HARARE – Robert Mugabe's Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamhu, has slammed a story that appeared on the front page of issue of last week The Zimbabwe Independent saying it undermines the spirit of working together within the inclusive government by fueling needless conflicts.
The report alleges that there was a ‘fierce row’ in the cabinet meeting held this Tuesday claiming the alleged division arose over what it termed was a motion moved by Finance Minister, Mr. Tendai Biti.
The division is alleged to have arisen from calls by Mr Biti to investigate the Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Gideon Gono for overstepping his mandate when he borrowed more than US$1 billion without relevant authority from the treasury.
In a statement issued today, Shamhu reminded The Zimbabwe Iindependent in particular and the media in general that “cabinet deliberations are protected by the country’s laws. Publishing deliberations of cabinet or building stories in the name of that august body, outside of what government has authorized and/or released, is a punishable offence.”
The minister said this is a standard world wide rule for both governments and the media and urged the media to respect the country’s laws and uphold media ethics.
On the alleged row, Shamhu said “government wishes the public to know that the inclusive government has no valid legal reason for or intention of investigating the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gono who faces no allegations and thus has no case to answer. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is the monetary arm of the government, which makes the governor a public functionary of government.
The operations of the Central Bank and its head, the Governor have been, are and will always be as directed by, and at the behest of central government.”
Several impeccable sources have confirmed that the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, has essentially put all the media in his back pocket. With Trevor Ncube’s Zimbabwe Independent, Financial Gazett and a UK based website Newzimbabe.com receiving a large chunk of BACCOSSI money.
It is allegeded Gono bought a house in Bulawayo for a reporter on the staff of the Zimbabwe Independent, owned by Trevor Ncube and all the stories on him that are published in that paper are written by Kumbirai Nhongo, the former Business Editor of Zimbabwe Television, who is Gono’s spokesman at the Reserve Bank.
These stories are then given a byline belonging to a staffer on the The Independent. The Zimbabwe Independent editor Vincent Kahiya, confirmed that the paper did apply for BACCOSSI money but he did not know whether they got it or not. The application was handled by Raphael Khumalo, the Group’s Managing Director, and he was dealing with the Deputy Reserve Bank Gorvenor Nicholas Ncube, formerly of the Zimbabwe Investment Crentre.
In another shocking show of just how wide Gono had spread his patronage tentacles, it is also emerging that the Governor gave BACCOSSI money to the Zimbabwe Independent as well as The Financial Gazette. Gono owns the Gazette.
Immediately after the Financial Gazette got these BACOSSI funds, Gono apparently went to the paper’s management and asked for all of it to be paid back to him personally, saying that the paper owed him dividends. I understand the management had no option but to hand over a large part of those funds.
Effectively, then, Gono paid himself personally through the Gazette on the pretext of giving the paper government funds to keep their operations going.
This information is thrown sharply into the spotlight with the way the Zimbabwe Independent covers Gono’s battle with Tendai Biti in the paper, effectively rallying to Gono’s cause in his fight against Biti.
The same story confirms what I told you yesterday about ZANU PF "heavyweights" being opposed to the Governor and failing to defend him in his battle against the Finance Minister.
Last week The Zimbabwe Independent ran a story "Gono save Biti from embarrasement", which was also planted by Gono.
Mugabe apparently opposed the proposal in cabinet. He was supported in this by Mnangagwa, Mumbengegwi, Didymus Mutasa and Stan Mudenge.
Mugabe told Biti that he had no right to investigate Gono and that he would not approve such a move. According to the Independent, Mugabe said any moves to do this would result in the collapse of the Inclusive Government.
Tellingly, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai remained absolutely silent throughout the exchanges and did not speak up at all to support Tendai Biti’s quest.
Again the Independent itself also carried a story entitled "Hyprocrisy Over Reserve Bank Cars Exposed".
The article sought to paint ministers and others as being hypocritical because they have more than one car each from Gono while they are insisting that MPs should return the vehicles that the Governor gave them.
What you see happening now is that Gono is calling in his favours, if these allegations of funding newspapers are anything to go by.
In a democracy, the subverting of independent critical voices is an unforgivable sin for all who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It compromises the public’s watchdogs and makes it impossible to hold public officials to account.
Gono, by buying influence with the papers, is essentially buying public opinion and this is a subversion of democracy.