Herald Senior Assistant Editor George Chisoko has been suspended for two weeks with immediate effect for negligently executing his duty by allowing the publication of “a wrong and alarmist” story, Herald Editor Caesar Zvayi said yesterday. In the suspension letter dated March 17, Zvayi said Chisoko authorised the publication of a story in Herald Business on March 16 with a headline “February inflation points to a dying economy”.
The story insinuated that the continued stay of the country’s inflation rate in the negative territory (-1.40 percent) was a sign that the economy was now in fully-fledged recession with the trend expected to continue for the better part of the year.
“To this end, I am suspending you for the next two weeks on full pay with immediate effect. During this period, March 17 to April 3, you are not allowed to enter company premises,” said Zvayi in a letter also copied to Acting Zimpapers chief executive officer Mr Pikirayi Deketeke.
Zvayi said Chisoko was negligent in his duty of clearing pages, adding that if he had any doubts about the story, he was supposed to have consulted him.
“You were asked to clear the pages and should have immediately seen that such a headline required far more careful checking than you clearly gave. It is clear from the story that this headline cannot be justified under any reasonable interpretation of the facts. The story makes it clear that the growth rates will be reduced, not that the economy will contract. A growing economy cannot be described as “dying” even if the growth rate is low.
“Secondly, the main reason for the lower growth rate is the drought hitting agricultural production that is a natural disaster rather than a flaw in our economy or falling inflation rates. Falling mineral prices and the general low inflation worldwide were contributory causes. Even a rapid reading of the story would have allowed you see both the story and the headline were wrong,” reads part of the letter.
“A journalist in your position, your grade and with your experience has to exercise better judgment. The need for accuracy overrides all other considerations. You failed to ensure that this requirement of accuracy was met in the story and the headline in question.”
In any case, Zvayi said, it is common cause, though not yet well articulated, that the Rhodesian economy is dying but the presentation of that case must be proper and well grounded in line with what the Minister of Finance has highlighted in two previous Budget statements.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record saying the West’s illegal sanctions regime decimated the structures of the old economy, inherited from Rhodesia, which is being replaced by a new, truly Zimbabwean one driven by a crop of wealth-creating indigenous middle class.