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Mugabe's own Goebbels
|BORN: Jonathan Moyo in
EDUCATION: Degree in Public Administration, MA and PhD in Political Science (University of Southern Carflifornia, US)
HOBBIES: Reading, music
PROFESSIONAL CAREER: Lecturer at University of Zimbabwe, Worked for the American Research Institute, Ford Foundation in Kenya and later lectured at Wits University in South Africa.
POLITICAL CAREER: Joined Zanu PF in 1999 as deputy party spokesman and was appointed to Mugabe's cabinet as Minister of Information and Publicity in the President's Office.
|BORN: Joseph Goebbels in October
DIED: May 1945
EDUCATION: First Degree and later a Doctorate in Philosophy (partly done at several universities including Bonn, Freiburg & Heildelberg Universities)
HOBBIES: Reading, music
PROFESSIONAL CAREER: Worked for a Berlin journal, the Volkische Freiheit, then the Nationalsozialistische and later established own newspaper called Der Angriff.
POLITICAL CAREER: Nazi deputy in 1928 and Minister for Public Enlightment and Propaganda five years later.
Last updated: 09/01/2004 18:38:18 Last updated: 09/01/2004 05:24:54
BOTH men are known for their sharp put-downs on journalists whose questioning is out of line with official policy. They are both noted for their fanatical capacity for hard work, public speaking and constant agitation through the media.
But rarely have the rather disturbing similarities between Robert Mugabe’s balding information minister Jonathan Moyo and Hitler’s spin doctor Joseph Goebbels been probed in detail.
Moyo, had an unhappy childhood. He was disabled and walked with a limp –
although he often tried to disguise it. He had a rather large head, the same as
Moyo, who is also balding.
Although Goebbels, born 1897, grew up in a lower middle-class family, the same cannot be said of Moyo who was wounded as a child by the constant squabbling between his peasant father and mother, which led them to grow apart.
Goebbels disliked his father because he thought he was mean and often described him as a “bourgeois”. Moyo is said to also despise his father’s treatment of his mother, and there is little contact between them, even today.
Details of Moyo’s
childhood are fuzzy but during the liberation struggle in the early 70s, he was
conscripted to the guerrilla movement but later deserted at Mgagawo training
camp in Tanzania. Goebbels, always the fiercely patriotic, turned himself in for
an army call up but was rejected because of his stooping figure and disability.
He cried for days.
After deserting, the trail becomes hard to follow but Moyo, born 1957, emerged at the University of Southern California in America - some say with the help of a white missionary impressed with his sharp brains. He graduated with a degree in Public Administration and later gained his Masters and PhD at the same institution.
Goebbels went to several universities - Bonn was one of them - before gaining his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Heidelberg. The extra-ordinary shaping of Goebbels’ career started while he was doing his thesis for his doctorate
|"Although he was a mere spokesman, Moyo stole the limelight by remaining close to journalists with regular nights of free booze which he sponsored"|
His subject was
the examination of the work of Wilhelm von Schutz, subtitled ‘A contribution to
the History of the Romantic Drama’. A few years later, Goebbels 'Nicodemously'
pulled the thesis from the university archives and renamed it ‘The Spiritual and
Political Undercurrents of the Early Romantics’ to imply that his interests were
political during his studies, largely to endear himself to Hitler.
Goebbels was evolving a self-consciously assured outlook mixed with considerable vanity. He pursued his education voraciously and precociously to compensate for his physical disability – a result of infantile paralysis at the age of four.
His predilection for avoiding the truth began to show when he was at university and was writing to his girlfriend Else in 1923: “You mustn’t be angry about my not writing, during my holidays, my ink pot has dried out…”
He would say in
later years as he assumed the mettle of master of spin: “Propaganda must no
investigate the truth objectively (but) it must present only that aspect of the
truth which is favourable to its own side.”
He also seemed to have an answer for everything. When confronted about his lateness for a Nazi meeting and his use of a taxi, a symbol of extravagance at the time, Goebbels said: “You don’t know much about propaganda. Taxi, be damned. I should have taken two, not one. The other for my briefcase, don’t forget you have to impress the people. And as for being late, I did that deliberately. I always do. You have got to keep them in suspense.”
Besides reading, Goebbels enjoyed music earlier on in his life – a passion he shares with Moyo who lists listening to classics as one of his favourite hobbies. Moyo has also recorded a CD in Zimbabwe which has been replayed continuously on state radio.
