Govt press reluctant to identify corrupt officials

HARARE - The chaos in the agricultural sector, condemned by Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, in his monetary policy statement, also contested for media space in the week. While all media exposed the myriad problems still haunting the sector, the official media presented them in isolation and

avoided interpreting these as part of failed agricultural policies. Neither did they go beyond official pronouncements by discussing the underlying confusion caused by policy contradictions in the country’s food security.

For example, these media glossed over the shortages of agricultural inputs and the incessant disruptions to farming caused by ongoing farm invasions. Instead, they sought to portray the authorities as the only ones taking measures to revive the agricultural sector while blaming others for its poor performance.

An example of this was The Herald’s supine report (27/1) that government had blacklisted A2 farmers abusing subsidised fuel obtained from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe. This followed a story in the paper the previous day, which quoted farmers’ representatives claiming that those involved in the fuel scam were actually “top government officials” who own A2 farms, and appeared barely two days after Gono had publicly deplored such corrupt activities.

Notably though, the paper appeared afraid to establish the veracity of the claims by the farmers’ representatives or to demand the identities of the culprits. Nor did it even attempt to check on the prevalence of the abuse. The government Press’ reluctance to identify corrupt government officials was further exposed by the Sunday Mail’s failure to reconcile efforts by “two top government officials” to seize a farm with Gono’s condemnation of farm invasions.

But the private media did. For example, the Independent revealed that barely a week after Gono deplored farm invasions as “economic sabotage”, seven of the 10 commercial farmers left in Karoi were “threatened with eviction” forcing them to seek the intervention of the “Zanu (PF) leadership in the area”. The paper also recorded two other incidents of farm disturbances in Triangle and Goromonzi.

Studio 7 reported the food security forecasting organisation, FEWSNET, as warning of another likely gloomy food situation in 2006-7 due to severe shortages of seed, fuel and fertiliser.

But The Herald and Radio Zimbabwe carried an official dismissal of the organisation’s findings as “hostile”.

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