ZANU PF insiders have reacted angrily to George Charamba’s threats to clamp down on the private media, saying President Robert Mugabe’s spin doctor was caught up in a time warp and should stop being a bully.
Charamba told the state controlled Sunday Mail that the “private media has become an appendage of the opposition wishing ill of the ruling party”.
As such, Charamba said, government was mulling tough media legislation to curtail press freedom.
His comments came soon after Mugabe threatened to introduce tough and rigid media laws accusing the press of lying and publishing “fiction” about him.
Mugabe was speaking at the luncheon of the third session of the 8th Parliament.
He said standards of journalism in Zimbabwe had deteriorated to alarming levels as the scribes were writing “lies” about him creating false fights within his party and at times setting him against his former deputy, Joice Mujuru.
“This is not the journalism that we would like to see. Vanyanya (They have gone too far)… they even write things that I have not thought of… haa,” he said.
“When we start being rigid and take control don’t cry foul. We want freedom but not this. They are busy setting party leaders against each other. They love to see people fighting.
Echoing his master, Charamba said “media freedom, press freedom is not an absolute right and we all know that freedom has to be earned. You can’t cry press freedom against the evidence of excesses. In any case when you do so where do you go for recourse?
“The same legislators who you have abused from day one to the last day are the same people giving you the law. So where do you go for remedy? KumaBritish and Americans?”
“If you are in the media and you choose to leave the media desk to become an extension of the publicity department of a political party we treat you as a politician.
“And please don’t cry wolf. Don’t feel unfairly treated when the hammer descends on you because wada mabrickbats yet you are staying in a glass house,” he said.
Charamba said Mugabe was angered by many newspaper reports.
He added: “I will recommend most effective ways of controlling errant behaviour in the newsroom. So you will have a piece of legislation that seeks to restrain rather than enable media practices”.
But some Zanu PF insiders felt Charamba was being a “bully”.
“So Charamba is now threatening to clamp down on the media just because Mugabe has lost all stamina to control his errant and dysfunctional cabinet?” a high profile Zanu PF insider.
“Is Charamba also accusing Grace of being a liar? Grace has gone around saying Vice Presidents take notes when they talk to her. Is that the media’s problem or Grace’s loudmouth?”
“The media was there when vice President Mphoko was made to introduce a mere Secretary for Women’s League who is technically number 15 or so in the party contrary to all conventional practice. How, surely, can number 2 be made junior to number 15 just because of the name number 15 (used to) shares a bed with?” said another party official.
“So should the media stop reporting this to make Charamba comfortable or stop annoying Mugabe?
“And, in any case, didn’t Christopher Mutsvangwa give an interview on ANN7TV calling his cabinet colleagues names?
“Now, Charamba wants to tell the nation that Mugabe will flex his muscles and bring repression upon the 4th Estate.
“Well, on Tuesdays the President meets these haywire ministers in cabinet meeting and does not call them to order and now turns around and says he is annoyed by the media!
The insider said the media was not to blame for a range of internal Zanu PF squabbles such as the routine clashes between education minister Jonathan Moyo and vice president Emmerson Mangagwa’s crew.
“Is it the media which is forcing Jonathan Moyo to dismiss his Vice President and anyone who dares challenge him on social media?
“Instead of having a disciplined cabinet he (Mugabe) wants to hamstring the media. No Mr Perm Sec the world media has transformed that you can’t control nothing anymore. We have the citizen journalist now.
“Everyone with a camera phone records things and publishes and commentators just write on their blogs. You can’t control that. Even Chiyangwa will do a selfie of the silly plotting and it will go viral.”
Insiders accused Charamba of backwardness, saying this was because “went to school in the ‘80s”.
They said Charamba should “move with the times” and “stop behaving like a playground bully.”
“You are alone at that playground George. Everyone else plays in cyberspace now. As for your principal, he should grow a pair and reign in his errant ministers.”