Moyo's interest in
the media can be traced back to his impressively articulate articles criticising
Mugabe’s government in the early 90s. These were published by Zimbabwe’s
intellectual magazines. He also studied radio production in Nairobi,
Goebbels first worked as a deputy editor for the right-wing Volkische Freiheit (People’s Freedom) newspaper. He soon found himself talking at public meetings and it is at this point that he is described as becoming agitated to the point of hysteria at any opposition to his views.
When Goebbels met Hitler, it was a case of a failed writer meeting a man who had failed as a painter (Hitler was a keen artist), say Roger Manvell and Heinrich Frankel in their book: Dr Goebbels, His Life and Death. A great deal of these early setbacks, they argue, stayed alive in Goebbels to exacerbate his political temperaments.
For a man who once
said Mugabe had an “uncanny propensity to shoot himself in the foot (and) has
become a national problem which needs containment”, Moyo’s sudden turn-around to
be Mugabe’s cheer leader bears the magnitude of Paul’s conversion in
Prior to joining Mugabe’s cabinet, Moyo worked at the Ford Foundation in Kenya where it is alleged he concocted some fantastic project ideas and managed to get millions of dollars but never delivered on the projects. He slipped into South Africa where similar allegations followed at Wits University before being appointed to the Constitutional Commission in 1999, never to return.
After the government’s defeat in the constitutional referendum, observers say Moyo felt that this was a direct challenge on him. His former peers at the University of Zimbabwe like Professor Welshman Ncube had opposed the government constitution. His ego had been punctured and he had to gain revenge, even if it meant going into bed with his arch-enemy, Robert Mugabe.
Although he was a mere spokesman, he stole the limelight by remaining close to journalists with regular nights of free booze which he sponsored. When Mugabe made him his information minister, Moyo’s tune remarkably changed: "Mugabe is someone who accommodates, someone who listens (and) will naturally treat his enemies with understanding."
The history of the two men – Goebbels and Moyo – shows one was a politician and the other could have been driven into politics to shelter himself from possible legal action from his former employers.
What Moyo didn’t have as a politician he has compensated by mastering Goebbels’ art of black propaganda, inevitably drawing comparisons between their information management style which looks strikingly similar.
WHEN Hitler appointed Goebbels, aged 36, to the position of Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, he set in motion a great media revolution which would forever change the face of Information management.
Senior officials in the Socialist Party tried to marginalise Goebbels, a move that would prove very costly as Goebbels swam through a sea of poison, hate and lies to place himself firmly alongside Hitler.
As the Socialists
surged towards power, Goebbels was a victim of a vicious media campaign. Mocked,
ridiculed and insulted as no one else, it is surprising he did not fall into
despair and spiritual misery.
Similarly, once Moyo joined the government commission, independent papers declared open season on him. Cartoonists seized on his rather large head, caricaturing him as a worm and a ticking bomb. He was called a liar, master of spin and inevitably – a Goebbels.
Senior Zanu PF officials treated him as an intruder and called him “mafikizolo” (derogatory term, the equivalent of a Johnny-Come-Lately) while others called him a "visitor". He took them head on and some have had their political careers wrecked.
Both men have a particular way with sharp phrases and pitiless language in dismissing their opponents which has earned them grudging respect from their opponents in the media and political arena. They both draw from humour the sharpness of irony.
whose life is either behind them, or have no right to have one ahead of them,
preach moralism in the name of our revolution,” Goebbels once said. “This
moralism often has nothing in common with true morality. They proclaim ethical
laws that might be appropriate for a nunnery, but are entirely out of place in a
modern cultural state.”
Goebbels had been piqued by a “moral knight” who was campaigning against a soap advert showing a girl holding the soap to her private parts. “The moral knight who unfortunately had the right to determine the fate of this poster forbade its distribution on the grounds that it offended the moral sensibilities of the population," Goebbels railed. "What is moral about this? The immorality is in the person announcing the ban, who presumes that other people share his dirty fantasies!”
Contrast this with Moyo’s outburst against gays with an underlying reference to the British Labour government: “Sexual perverts need to be told once again that homosexuality is unnatural. The only people who accept homosexuality are liberals who think it is a way of getting votes."
Goebbels once accused British officials of making “jingoistic noise rather than debate serious politics”. Moyo used the phrase “political mumbo-jumbo" to refer to England’s refusal to play in the Cricket World Cup in Zimbabwe.
When Goebbels took over at the ministry in March 1933, he laid his hands on all the powers that once made common front against him - radio, the press, film and literature. Radio was to reflect the “spirit” of the German people, as defined by Goebbels.
