By Robert Tapfumaneyi
EMERGING televangelists and self-proclaimed prophets have a “dark side” that Zimbabwean media has ignored, suggesting the ‘fortune tellers” have captured newsrooms, Information Ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana has said.
Mangwana questioned why there are no negative reports of young and charismatic prophets who have mushroomed throughout the country but only positive stories to sell their “healing powers.”
“Talking of the powerful, these days it is not only those in politics or government. It is also members of the high society such as modern day prophets aka gospel entrepreneurs or gospel-preneurs,” Mangawana said.
He was speaking at the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) inaugural Investigative Journalism Awards ceremony, on Wednesday night.
Mangwana added that some of the “prophets” have been arrested for fraud and even rape but “the media seems blind to this.”
“We all know how much control they have over our newsrooms. This is wrong and one would hope organisations like VMCZ would call some people to order here.
“One would also hope that investigative journalists can also in the interest of transparency and accountability explore these stories,” said Mangwana
The information secretary added that he was dismayed to discover that journalists are in the habit of protecting each other and their shenanigans are never written about.
“For how can society expect the media to speak truth to power and hold the powerful to account when you can’t hold each other to account,” Mangwana asked rhetorically.
“My Ministry is aware of the unwritten pact between editors, some in this room, never to write stories about each other. This turns you into a cartel of untouchables. When you protect each other like that you lose moral superiority to judge politicians when they start protecting each other.”
Mangwana said accountability should not be limited to politicians or those in public service alone but across all levels of society.
“Nobody should be above scrutiny. Everybody should account, and for journalists and editors, accountability is important. The media must at all times be ready to explain to the public the reason for its investigations and how stories they pursue are of public interest and for the national good,” the top civil servant said.
He added: “Unfettered and free press plays a vital role in sustaining and keeping in check a healthy democracy as well as contributing to better accountability, good governance and economic development.”
Last year the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BZA) banned broadcasting of adverts and programming of prophets and faith healers which were using unverified testimonies to lure new congregates.