opted to volunteer to retire to make it easier for President Mugabe to trim his cabinet, then his sentiments must be looked at in a different light.
Others might rush to say there is something behind his statements. True there could be, or might not be. Let us, however, not forget that the very fact that drives one to become a politician -if one is not a stooge-is that one is ambitious.
But honestly who is not?