“A radio that does
not seek to deal with the issues of the day does not deserve to influence the
broad masses. It will soon become an empty playground for technicians and
intellectual experimenters,” he said.
This next quote is worth noting: “The government has not only the right but the duty to subordinate all aspects of the nation to its goals, or ensure that they are at least supportive.”
Moyo’s desire to
control the media is revealed in a similar remark when he expresses his worries
about the bad publicity received by his government from the regional media.
“When we are misunderstood by people on our border, it becomes strange, and when
the South African Broadcasting Corporation becomes more sensational than the BBC
and CNN, we wonder what’s going on.”
Goebbels - in his words, however in a different context - would go on and turn radio into a “spineless servant of his partisan political interests”. He was led by a simple belief and principle: “The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be simple and repetitious.”
The Ministry was
his pride. He was determined to make it a model of efficiency staffed by able
bodied men and women totally devoted to the Nazi cause. His ministry, the
biggest in Nazi Germany, was split into seven divisions.
The first was Legislation and Legal Problems, then the Co-ordination of Propaganda and Enlightenment, Radio, Foreign and National Press, Cinema, Theatre and Protection against Counter-Propaganda at Home and Abroad. It had the second highest budget to the military.
Moyo’s ministry seemed to have limitless funds during the Presidential elections in 2002 as he splashed cash to street kids and hungry women. His ministry ran a bill of Zim$400 million purchasing Zanu PF’s campaign material and funding incessant revolutionary adverts on state television and newspapers.
Having bullied state media journalists and pruned all dissenters, Moyo used the state media machinery effectively. His enthusiasm and drive seemed to be inspired by Goebbels’ own observation: “In many cases, our journalists seem not to understand that in election times papers have to give themselves up to propaganda and exclusively. These writers are generally too sincere and more like scientists that propagandists.”
As Mugabe’s right
hand man at a time when his rule was facing a real threat from the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Moyo summoned all the expertise Goebbels
used so well during war time to rally the people behind Hitler.
Just as Goebbels did, (“Down with the curtains and off with the stucco. I cannot work in the twilight”), Moyo made a clean-up at the Information Ministry. He was not happy with the interior of his office and is said to have ordered to have it adapted to his requirements. The horrified officials of the older regime of jolly Chen Chimutengwende stood around, and were soon replaced by a small group of his fiercely loyal supporters.
sweeping changes at the state broadcaster, the ZBC, removing old editors and at
least 400 senior workers were fired. He followed this with sweeping changes in
the state newspapers where long serving editors at the Herald and Chronicle were
replaced with his loyalists from his constitutional commission
Goebbels said of his own clean-up: “Names of great importance yesterday fade away today to nothing.” And praising his own changes at the state broadcaster, Moyo blurted: "The ZBC of old is gone and gone forever. The government is not going to allow vested interests to hi-jack and corrupt ZBC ever again.”
Like Moyo’s ministry, Goebbels carefully alternated public ceremony and rejoicing with various acts of suppression and oppression, especially of men remaining critical of them in positions of influence in the press and radio.
As Goebbels rung
the changes in 1933, 60 Communist and 71 Social Democrat papers had been
suppressed and their leading editors and writers confined to prison. By year
end, virtually all but Nazi papers had been banned. Goebbels also engaged an
American public relations advisor to counter anti-German sentiment abroad. He
followed this with the expulsion of correspondents deemed to “spread alarm and
despondency about German in the articles they wrote”.
Within months of taking charge at the Ministry, Goebbels crafted the Journalists’ Law which made all journalists state servants who had to be in possession of a licence issued by Goebbels. Other decrees prohibited the publication of speeches made by Ministers or Hitler without approval. In the same year, it was further decreed that independent newspapers could be abolished in favour of party newspapers if they offered unfair competition.
Moyo also designed a similar scheme, introducing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which bans foreign correspondents from working in Zimbabwe. BBC journalists were “terrorists”, he said.
Local journalists had to register for licences and the lifespan of every newspaper is now two years, after which Moyo will decide whether to renew its licence or close it down. He also encouraged state companies to shun advertising in independent newspapers.
owned Daily News' printing press was bombed just a day after Moyo threatened to
ban it for “publishing falsehoods and peddling British propaganda”. A few months
later, he managed to get the paper banned with its sister paper The Daily News
on Sunday, quickly followed by The Tribune.
