Open letter to Didymus Mutasa
Edwin Noel Mutasa,
(Former Chairperson of the Zanu-PF United Kingdom District and founder
member of the Zanu-PF Birmingham Branch between 1972 and 1975)
Belated complements of the new season fellow Zimbabwean!
I trust this letter finds you well. I am doing great. Even though, I
know that things could even be better for me had it not been for the
situation back at home. But hey, I digress.
I know you were not expecting any letter from me and as such you will
find my missive quite as a surprise to you. I leave it to you however,
to decide whether the letter is a pleasant or pugnacious surprise. That
will be your call to make.
Didymus, I only know you because as a senior politician; you have been
in the public light for a very long time. But maybe to be even more
honest with you, we have never met in life at all. Neither am I your
long lost son or nephew. Nor am I a youthful member of Zanu or the MDC
for that matter. I am just a concerned young Zimbabwean who feels so
desperate to express his patriotic views and sentiments to you.
This letter has been occasioned by your recent public utterances against
some section of our beloved country’s media community. According
to a high publicized news story that was originally released by the
Manica Post, you are reported to have issued a stern warning to all
journalists whom you claimed were putting the nation’s security
at risk.. It is further reported that you warned that the government
will soon come hard on all those journalists whom you claimed were reporting
negatively against Zimbabwe.
In the first place, it was actually surprising to me that you took it
upon your self to make a direct policy statement against some members
of the media community. As far as I concerned, media practice or professionalism
is most certainly not part of your current job description. My honest
and informed view is that if you had any serious concerns against the
media, the logical procedural thing for you would have been to raise
the matter with the relevant authorities. I am sure that Ambassador
Tichaona Jokonya (Minister of Information) and Tafataona Mahoso (Media
and Information Commission) would have been delighted to entertain your
legitimate concerns in this regard.
legal labyrinth created by such harsh laws as AIPPA and POSA have
further complicated journalists' abilities to freely express themselves"
then I do not think issues of procedure and technicality are of much
serious consideration and concern to you. And so then let me proceed
to address the merit of your substantial claim. In essence, your main
head of argument is simply that all Zimbabwean journalists who are writing
for anyone else except the government media are national traitors and
a source of national insecurity. In other words, you expect every patriotic
scribe to push the Zanu-PF line of things under whatever circumstances.
That in the final analysis means that media practice in Zimbabwe in
your view should be an appendage of the Zanu-PF government’s propaganda
Didymus, I wish to point out to you that the media just like all other
respectable profession is not a playground for politicians. It is a
passion. It is a calling. For others it is lifelong source of livelihood.
For some it is their very life! Even though, I doubt that you would
understand what I am saying since from an experiential perspective,
you have no media background at all. You were never trained in the media
profession and have never been a practicing journalist in the first
place. But then once again I digress by becoming too personal with you.
In essence the point I am trying to bring across to you, is simple that
the media as a profession has its own traditions, values and standards.
It has over the years developed its own passionate ideals. These include
among others the concept of the ‘freedom of the press’.
What this simply means is that journalists pride themselves as an independent
profession and guard jealously any attempt to interfere with their practice
at all costs.
This point also brings me to the one that insists on ‘freedom
of _expression’. The concept is a globally acknowledged human
right in terms of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration
of Human Rights of 10th December 1948. For the record, Zimbabwe is a
full signatory of this protocol.
Further to that, in terms of Section 20 of the much amended national
Zimbabwean Constitution, the media in the country is free to practice
without the risk of being labeled as a threat to national security.
The point is that media practice just like legal or medical practice
is a profession that should never be adulterated by the selfish ambition
of any politician. I therefore urge you to respect the professional
integrity of the Zimbabwean media. And as I have already advised you,
if you have any problems with the quality of media practice in Zimbabwe,
please feel free to approach the relevant persons and institutions such
as the Minister of Information, MIC, MISA, ZUJ, MMPZ, IJAZ, FAMWZ, ZINEF,
ZEA, among others.
I also beg to differ with you on the aspect of some journalists being
a serious threat to our national security. On the contrary, these journalists
are brave professionals and patriots who have continued to ply their
trade amid all forms of disruptive harassments and arrests. The legal
labyrinth created by such harsh laws as AIPPA and POSA have further
complicated their abilities to freely express themselves in the most
professional manner as possible. It is thus my humble view that these
journalists, far from being treasonous threats, are a national treasure
that is unfortunately facing professional extinction.
But then as the Minister of State Security you might benefit from my
free advice on what I perceive to be the real threats to national security
at the moment. There are a lot of them actually but let me list the
following for your immediate consideration;
* Lack of food
productivity in the agricultural sector. Most of the invaded farmland
is lying idle while the new farmers expect further free food handouts
from the government and relief agencies
* Ever high unemployment
rates that are said to be at over 80% at the moment.
* Runaway high
inflation rates and the continued devaluation of the local currency.
* The ever rising
poverty gap and datum line. Most people are much poorer today than they
were at independence in 1980.
* Perennial loss
making parastatals such as the NRZ, NOCZIM, Air Zimbabwe, ZICSO, among
others who have proved themselves to be bottomless pits for our national
funds for the last 25 years.
* Harsh laws such
as AIPPA and POSA that make it virtual impossible for the people of
Zimbabwe to freely express themselves.
Need I say more?
No, maybe not. I think I have already given you more than enough for
you to handle. I therefore hope and trust that from henceforth you will
focus on helping to deal with the above suggested problems. These in
my honest view, are certainly much more of a threat to our national
security than some journalists trying to express themselves in the profession
they were trained to practice at college.
is a Zimbabwean Human Rights Lawyer who is based in Johannesburg. He
can be contacted at email@example.com
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