Vusumuzi Dube Bulawayo Bureau
INFORMATION, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has taken a swipe at the local media for peddling lies and leading an unprecedented onslaught on the police regarding the issue of spot fines.
The minister was addressing members of the Bulawayo Press Club last Friday where he said the media had been at the forefront of twisting facts and misreading the statement made by High Court judge Justice Francis Bere.
He said the recent trend by the media to disrespect content and the truth risked them becoming irrelevant and left behind by society.
âYou have seen that the media has been misleading the country. Basically they say spot fines are illegal; they even said Justice Bere made these comments that spot fines are illegal. He didnât say that. The statement which he read is available, they (the media) are so reckless with the truth that they have not even published this statement in full, they have just been using quotations from it and publishing lies and twisting what the judge said.
âThe truth is the judge merely complained about the conduct of the police and in particular said there is no law that empowers the police to insist on the spot fines if the alleged violator wants to contest and go to court. He said there are now circumstances where the police are reported to somehow employ bullying tactics to intimidate motorists into signing the admission of guilt forms, of course that is not legal,â Prof Moyo said.
He said spot fines were not a Zimbabwean phenomenon only but were in existence all over the world and were relevant as a form of administrative justice.
âThe sentiments attributed to Justice Bere were misrepresented and half-truths, worse some of the mainstream media are even calling it a judgment. They canât tell the difference between a judgment and a speech. After causing that much damage they then go on to find a judgment from 2012 and again lie that the judgment illegalises spot fines.
âI am happy that Vice-President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Justice, has clearly clarified that this is necessary from the point of view of administrative justice where one will be avoiding using $50 to collect $5,â said the Minister.
He said the media were merely trying to go with the bandwagon sentiment that the average motorist had issues with the police.
The Minister said the fact that there were police on the highway that were misbehaving or wayward did not render the spot fines illegal.
âI canât believe that we have a media that thinks it is fair game to paint the police with one brush that tarnishes its image, ridicules it and renders them unable to enforce laws. Yes, I agree, there might be problems but the fact is we are a better country in terms of our policing than others, we donât have some of the nonsense that happens in other countries.
âHowever, I as the Minister of Information am not happy, we are going through a period where the media in Zimbabwe risks being irrelevant and left behind by society because it doesnât respect content or the truth, they tell stories from an angle and make the angle the story, we have commentary media as opposed to evidence-led media,â he said.
The issue of spot fines has for the past week been the subject of intense debate after Justice Bereâs sentiments, with the police also wading into the debate noting that the judgeâs statements were not to be viewed as a judgment but were made in his personal capacity.