But observers note that where Moyo uses vitriol to rebut opposition claims, Goebbels was more intelligent and careful not to alienate a lot of people in his approach. He was always conscious of his German audience, using more contemporary propaganda methods.
it thus: “The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the
imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the
appropriate psychological form that will arrest their attention.”
He illustrates this in an incident before presenting Hitler to an audience on a cloudy day in Berlin. Goebbels saw that the sun would soon break through the clouds and timed his speech so that the God given light should stream down on Hitler as he took his place on the rostrum.
But one of Goebbels’ greatest assets was the capability to disarm his opponents with carefully constructed arguments or hilarious campaigns, drawn from his policy of repeating a lie until it is taken for truth.
Take for instance
the case when Goebbels took ownership of the Der Angriff (Attack) newspaper. One
of his first victims of vitriol was a man called Weiss, described as “humourless
and with pronouncedly a Jewish face”. He was a gift to Goebbels who never called
him anything but Isidor Weiss - Isidor is to German ears an insulting name with
strong anti-Jewish connotation – week in week out until the public believed this
to be his real name. He became a figure of fun.
The same tactic was used by Moyo to discredit two leading faces of Zimbabwean journalism – Geoff Nyarota and Basildon Peta, former editors of the Daily News and the Financial Gazette respectively. State media reporters were ordered to permanently prefix the word “liar” in front of their names. The two journalists had to flee Zimbabwe to save their battered careers.
Not to be outdone,
Moyo started his own newspaper columns, each in the Herald, the Sunday Mail and
the Sunday News using the pseudonyms Nathaniel Manheru, Lowani Ndlovu and Mzala
As Goebbels widened his propaganda, he would take advantage of some special events to supplement his routine methods of work. Take the death of Horst Wessel. Wessel was a pimp who died as a result of a brawl with another pimp. But for Goebbels, Wessel had two useful claims on his attention. He had been a member of the Party and his death could quite easily be developed into a political martyrdom. Wessel’s funeral ceremony was taken over by the state and Goebbels gave the customary oration. Rodger Manvell, author of Dr Goebbels, His Life and Death, describes him at this time as a “master in the exploitation of funerals”.
This is the same tactic which Moyo’s Zanu PF has been using, turning funerals of Zanu PF supporters who died from natural causes into great State occasions where the opposition is rather comically blamed for causing their death. When a war veterans leader Cain Nkala died just before the 2002 elections, Moyo exploited this and several opposition supporters were rounded up and paraded on state television as terrorists. They have all been acquitted, with the election won.
influence and being the highest ranking politician after Hitler, Goebbels did
not have it his way all the time. The Nazis had a dissident element within their
ranks, namely the Storm Troopers recruited from the unemployed and
They enjoyed their street fights and the fun of being feared, and they began to resent the lack of any reward from Hitler for their loyal gangsterism. They received no formal payment, only rounds of free beer and sausages. Their response was to raid Goebbels’ office, forcing the government to pay up.
The story sounds
familiar with Moyo’s brush with the lawless bands of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation
war who threatened to storm his office and seize him after he denied a
television broadcasting licence to some of their comrades. But like Goebbels,
Moyo has virtual control over every arm of government – most importantly the
police who were quick to intervene.
Most intriguing in the similarities between Moyo and Goebbels is their treatment of departmental heads under their control. It is here that Moyo and Goebbels seem umbilically related as their arrogance comes to the fore.
Moyo is known to
craft stories and send them to editors to publish, complete with quotations.
When his editors publish stories which he considers not in line with government
policy, he is known to have awoken them at 3am in the morning and forced them to
hold the paper from print.
Goebbels would sit in the Editor’s chair. He would habitually take off his wrist watch and place it on the desk in front of him, saying that he could only spare seven or eight minutes. On one occasion, he is said to have taken a crumpled page from the previous day’s paper out of his pocket and confronted the editor.
“Herr (Julius) Lippert, you are the Editor of this paper, aren’t you? Well if you want me to believe that this piece here is what you call journalism, I am very much afraid it shows a degree of naïveté which is almost criminal – or would you prefer me to say insane?”
Contrast this with Moyo's unprecedented attack on the editor of the Zanu PF mouthpiece, the Voice. Moyo described its editor as "ideologically confused" and publishing "complete falsities". “It is appalling that an editor of an organ of the ruling party can get it so wrong,” he blasted.
