Dongo savages panicky Zanu PF

HARARE – Firebrand war veteran and former Zanu PF legislator Margaret Dongo says the renewed onslaught on the Daily News betrays not just the anarchy devouring the ruling party, but also its growing nervousness over its tyrannical hold on power in the country.\r\n\r\nShe also blasted the State for abusing the police and wasting valuable resources pursuing former Vice President Joice Mujuru, adding that the attacks on the country’s leading newspaper, the Daily News, were meant to instil fear and thwart freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.\r\n\r\nDongo’s comments yesterday followed the storming of the Daily News’ offices by police on Tuesday, demanding key documents pertaining to the ownership of the newspaper’s parent company Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ).\r\n\r\n“Why Joice Mujuru? Is she the only one who owns shares in companies?” she asked.\r\n\r\nThe former Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD) leader wondered whether the papers were seized as part of a high price for the mindless infighting within Zanu PF as well as the lack of clear government policies and leadership codes in the public sector.\r\n\r\n“They (the government) should be reminded that companies are registered by the Registrar of Companies,” Dongo said.\r\n\r\n“What an embarrassment the storming of the offices is as there are better ways of getting information of who owns what without going through that method which raises unnecessary eyebrows locally and internationally,” she said.\r\n\r\n“I want to believe that the method of searching is meant to raise fear within independent newspapers and their staff. That alone undermines freedom of expression,” Dongo said.\r\n\r\nThe police action against the Daily News followed false claims by Zimbabwe’s controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe late last year that Mujuru owned a 10 percent stake in the newspaper — which led to two officers from the CID law and order section storming the company’s offices armed with a warrant of search and seizure.\r\n\r\nGrace first made the outrageous claim while addressing one of her controversial “meet the people” rallies at her vast Mazowe business hub in October last year.\r\n\r\nAddressing mainly war collaborators and youths, the Zanu PF women’s league boss accused Zimbabwe’s top-selling daily — that was violently and unjustly shut down by President Robert Mugabe’s government in September 2003, and which only returned to the news stalls in late\r\nMarch 2011 — of publishing negative stories about her in the alleged service of Mujuru.\r\n\r\nThe Daily News has it on good authority that Grace’s obscenely untrue claim saw police coming under undue political pressure to investigate the newspaper, leading them to obtain a court order, signed by Harare Provincial Magistrate Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe on December 18, 2014 — which they used to storm the paper’s Harare head office.\r\n\r\nThe court order, which took a surprisingly long two weeks to effect, was given by the courts in terms of section 54(2)(b) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.\r\n\r\nDongo added that the current “so-called probes” on Mujuru were aimed at completely destroying her and her perceived allies, politically, so that they could never have the capacity to challenge their opponents in future.\r\n\r\n“If shares were acquired in a dubious way, what role do the media have in that? Why not enforce the leadership code that requires every politician in office to declare his or her assets, period?” she queried.\r\n\r\nDongo also questioned Zanu PF’s indigenisation policy and what it meant for “fork-tongued” politicians who owned vast shares in the private sector.\r\n\r\n“That is why I insist that we need a clean Cabinet. All Zanu PF politicians should go through the same cleansing that Joice is going through,” she added.\r\n\r\nWeighing into the matter yesterday, Mabvuku Tafara legislator James Maridadi said the action by the police against the Daily News was unconstitutional.\r\n\r\n“What the police did is unconstitutional because you do not invade a newsroom to get the shareholding structure of a newspaper group,” he said.\r\n\r\n“Such information is easily obtainable at the Registrar of Companies and if they did not see Mujuru’s name when they checked, how on earth did they expect to get it from the newsroom?” Maridadi asked.\r\n\r\n“They want to instil fear not only into the Daily News, but the whole media using Nazi laws of the Second World War era. Every self-respecting Zimbabwean should stand up and say no to this intimidation of the media characteristic of a despotic regime.”\r\n“If they want to investigate Joice Mujuru, they should do so properly and not abuse the media,” Maridadi said.\r\n\r\nMedia analyst Takura Zhangazha said it was clear that authorities had a score to settle with the Daily News.\r\n\r\n“The police have a very bad track record with the Daily News and such action is a continuation of the arbitrary way they have always treated the media,” he said.\r\n\r\n“It is unfortunate that the police are not clear about why they want the information and one wonders why they would do it in such an arbitrary fashion without using proper channels,” Zhangazha added.\r\n\r\nAnother South Africa-based media analyst Taurai Mabhachi supported Dongo’s views and said Zanu PF was panicking, and hence the ongoing offensive against Mujuru and the media.\r\n\r\n“So the police’s action, questioning the shareholding structure of the Daily News, where they suspect Mujuru of having a 10 percent stake, is indicative of their panic,” he said.\r\n\r\nWhat particularly raised eyebrows in the police’s so-called investigations was that the information they were looking for is easily obtainable not just from the Registrar of Companies, but also from media regulation authorities such as the Zimbabwe Media Commission.\r\n\r\nIn addition, the warrant of seizure itself that they brought to the Daily News’ offices suggested that they already had this information anyway, rendering their mission wholly pointless.\r\n\r\nPart of the warrant directed that ANZ directors “provide copies of list and details (particulars) of shareholders pertaining to the current allotment for ANZ and any other documents in relation to the said shareholder allotment”.\r\n\r\nIt further suggested, rather revealingly, that “an offence of criminal abuse of office as defined in section 174 of the Criminal law codification and Reform Act has been committed” — an allegation that Mujuru’s Zanu PF enemies have consistently directed at her.\r\n\r\nAlec Muchadehama, the ANZ’s lawyer, expressed concern that police details who visited the Daily News had flatly refused to shed light on the identity of not just the accused, but also the complainant. – Daily News