via Media should remain focussed on graft – DailyNews Live by Conrad Nyamutata 18 FEBRUARY 2014
President Robert Mugabe’s extraordinarily long stay in power has spawned what someone once called “succession journalism.”
He was describing increased media focus over the years on Zanu PF’s power struggles that had resulted in a saturation of stories about Mugabe’s possible successor.
The media’s preoccupation with Mugabe’s potential successor is understandable; it is a product of the Zanu PF leader’s protracted rule.
It is natural for the media to be curious about the person who might take over leadership of the former liberation party.
That person might also assume the highest executive seat in the country from one of the longest-serving rulers in the world.
Therefore, the focus on succession in Zanu PF is a legitimate journalistic pursuit.
Conflict often makes news than peace. The media are fascinated by personal, institutional or national conflict. Zanu PF, as a political institution, appears to be facing internecine conflict over power. The media have, for some time now, attempted to capture the personal power duel, reportedly pitting Joice Mujuru against Emmerson Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s potential successors.
However, in recent weeks, we have witnessed the downside of “succession journalism.”
In the past month or so, the media have diligently exposed outrageous salaries earned by executives as well as possible cases of corruption at State enterprises.
The revelations have stunned the public. There are possible cases of corruption.
Corruption affects the ordinary man. It must, therefore, be eliminated for the common good.
It is credit to the media that these cases have been unfurled.
However recently, some media reports on these possible cases of corruption have assumed another news frame.
The media now link, or have been persuaded to believe, the uncovering of the scandals have something to do with the factional attrition within Zanu PF.
According to the reports, the targets of the salary and corruption revelations belong to the Mujuru faction.
Mujuru herself appeared to chastise the media for its zestful coverage of the cases — a move seen to be an
attempt to protect members of her camp — although she seemed to backtrack on the comments later.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa was unambiguous about the pursuit of culprits.
These seemingly contradictory positions lent further credence to the reportedly on-going power struggles battles between the two.
It is, however, most unfortunate that the reportage on the unfolding salary scandals and corruption has assumed the factional dimension. The media are now missing the forest for the trees.
Infusing the succession element into what appears to be clear cases of improprieties at State enterprises, risks obfuscating a matter of genuine public concern. Secondly, owing to this apparent diversion, the media risk replacing the real victims of the unravelled scandals.
As now appears to be the case, people from the so-called Mujuru faction are now posing as the “victims” in this scenario, apparently targeted by a rival camp.
Notwithstanding the fact that these claims are questionable, these people are not, in any case, the real victims of the unfolding perfidy at public institutions.
Representatives of these factions, usually timid to show face, have a single motive; that is, to secure power. We risk pursuing party political agendas of these faceless people at the expense of the genuine concerns of the general public.
The real victims of the corporate malfeasances at State institutions are the common people who have been denied the benefits of a national resource, access to medical aid, essential council services and so on.
“Succession journalism” will be with us for as long as Mugabe is in power. It has its merits.
At its best, it helps the public assess the suitability of candidates seeking to replace Mugabe.
But at its worst, it now seems to persuade us to rationalise every issue through the prism of the Mujuru/Mnangagwa binary.
In this case, “succession journalism” threatens to muddy the waters, and subsume a matter of public concern. The media should be wary of political schemers playing victim in their own power struggles, and now diverting attention from a crucial matter that needs to be addressed.
These power-seekers are not the real victims. It is the public who are the real victims of the rot.