Or his reaction to a story printed by an independent weekly after it reported that South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki was urging Robert Mugabe to retire, paving the way for a government of national unity. (Note the use of the word ‘insane’ and ‘naïve’). “While there is no sane person who thinks that there is anyone in South Africa or elsewhere who would be so naïve as to believe naked British propaganda of the kind splashed in the Financial Gazette, the politically insane among us, a British charlatan or a foolish British puppet would ignore this stark reality that the Zanu-PF government is a product of real and historic national unity with its roots firmly sunk on Zimbabwean soil. Those whose insanity has led them to dream of a Zanu-PF-MDC government of so-called national unity should get real and return to sanity by perishing the mad thought once and for all.”
By far the most
telling similarity in style is the use of emotion-filled statements to counter
criticism. Goebbels once said of a foreign journalist’s story: “One sees here
much verbiage and little understanding.”
Not to be outdone, Moyo made an almost identical remark: “The foreign correspondents, led by the confused Andrew Meldrum (now deported) and his local running dogs approached the (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy) Bill with open mouths and shut minds and what a pity that has been."
Goebbels, like Moyo, was also not averse to blaming the opposition and foreign influence for the failing German economy. He writes in one of his published essays: “The insane belief in equality that found its crassest expression in political parties is no more. The principle of personality has replaced the notion of popular idiocy. A united German nation was born despite the pains of labor. It is not surprising that those who benefited from parliamentarianism struck their tents when they saw National Socialism was firmly established and decided to take up their activity beyond our borders….They do all they can to cause the Reich domestic and international difficulties. These pacifists from head to toe do not even hesitate to urge bloody war against Germany in the foreign papers that that are not yet wise to deny them space.”
A similar line is being peddled by Moyo in Zimbabwe today who accuses Britain of plotting with the MDC to destabilise the country. The foreign press is also guilty of supporting regime change and agitating for sanctions against Zimbabwe, Moyo argues.
He dismisses the
opposition MDC as “plagiarists, sell-outs, shameless opportunists and merchants
of confusion" and running dogs of the British and American governments planted
to destabilise the country.
They however, both go to great lengths at attempting to split international opinion by claiming their enemy is the enemy of all.
conflagrations with Russian Bolshevism, Goebbels says: “Here I shall give an
unvarnished picture...if there is a spark of reason left in the world, and the
faculty for clear thinking, then the states and peoples must be shocked at the
prospect (of Bolshevism taking over Europe)”.
Contrast this with Moyo’s rebuttal of British accusations of human rights violations: “There are very few people remaining in the world who still believe British propaganda. The international community has become sick of these lies. The time has come for Britain to understand that they will not fool anyone.”
The statement even
appears more like Goebbels’ stinging attack on British World War leader, Winston
Churchill: “The astonishing thing is that Mr Churchill holds to his lies, and in
fact repeats them until he believes them. That is an old English trick. They
made good use of the trick during the World War, with the only difference that
world opinion believed it then, which cannot be said today.”
Goebbels and Moyo’s propaganda carries obsessive energy, punctuated by the constant spewing of vitriol against opposing views and those expressing them. Moyo’s style though leans heavily on the technique of answering a question with a counter question which presses all the right populist buttons in Africa.
When cornered about Zimbabwe’s refusal to have British election observers, Moyo uses this style effectively. Why, he asked, did Zimbabwe have to be subjected to roving bands of observers when the British electoral system was no subjected to the same kind of scrutiny?
While Moyo has steered clear, just, of plagiarising Goebbels’ style and policies, there is a growing suspicion in Zimbabwe that he admiers Hitler's information supremo.
When a Zimbabwean
says to you, "it is not rocket science....", you know he has been listening to
Jonathan Moyo. But it was Goebbels who frequently used this phrase. Early on in
his career, Goebbels says: “Christ cannot have been a Jew. I do not have to look
for any scientific proof of that.”
In fact, Moyo who is often referred to in the Zimbabwean media as a “rocket scientist”, has repeatedly used the phrase, slightly altered of course. After firing the entire Zimpapers board, there were suggestions they had resigned before he pushed them. He retorted: “You don’t need a rocket scientist to realise that the difference between resigning and being fired is like day and night.”
As Mugabe's 24-year hold on power appears to be in its afternoon, Moyo knows his fate is near. Goebbels was briefly the German Chancellor for less than 24 hours as Hitler killed himself in his bunker. He later committed suicide himself - taking his children and wife with him - as the winds of change blew across Germany.
Moyo knows this fact. His professional career is beyond redemption. The fall of Mugabe’s administration would be a hammer-blow to his fascinating political career. Will he do a Goebbels?