THERE’S no love lost between Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Information secretary George Charamba, and even after two stints of working together, the two seem to be worlds apart, with animosity characterising their relationship.
by XOLISANI NCUBE
Since Moyo first headed the Information ministry in 2002, its importance has grown and both he and Charamba have sought to dominate the media.
Last week, the fractious relationship between the two came to the fore, with Charamba insinuating Moyo was a “little fella”, while the Higher and Tertiary Education minister shot back on the social media platform Twitter, as he has seemingly been frozen out of the State media, particularly The Herald.
The icy relationship between the two dates back to around 2004, when Moyo was kicked out of Zanu PF and government for his involvement in the Tsholotsho Declaration.
Prior to that, both men were said to be pushing for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to the VP post, a move thwarted by President Robert Mugabe.
And before their initial fallout, reports say Charamba was tasked with organising and preparing a speech that was to be read by Mnangagwa at a prize-giving ceremony at Dinyane Secondary School, after which several Zanu PF provincial chairmen were to meet to reconfigure the party’s hierarchy, in what is known as the Tsholotsho Declaration.
Charamba was said to have hired a helicopter to ferry the officials to Tsholotsho, although he vehemently denied involvement in the saga and once threatened to take legal action against the Press for those claims.
But the State-run Chronicle on December 1, 2004, published a front-page story headlined Tsholotsho Declaration: The facts, accompanied by a memo dated November 18, 2004, the day of the Tsholotsho meeting, emanating from Moyo’s secretary Chipo Mukabeta, addressed to Charamba requesting the Presidential spokesman to “hire a private helicopter” from Central Air Services for the event.
Moyo was then fired from the party and government and from then on, Charamba turned on the screws, with a column believed to be penned by him, berating Moyo for criticising Mugabe, yet he was a beneficiary of the land reform programme.
Moyo seemed to take exception that the Herald columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, questioned why he was allocated land in Mazowe, saying this betrayed that Charamba was an ethnic bigot after the columnist insinuated that the Tsholotsho North legislator came from a lineage that “never dreamt of having land in the heartland of Mashonaland of Zimbabwe”.
Writing in 2006 as an independent MP, Moyo described Charamba as a “useful idiot”.
“Charamba is a poorly schooled wordsmith, who suffers from the folly of thinking that words are synonymous with ideas,” he wrote on NewZimbabwe.com, in an article that has since been taken off the website.
“Because he does not know the difference between words and ideas, Charamba is typically thoughtless and is prone to debating individuals and their personal lives and social identities through the use of what he imagines are fancy words ironically uplifted from Victorian literature.
“Charamba’s information about individuals is always based on the gossip of and rumours from State security agents and never on direct knowledge. This is why his information is often unreliable.”
In a chilling message, Moyo warned Charamba to stop “throwing mud” unless he was prepared for “real disclosures”.
“But if Charamba continues to throw dirty mud at people’s families and insulting their ethnicity to fan tribal hatred, then he must prepare himself and his boss for real disclosures on the way,” he wrote.
Manheru or Charamba never took the matter any further and Moyo did not carry out his threat.
Fast-forward to 2013 after the harmonised polls, Moyo bounced back as Charamba’s boss and the two spearheaded a spirited media campaign against former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, leading to her eventual ouster from Zanu PF and government.
They seemed to enjoy working together and spoke with one tone on government business until last July when Moyo was moved to a new portfolio — Higher and Tertiary Education.
The honeymoon did not last long and almost 10 years after Moyo threatened Charamba, the seemingly emboldened latter hit back.
Charamba is fighting with the State media in his corner, while Moyo has been reduced to posting messages on social media, what The Herald describes as “frenzied tweeting”.
The Information secretary accused Moyo of thinking he could “tweet himself up the political ladder” and insinuated he was a stupid politician.
The Presidential spokesperson ironically has War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa in his corner, yet they just recently exchanged barbs in a testy text conversation, a clear example that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests.
Charamba has also accused Moyo of being part of the anti-Mnangagwa cabal, with both men accusing each other of being “successionists”, a capital crime in Zanu PF.
Rather ominously, Charamba warned that Mugabe was about to act and he could axe Moyo and those belonging to a faction known as G40.
Political and legal analyst Alex Magaisa, writing on his blog, said Charamba’s interview with two radio stations heightened the fights between the two.
“It is important to place the current public fight between Moyo and Charamba into context. It is a reflection of succession politics, but it is also a public manifestation of a personal rivalry between the two men,” he wrote.
“Thus, while he was Moyo’s subordinate at the ministry, (Charamba) enjoyed a measure of independence as Presidential spokesperson, where his boss was Mugabe. But now Moyo is no longer controlling information, which gives Charamba the edge in terms of defining the political narrative.
“The strategy will be to do to Moyo and G40 what Moyo and company used to do to Zanu PF’s and Mugabe’s opponents when he was the propaganda chief: Close off media space, especially in radio and television and attack the opponents relentlessly, regardless of media rules, ethics or truth. Moyo and the G40 may soon find that, like the opposition and like Mujuru before them, they will be subjected to serious State media assault, without a right of reply.”
And, indeed, Moyo has already complained about the alleged “abuse of the State media” by Charamba.