By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
07 April 2014
The State-run Sunday Mail newspaper has apologised to senior MDC-T official Roy Bennett, after falsely claiming that he criticised party president Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership qualities in an interview with the paper.
In a story titled ‘Bennett Slams Tsvangirai’ published on March 23rd, the Sunday Mail ‘quoted’ Bennett as saying he and other MDC-T officials had lost faith in Tsvangirai, whom the story labelled “strong-headed and “power-hungry”.
When SW Radio Africa contacted Bennett over the story, he denied speaking to anyone from the Sunday Mail, or discussing internal party issues with the media.
“I never made any comments nor have I done any interviews with anyone, I never have and never will talk to the ZANUPF propaganda machine. I am not doing any interviews on internal party issues,” Bennett told SW Radio Africa by email.
In its retraction and apology this weekend, the Sunday Mail indicated that through his lawyers Bennett had distanced himself from the false story.
The newspaper attributed the story to a Bulawayo-based freelance reporter, Simba Jemwa, but said he “has been unreachable on his mobile phone after claiming that he has a voice recording of the purported interview.”
Sunday Mail editor Brezhnev Malaba has been sacked over the false article, SW Radio Africa learnt on Monday.
A source told this station that Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was already unhappy with Malaba’s performance, and the Jemwa saga had been the perfect excuse to get rid of him.
Other media reports say Malaba is the latest victim of the infighting between rival ZANU PF factions headed by Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It is said that Information Minister Moyo, Mnangagwa’s public face, was uncomfortable with Malaba’s links to Transport Minister and Mujuru ally Obert Mpofu.
Edson Madondo, a senior researcher at The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, told SW Radio Africa that his group has recorded a steady rise in sensational reporting, especially on political matters in the country.
Madondo said besides the falsehoods exemplified by the Jemwa story, the Zim media across the divide was in the habit of exaggerating and passing off the opinions of their reporters as hard news.
“In a story like this where controversial things are said to have been made against another person, the editor should have asked Jemwa to supply them with a recording of the alleged interview before running the story
“I think there was time for the editor to properly check and verify the story but what probably lacked was the will to do so,” Madondo said.
Madondo called on all reporters in the country to be ethical in their conduct and abide by internationally acceptable standards of journalism.
The controversial State-media journalist has in the past been accused of defrauding a number of businesses in Bulawayo, including Hustlers nightclub and football clubs Bantu Rovers and Njube Sundowns, where he was a public relations manager.
Jemwa moved into PR after working as a reporter at the Sunday News and the Chronicle newspapers, where he left in unclear circumstances but amid allegations of writing falsehoods.