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Journalists need protection

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“On the evening of November 22 (2000), Carlos Cardoso closed that day’s edition and faxed Metical to more than 400 subscribers — mostly diplomats, government officials and businesspeople.”

From the Editor Nevanji Madanhire

He then got into a car with his driver and sped off, hoping to make it home in time to catch the start of a soccer match on television. It was about 6:30pm, dusk was falling, and the streets of Maputo buzzed with rush-hour traffic.

“Three blocks from Metical’s front door, a red Volkswagen Citi Golf and a Volkswagen 1600 sedan with polarised windows cut off Cardoso’s car. According to numerous news reports, two men wielding AK-47 assault rifles jumped out of the Citi Golf. They sprayed Cardoso with gunfire, killing him instantly and severely wounding his driver.”

Part of a script for a Hollywood movie? No.

This is part of the report produced by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on the murder of prominent Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso, gunned down on November 22, 2000. He was publisher of the investigative newsletter Metical.

He had been investigating high-profile corruption in Mozambique. At the time of his murder, he was investigating a $14 million fraud connected with the privatisation of the country’s largest bank, Commercial Bank of Mozambique.

In 2002, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano’s son Nyimpine was fingered in the murder.

This little anecdote serves to highlight just how dangerous the investigation of corruption is, anywhere in the world.

In recent weeks, newspapers have been praised for the work they have done and are continuing to do in exposing corruption in high places.

The Zimbabwean media, renowned the world over for its polarisation, for the first time sang from the same hymn book exposing corruption in parastatals and other quasi-governmental business entities. There seems, for the first time too, to be government support in all this.

Before the July 31 elections last year, government policy towards the exposure of corruption was to look away. It seemed government actually condoned corruption because whenever it was exposed in the private media, police were sent to arrest and lock up journalists under a raft of repressive media laws that were meant to protect the status quo.

It seems there has been a change. Government itself, through the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, seems to be leading from the front. But there is something worrisome in this: Government doesn’t seem united. There seems to be a powerful element in government strongly opposed to the investigations and law enforcement agencies haven’t jumped into the fray. This obviously leaves the media exposed.

It is clear from the scandals exposed so far that corruption is deep-rooted in the political and business edifice. It is also clear that it is a multi-million-dollar industry.

The beneficiaries of corruption created intricate interconnections that facilitated the systematic looting of State enterprises, reaping huge rewards.

The extent of the interconnections points to the existence of mafia-type syndicates that will stop at nothing to undermine the investigations. President Robert Mugabe has given the green light to the investigations and has said those caught on the wrong side of the law would face the music.

But that has made the game very dangerous. We are here looking at individuals who have carved for themselves high-profile lives which they have sustained with loot from government-linked companies. Their lifestyles are some of the best in the world having built grotesque mansions on the mountains of Harare.

Their children have been educated at some of the best universities in the world and when they returned they have been quickly incorporated into the same webs of corruption which their fathers control. This means whole families are immersed into these syndicates.

In Zimbabwe, political power has always been linked with violence and corruption. In the past 15 years, we have seen how political violence has been used to secure political power.

Thousands of people have been killed across the country whenever political power came under threat. Wealth has also been closely linked with political power, hence those ministers or senior government officials who before they became politically powerful and were paupers are now some of the richest individuals in society.

Power, violence and corruption are the new phalanx ruling this country; to destroy one, is to destroy the other two. People should be under no illusion this edifice is going to be destroyed without putting up a fight.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo recently said the best way to fight corruption is to expose it. True, but the mafia syndicates know too that as a corollary, the best way to stop the exposure is to stop the media from exposing it. This is why journalists are in mortal danger.

But who will protect journalists? Considering the non-committal attitude of the police the mafia groupings have the time to either corrupt journalists or, where this is not possible, to eliminate them in one way or another.

To avert this, what is needed is that all those fingered in corrupt deals should immediately go under police and/or intelligence services surveillance. Their day-to-day interactions with journalists must be monitored and documented. Any untoward behaviour must be investigated and pre-emptive action taken.

That way the State would have fulfilled its role of protecting citizens from the danger posed by criminal elements at the same time sustaining the fight against corruption.

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