By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
20 May 2014
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, has banned journalists from visiting the Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims, accusing the media of falsifying the villagers’ situation.
A few months ago Bhasikiti also barred former Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai from visiting the Chingwizi camp where he hoped to donate to the flood victims.
Last week Bhasikiti told journalists who had called at his office en route to the Chingwizi camp, that they were not welcome to the flood victims’ temporary settlement.
Bhasikiti accused journalists of ‘mischief’ and of ‘scandalous’ coverage of the Tokwe-Mukosi floods. According to newzimbabwe.com, Bhasikiti said the story of the floods has been ‘reported enough’ and journalists should contact his press department for ‘guided tours’.
Among the banned crew were journalists from the state media, officers from the Zimbabwe National Council for Welfare of Children and some children who wanted to donate goods to fellow youngsters at Chingwizi.
But Bhasikiti grabbed the donations claiming he would pass them on to the victims himself.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Secretary General Forster Dongozi said the ban on journalists was ‘wrong.’ He added: ‘It is bad for a government minister and a Zimbabwean for that matter to bar journalists from highlighting the plight of fellow Zimbabweans.’
Dongozi said the ban was ‘unnecessary’ especially coming after government declared the Tokwe-Mukosi situation a national disaster. He added: ‘In a disaster situation everybody’s contribution is critical and so as journalists we contribute in our own way like the politicians contribute in their own way.’
More than 3,000 people were relocated to the Chingwizi camp following flooding after heavy rains and fears that the Tokwe-Mukosi dam wall could collapse.
The ban on the media follows many negative stories about the government’s involvement with the victims. Two weeks ago 10 ZANU PF ministers were booed when they tried to persuade the villagers to relocate to a permanent settlement. The villagers are demanding compensation before relocation.
Fears that ZANU PF had ulterior motives about the Tokwe-Mukosi situation were confirmed a few weeks ago when a leading human rights group said there were plans to use to victims as cheap labor. Human Rights Watch suggested that ZANU PF could be planning to use the villagers as cheap labor at a sugar cane farm and ethanol project, which the party co-owns with a controversial businessman Billy Rautenbach.