Harare – What happens when the media you once controlled turns against you?
Zimbabwe’s ex-information minister Jonathan Moyo was left fuming on Monday after his radio interview was cancelled and the state Herald daily carried allegations that he was illegitimate.
As ruling party wrangles deepen, ZiFM radio station announced suddenly on Monday morning that its scheduled interview with Moyo had been “postponed due to a clash of schedules”.
Moyo, 59, hit back, accusing the station – which is closely linked to the ruling party – of not telling the truth.
“Truth is you ‘postponed’ the… program tonight under pressure from a successionist who feared the program would stray into politics!” he tweeted.
That was a reference to President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba.
Battle for power
He and Moyo, who is now higher education minister, are locked in a very vicious battle for power as the public faces of two opposing factions of Zanu-PF. Moyo is part of the G-40 faction while Charamba appears to support Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
For now Charamba appears to have the upper hand, at least as far as the media is concerned.
The irony of that has not been lost on media commentators and journalists from the private press who haven’t forgotten that Moyo was the architect of Zimbabwe’s tough AIPPA press laws.
Passed into law by parliament in 2002, when Moyo was information minister, they were used to arrest and detain journalists critical of the state.
Later, while claiming to be opening up the airwaves, Moyo’s ministry only licensed “private” stations that had clear links to Zanu-PF.
Media watchdog @ZimMediaReview said: “If YOU had awarded radio licenses to truly independent broadcasters, you wouldn’t be here today moaning about this.”
The minister meantime threatened to launch a civil defamation case against those behind a story in the Herald that quoted allegations that he was the illegitimate son of Ndabaningi Sithole.
Sithole, who died in 2000, was a former nationalist and independence war fighter who is now considered by many in Zanu-PF as a puppet of the white minority regime.
Warned Moyo: “I’ll deal a blow to those behind [the story] in ways they won’t forget!”
As information minister between 2000-5 and 2013-15, Moyo appeared to control much of what went into the Herald and its sister papers.
Zimbabwe’s @maDube tweeted: “What’s happening to Moyo today is what he used to do to the opposition over the years.”
Mugabe has remained largely mum on the quarrel pitting two of his biggest praise-singers, calling rather wanly for unity last week.
But the president will hold a meeting of his Soviet-style politburo on Wednesday. There are suggestions that Moyo could be expelled from Zanu-PF at this meeting (though this may be wishful thinking on the part of Moyo’s rivals.)
Moyo has been booted out of Zanu-PF once before, in 2005. He and several others were accused of plotting to oust Mugabe at the end of the previous year.