By Leopold Munhende
THE South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has castigated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba and Information Ministry secretary Nick Mangwana for their continued attacks on SABC journalists Peter Ndoro and Sophie Mokoena.
Zimbabwean-born Ndoro is a news anchor on SABC3 while Mokoena is a foreign editor.
In a statement Wednesday, SANEF chairperson Sbu Ngwala called on Charamba and Mangwana to stop their rabid attacks on the two senior journalists as this amounted to intimidation and the abuses were a direct attack on freedom of expression.
“Those behind the abuse are intimidating, sowing disinformation and discrediting the integrity of news media outlets that report on Zimbabwe’s political crises,” Ngwala said in a statement.
“SANEF notes, in particular, the tweets by George Charamba, the press secretary in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe who is behind the attacks on the two SABC staffers, assisted by Nick Mangwana, secretary for information in Zimbabwe are creating significant professional harm.
“We are saying this must stop, SANEF believes that this hostile environment is a direct attack on freedom of expression,” reads the statement.
Mokoena has been under heavy attack from Charamba who uses his moniker @Jamwanda2 on Twitter while Mangwana – @nickmangwana, has also been questioning reportage by the two on the Zimbabwean situation.
In one of the tweet attacks on Mokoena, Charamba wrote in the Shona language; “Ndikapindura dinga iri rinoenda kumwedzi masikati machena. Ini zvangu tonhoo semunhu akabva kune vanhu!!! (My response to this idiot would cause her to menstruate in broad daylight. But I’ll not do so as I am a well-respected gentleman).”
Ndoro has been one of the leading journalists in the region to expose political, economic and social crises bedevilling Zimbabwe.
Exiled former cabinet minister Patrick Zhuwao described Charamba’s attack on Mokoena as a chilling warning to journalists in Zimbabwe.
“We have journalists living in fear. Not only do we have journalists living in fear, but we have the deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet going out of his way to abuse one of South Africa’s leading journalists – Sophie Mokoena,” he said.
“For the past two days George Charamba has been abusing Sophie Mokoena and the reason he has been abusing her on a public platform like Twitter is to send a message to all the other journalists in Zimbabwe that ‘look if this is what we as a regime can do to Sophie Mokoena the SABC editor for Africa, any other journalist who is in Zimbabwe you better keep quiet otherwise you going to go through worse than what Hopewell (Chin’ono) has gone through’.”
However, in response to the SANEF censure, Charamba said South African journalists had “crossed the line”.
“They prefer a monologue where they turn Zimbabwe into a punch bag. Never again; they have crossed the line. We are no one’s backyard, least of all for ignoramuses in shiny newsrooms but without knowing their African purpose,” he said.