By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
12 May 2014
Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa has come under a bombardment of criticism for his suggestion that ZANU PF wants to come up with laws that criminalize the discussion of President Robert Mugabe’s succession publicly and in the media.
The ZANU PF stalwart also warned journalists against publishing stories on the ageing leader’s health, saying the regime will deal ruthlessly with such scribes.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, Mutasa said journalists and people who fuel speculation on Mugabe’s health should be punished severely. His comments have infuriated journalists, politicians and members of civil society organizations who have joined forces to condemn his remarks.
The chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Dhewa Mavhinga, said Mutasa was living in the past and that ZANU PF should stop threatening and intimidating journalists who have constitutionally-enshrined media freedoms.
He said no amount of harassment or intimidation will make the ruling party’s big problem of succession go away. Journalist and political analyst Itai Dzamara told SW Radio Africa that he was astonished by Mutasa’s remarks, which he said were both unfortunate and irresponsible.
‘It’s either Mutasa is insane or mentally demented or both for him to say that. Mugabe’s well-being is of national interest and why would he try to stop people discussing issues to do with the head of state,’ queried Dzamara.
He said while it might be impossible for ZANU PF to carry out Mutasa’s threat, it will also be folly for anyone to rule out that possibility.
‘You cannot rule out anything with ZANU PF…they are capable of going to any height of madness to fulfill a promise. Perhaps Mutasa might be reflecting on what they’re plotting behind the scenes.’
In 2002 Mutasa controversially said that it would be a good thing if the population were halved, insinuating that the other half supported the MDC and not ZANU PF.
He said: ‘We would be better off with only six million people, with our own ZANU PF people who supported the liberation struggle.’
Two months ago, Mutasa was flown to India to receive specialist treatment for an undisclosed ailment and appeared very uncomfortable discussing his health problems.
Contacted by a journalist in Harare to check on his health following speculation that he was on his death bed, Mutasa retorted: ‘I am not feeling well, but is my illness newsworthy? Let’s discuss anything you want for now without talking about my illness.’
Perhaps this is the reason why Mutasa wants journalists severely punished for bringing up health issues affecting the top leadership of ZANU PF.