Media reports linking the “Salarygate” scandals and media exposés thereof to factional Zanu PF politics are an unfortunate development that is distracting and diverting both the Zanu PF government and citizens from confronting head-on this monumental scandal.
The grand deception and diversion of taking society’s focus away from this scandal is being led by some newspapers who allege that what we have at play is not corruption, but simply Zanu PF factions at each other’s throat.
The reports maintain the same line of relying on unnamed sources. Needless that we remind the same media houses that there is still so much to investigate and expose regarding the corruption scandals. The media, in the eyes of many, has simply scratched the surface and needs to dig deeper into the government structures and expose the ills in state and private sector organisations.
When journalism simply becomes a vocation of accessing, talking to and projecting the voice of the powerful in our society then journalism ceases to be of any use to the generality of citizens, but simply an extension of the elite interests. And in our case a very corrupt elite.
In the circumstances of the huge corruption scandals that have gripped Zimbabwe in the past few weeks, there is nothing to celebrate for any journalist or newspaper that is used to represent the voice of the elite that is corrupt and seeks to save its skin by deception and diversion.
The truth of the matter is that this kind of reporting distracts and locks citizens in an endless and unnecessary debate on who is who in Zanu PF and who is doing what to succeed whom? Surely Zanu PF politics and internal struggles are Zanu PF’s, so are the MDC-T’s internal fights are, for the MDC-T to deal with.
What we can do from outside is to comment and analyse where we can, express our disgust at the behaviour of the leaders we have and aspiring leaders when they fail to manage their in-house issues and when their behaviour threatens our beliefs and undermines what we expect from them.
But for the media to project the in-house struggles to national significance more so in a manner that distracts society from tackling this corruption scandal is unfortunate and uncalled for.
Any such projection must be linked to the national good, in this case the media is undermining the public interest.
Under the current circumstances in Zimbabwe, the most valued journalist is not one who has direct line to State house or the Vice President’s office, but rather one who has access to communities as well as information that informs on the scandals unravelling before us.
Media reports linking corruption to Zanu PF succession are not necessarily truthful as they make a wrong assumption that this corruption is being reported in the State-owned media only, yet the reporting is across the mainstream media and beyond the borders.
To quote one: “It is not factional politics that led someone to pay themselves $230 000 per month.” If we are to say, for argument sake, that Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo is influencing State media reporting on corruption, how are we to explain the role that the independent media has played in this reportage?
It becomes clear that as a result of their proximity to power, because seniority in the media newsrooms is measured according to the social and political status of one’s sources of information, the media is failing to break out of this shell to simply report issues as they are.
In this regard and despite all the reporting on corruption so well done, the media has failed to look broadly at all other sectors, parastatals and local authorities. The media has equally failed to interrogate policy issues beyond scrapping the surface. The danger in all this is that society is left angry and disappointed but far less informed.
In such circumstances what is hitting us now will hit us again because the debate has not gone beyond the surface to look at policies and structure.
This should be the focus of media reporting and not necessarily what the accused think of their colleagues in Zanu PF. Such media reports also argue that corruption must be tackled carefully lest it rocks the boat.
Well I dare ask whose boat it is and the rest of the citizens will not lose sleep if the boat sinks. The politicisation of corruption scandals will not result in corruption being cleaned out, but rather in the interests of the political elite being protected.
Instead of hiding under their dirty political garments, factional politics and protests, those fingered must simply own up and face the music.
As things stand, it is the small fish wallowing in police remand prison while the ministers, permanent secretaries and senior officials who presided over the rot are roaming free.
The media must avoid being used as mouthpieces of those who have benefited from these scandals. The media must also not make a simple assumption that the ordinary citizen cares about Zanu PF factional fights, that is of interest to those who are involved and who benefit from their proximity to power.
The media must not project the elite struggles as the struggles of the ordinary citizen. Citizens of Zimbabwe want to see corruption dealt with decisively and policies changed for the better. As to who takes over in Zanu PF, that is purely Zanu PFs business.
Our hope being that a better leader takes over and the public interest is protected. Those who feel aggrieved by what is happening must come out in the open and state their positions.
Whispering in the ears of journalists does not necessarily engender confidence in what they say.
What are they afraid of, and next time, the media must name the sources of their information. The sources must associate their names with their agenda, positions and beliefs, if not, please
Rashweat Mukundu is a Zimbabwean journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org