Strong media, strong government

Two years have passed since the coalition government was formed. This milestone prompts an analysis of its successes and failures.

While there is widespread support for the government’s economic performance, the human rights and democracy scorecards are less decisive.

However, the commissioning of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the subsequent issuing of licences to private media groups has provided a local forum for human rights defenders and democracy activists.

As a result, corrupt politicians are now feeling the heat and resorting to threats of lawsuits.

However, the media could potentially play another very important role – exposing corruption. With an increasingly robust Parliament we could really turn the tide against corruption.

For years debate around the economic decline under the Zanu (PF) government has been buried in propaganda about restrictive measures or ‘sanctions’’. The role of corruption and maladministration has been understated.

The independent media could correct this by exposing corrupt activities and explaining how such activities destroy the economy in the longer term. This is the norm in proper democracies.

Not far from Zimbabwe, a few years ago powerful South African politician Toni Yengeni was sentenced to prison after he was exposed as having been involved in corruption.

So too was Schabir Shaik, a former key enabler of the South African president – all because the media and parliament played an important role in exposing and tackling such illegal activities.

Over the last few months Zimbabwe’s Parliament has become more courageous.

For instance, a minister is currently facing contempt of parliament charges because he lied under oath. Parliamentarians are condemning security leaders for meddling in politics and these demands are heard in the house.

We may still be a long way before we reach the level of South Africa but certainly these soldiers are starting to feel the pressure, something unthinkable just three years ago.

What is now needed is a whistle blowing initiative which will then provide the lead to media organisations in exposing all shady activities.

For years, corrupt individuals have gotten away without paying the penalty because there was no exposure of their misdeeds. That has changed now. What has not changed is the actual conviction of those exposed to deter further corruption.

But that does not negate what is already happening on this front, because as experience has shown, once powerful people have been exposed their colleagues will be pressured to relieve them of their duties.

After the so-called Willowgate scandal rocked the country in the 1980s ago those implicated were eventually relieved of their positions.

This particular case helps to drive the point that exposure is often the catalyst required to cause arrests or inquiries.

Therefore the media needs to be encouraged to investigate and expose corruption at every level – then action will be taken, no matter how belatedly.

Post published in: News

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