Exposing corruption, reinventing the media wheel

I have noticed that the sensational coverage of corruption—particularly in the public sector—that started in early January this year, led fervently by Zimpapers, is nothing but a reinvented wheel. The problem is that most readers tend to forget that the wheel has been here for eons.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

The Zimbabwean media has always been reporting on corruption. But if you listen to some of the comments these days, it would seem as though it has just started doing so now. Yet most of the stories that are coming out today have been written in the past. For example, how many remember the stories written several years ago on Cuthbert Dube’s and parastatal salaries, and other perks, particularly by the independent media? How many remember stories about Harare airport road corruption that the private media ran donkey’s years ago?

There has always been coverage on graft at ZESA, Air Zimbabwe, Zupco, ZBC etc, again mostly from the private media. The Herald and its sisters (or brothers) at Zimpapers tended to largely ignore these graft cases because they tended to touch what some high ranking officials thought were raw nerves. Whenever the Zimpapers stable exposed corruption at a public institution, you would be sure that a political game would be at play.

Only those that Zanu (PF) bigwigs had decided to label political misfits were the ones that were exposed through this stable. What that means is that there was no sincerity in exposing corruption; only to fix some foes.

Even the famous Willowgate that claimed the scalps of several Zanu (PF) politicians in the late 1980s when they were exposed for profiteering in a vehicle scandal was not a bona fide expose, for it targeted certain individuals and never reported on others who were involved.

For instance, the Chronicle, and later the Herald and Sunday Mail, never told us the role that was played by the late Sally Mugabe, the then First Lady, in the whole saga. We were not told the finer detail about the exportation of some of the cars from Willowvale Motor Industries (WMI) because the first lady, or so I have heard from highly placed sources, was part of the racket.

Exposing her would have embarrassed the president, hence the selectivity.

Now that Zimpapers is leading in “exposing” corruption, could we say it has become a sincere conduit? The answer is a definite “no”. As has already been said, the bulk of the anti-corruption content we see is hardly new. That smells like a big rat stuck in the chimney. Why start reporting on corruption that has been there for so long and whose existence government officials and central intelligence always knew about?

It is clear that there is now a hullabaloo about corruption content in the media because the source of news has changed to the official media.

Kudos to Zimpapers and the politicians behind the renewed surge in the graft exposes, for they have to a large extent convinced many that corruption is a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Another crucial question is: Why then reinvent the wheel and want us to believe that it was never there? The answer is simple. A political game is at play here. From where I stand, there are certain politicians who are seeking sanitisation by appearing as though they are concerned about corruption – when the truth is that they are seeking self-aggrandizement. They seem to be persuaded that, by appearing to fight corruption, they hope to become saints in the eyes of the public. Come 2018 when we have the next elections, they might want to contest for the highest office. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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