via ‘I have a duty, responsibility towards the media’ | The Herald April 22, 2014
This is the second and final part of an interview by our Senior Political Writer Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo (JM) on Zim-Asset and related matters pertaining to developments in Government.
TZ: Earlier you spoke of policy inconsistency or lack of policy clarity; do you envisage some realignments say, to the indigenisation policy?
JM: There are some people who are suggesting that we rethink or realign the indigenisation and economic empowerment policy and it is quite strange to have this against the background that it is that which won elections.
I cannot imagine a wise person wanting to rethink where their bread and butter is coming from. I am not aware of any policy changes but I have been reading in the newspapers where the suggestions are being made that we need to rethink indigenisation.
In sport you don’t change a winning team and in policy you don’t rethink a winning policy.
Economic empowerment and indigenisation is a winning policy and it is irresponsible for anyone, for some of us to want to present it as propaganda for election purposes.
That is irresponsible. It’s also a misunderstanding of the guidance we have received from the President, the party, the ideology and policy of the party and most importantly, the law.
It would be different if comrades were saying that we need to sharpen it and fine-tune it to ensure that what we promised the electorate endorsed is achieved.
We cannot say we must rethink indigenisation in order to advantage or benefit our friends — worse if they are foreigners — who are trying to find an easy way into the economy and trying to avoid meeting the requirements of policy or law.
I also think it is a repudiation of Zim-Asset to say we must rethink indigenisation, meaning let’s do away with it.
I understand, perhaps even sympathise, with those comrades that say, “can we be clear what we really mean”; because if some comrades were not paying attention to the policy as enunciated in the manifesto or Zim-Asset and they say, “can we be clear so that we can be consistent and speak one voice?” That’s fair.
Because it is possible people may have missed a detail here or there but now they realise they are in positions of responsibility to implement and they need to know.
But if people say let’s rethink it in order to change it and move away from it; that is unacceptable and it has to be said in the strongest terms that we cannot do that. We cannot say one thing during election campaigns and do the opposite after elections.
This is a well-grounded policy and Zimbabweans have legitimate expectations against the backdrop of rising resource nationalism, they have an interest in the policy.
So we cannot suddenly abandon a well-grounded policy just because my friend from this or that country will give me a free holiday when I speak out and we start making waves.
In my humble opinion that will be unfair to the people of Zimbabwe.
TZ: We have been hearing talk of factionalism in Zanu-PF; does this not affect business?
JM: You cannot talk about Government business and locate that talk in politics. Politics and Government business are two different animals. People who are out there in politics and talking about what you call factionalism have not taken the oath of office.
We in Government, once appointed, have taken an oath of office to uphold the laws of the country, to uphold the Constitution.
There is nothing in those laws and in the Constitution, which has anything to do with factionalism.
In fact, factionalism becomes unlawful because it is about showing favour to some and disfavour to others and that immediately constitutes an abuse of public office.
TZ: How is your relationship with the media in Zimbabwe since coming back to the ministry?
JM: I do not have a personal relationship with the media. I have a duty and responsibility towards the media and again based on the laws of the country and the Constitution.
The Constitution of the country, and in particular this new Constitution, enshrines not just freedom of expression but also media freedom, which the former Constitution did not do.
It is very important for me, in my official role, to be first and foremost guided by the fact that Sections 61 and 62 are clear in terms of the rights the Constitution gives to the media; but also Section 62 is very clear about what media freedom is not.
For example it is clear that media freedom excludes hatred, hate speech, malicious injury to a person’s dignity or reputation and excludes intrusion into a person’s privacy.
However, even though I’m very conscious of the fact that we have a Constitution that generally has a robust Bill of Rights and enshrines media freedom.
It is a Constitution that has 345 sections. So the rest of those sections are very important.
So what makes my work clear is that this Constitution gives everyone, especially the media, which is an important institution in a constitutional democracy, a common base or foundation — what the Constitution calls Founding Values and Principles of the Constitution. These are fundamental and we should actually require that media and even schoolchildren know them.
There are nine of them: The primacy of the Constitution; the importance of human freedoms and human rights; the rule of law; the religious, traditional and cultural diversity of our country; the inherent dignity and worth of the of individual; the equality of human beings; the importance of gender equality; good governance and nine, recognition of the ideals and values of the liberation struggle.
We have a very clear foundation which we didn’t have before and the media are the best institution to give life to these things and this is the basis of what you, perhaps, were referring to as my relationship with the media.
My relationship with the media has to be defined on the basis of the laws and Constitution to which we take oath and the policy direction given to me as a member of the Cabinet as given by the President.
In terms of my own work, clearly, upon assumption of office I was very concerned by the polarisation of public discourse in Zimbabwe and that polarisation having fed off the polarisation of the so-called private or independent media, and public or State media.
And we have worked very hard to dismantle these artificial divisions.
I understand that the media is a product of professional training.
Not everyone is qualified to be a journalist that is why in the Constitution we have freedom of expression on the one hand — which is everyone’s freedom of expression — but on the other hand, freedom of the media.
We can’t have people who have no professional basis to call themselves media practitioners and to cause havoc out there as merchants of political agendas of all sorts.
This is a noble profession and it has to be respected as such.
My view is that the time has come for us to understand that we can only have one mainstream media, with different owners and editorial policies but with very seriously common professional and ethical backgrounds so that we should all know that what we read in the media, when it comes to the news aspect of it, would be balanced, fair, factual and we won’t have opinions peddled as facts and so forth.
So we have to work hard towards that and we think that the Constitution has made it possible for that.
TZ: We will be interested to know what is happening at the ZBC now. What should be done or is being done to bring back the primacy of the public broadcaster?
JM: We have a public position that we made on the 14th of November which was that we found a very difficult situation which was dramatised by the fact that at the time ZBC had gone for seven or so months without being able to pay the full salaries of its workforce, and when we tried to unpack this challenge, we discovered many other things about which we make an informed opinion without the benefit of a forensic audit going back to 2009.
We took the matter to Cabinet and Cabinet supported the proposal (a) to pay the salaries of the workers using Treasury funds and (b) to have a forensic audit of ZBC under the auspices of the Auditor-General and the Auditor-General floated a tender.
Eight independent accounting and auditing firms submitted bids and the successful one was KPMG Zimbabwe working with KPMG South Africa.
They are in the middle of that audit.
The audit is not only an audit for that five year period but also a turnaround audit in terms of what are the options available and the challenges of the future which includes the need for the ZBC to digitalise and prepare for the digital migration which globally must take place by the 17th of June, 2015.
So our position is, until we have the findings of the audit and have advised the Cabinet accordingly, we will not take any policy decisions which would undermine the very audit that we are hoping will instruct us.