Jonathan Moyo denies bombing Daily News press

Geoffrey Nyarota

Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo has in a surprising turn of events, denied or been allowed to deny out of the blue any involvement on his part in the 2001 bomb attack on the printing press of the then largest selling newspaper in Zimbabwe, the original Daily News, before its heavy-handed banning under the watch of the same Moyo in 2003.

I was the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper and, in that capacity chief spokesperson of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of The Daily News, and a company of which I was a director. I have no recollection whatsoever of the company or any of its executives ever pointing a finger at Prof Moyo while accusing him of perpetrating the dastardly bomb attack at the company’s printing factory in the Lochinvar Industrial Area of Harare. This becomes the first time I have heard that Prof Moyo was ever accused of personally bombing the Daily News printing press.

Thursday’s issue of The Daily News, a successor to the original newspaper, quoted Moyo as having denied on the micro-blogging site Tweeter, where he is regular commentator, any involvement in the massive attack launched on the printing press of the newspaper in the early hours of Sunday, January 28, 2001.

The article stated, “Asked if he had participated in the bombing of The Daily News, as alleged, Moyo said in terse response: ‘No. I did not and could not.’”

It is not stated in the article why Moyo was being asked this particular question all of a sudden after 16 years of official silence on the matter. It is not indicated either who at ANZ at the time in 2001 made the allegation that Moyo was responsible for the bombing. I know Prof Moyo as an extremely litigious individual who would not permit any other person to make such spurious or defamatory pronouncements about him with impunity. I can state categorically that nobody at ANZ ever accused Prof Moyo personally of involvement in the bomb attack.

His denial is therefore bogus in that he has publicly denied an allegation that was never made against him.

The credibility of Reuters, the international news agency, has never been questioned. On Monday, 29 January 2001, many publications around the world carried the Reuters report about the disturbing events in Harare. The article anchored on the fact that The Daily News, whose printing press had been wrecked by a bomb the previous day had surprisingly reappeared on the streets on the Monday while accusing the government of conspiracy in the attack.

“An editorial accused the government of conspiracy in the bombing,” Reuters reported.

“’There are neither foreigners nor criminal elements involved,’” it said without naming any suspects.

“’What cannot be denied is that the government, in seeming to stand idly by while the saboteurs hatched and carried out their evil plot, is being branded as a co-conspirator.”

The news agency’s correspondent in Harare had spoken to Muchadeyi Masunda, then Chief Executive Officer of ANZ. He had vowed that the newspaper would carry on despite the setback.

“This is all part of this concerted effort that is being made to discourage us from publishing The Daily News, but that will not deter us,” he said.

“It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to speculate on the identity of the perpetrators of this dastardly and cowardly act.”

While Moyo may have been rankled by Masunda’s making of what he possibly viewed as a snide reference to the Minister’s oft-repeated allusion to rocket science, it is a mystery that he should take umbrage over statements made 16 years ago. But before Moyo is allowed to get away with specious declarations that he did not do it or that he could not have done it, he must be asked in the first instance: “Who said you did it?” He must not be allowed to create stories where none clearly do not exist or to declare his innocence where no accusations have been made against him..

What was widely reported at the time was the fact that The Daily News was bombed soon after Moyo publicly threatened to close the newspaper. This is a matter of public record. Someone else with equally malicious intentions could have borrowed his idea and proceeded to execute it. For instance, two days before the nocturnal peace of the western suburbs of Harare was shattered by the massive bomb explosion, the pugnacious late war veteran leader, Dr Chenjerai Hunzvi, an opportunist of dubious medical as well as liberation war credentials, led a ragtag group of followers to stage a demonstration in front of the Daily News offices along Samora Machel Avenue. Hunzvi, the allegedly Polish trained medical doctor whose Kuwadzana surgery was the scene of violence as visited on many opposition supporters and whose remains now lie interred, for some obscure reason, at the National Heroes Acre, also promised to deal with the newspaper.

Thursday’s article in The Daily News went on to provide background to the circumstances surrounding the bombing of its predecessor so many years ago. It highlighted the fact that the Minister of information had condemned the original Daily News for its “cynical attitude to anything and everything that was nationalistic, Zimbabwean or African”. As the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper at the material time, I deny that our popular publication was anti-Zimbabwean or anti-African, for that matter. This assertion is quite clearly inconsistent with the fact that the circulation of the newspaper grew from zero to 129 500 copies sold per day by June 2000, within one year of its launch. During the same period the performance of its major competitor, The Herald, declined from around 165 000 down to 50 000 copies per day. The popularity of the newspaper emanated from the fact that it took up the cudgels to relentlessly combat official corruption, abuse of human rights and economic decline in its formative years. It is for these reasons that Prof Moyo grabbed his own cudgels to fight back. He went as far as introducing the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Journalists were arrested at the time mostly on spurious charges. Some were tortured. The Zimbabwean public has never forgiven him for his retrogressive actions, despite what appears to be his obvious above average intelligence.

So why is Prof Moyo denying today that which he was never accused of doing 16 years ago, unless in his warped perception, his own personage is one and the same entity as Zanu-PF or government. These are the questions that Prof Moyo should be requested to respond to before his utterances are widely disseminated today.

Moyo is Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education and Science and Technology Development a lofty position in society and in the country’s body politic. He is also the official Zanu-PF Secretary for Science and Technology.

While Moyo has proved to be an enterprising and ardent innovator in his current portfolio, coming up with schemes such as the much vaunted Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme as well as the controversial projects under the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF), the determination and aggression with which he took to Tweeter on arrival at his new ministry two years ago, to the utter consternation of President Robert Mugabe, a man he professes to worship, suggests he longs for the glamour and the influence of his former position in the media.

Again, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that the Minister misses the days when he reigned supreme over government’s vast media empire, while seeking to extend the State’s and his own personal influence over the privately owned press, hence the confrontation with editors who guarded their own territory jealously.. He now appears to have achieved his original goal, doing so, somewhat incongruously however, from an entirely inappropriate ministry.

In his heyday he determined who was appointed to top editorial positions or fired from them, on the newspapers and on the electronic media outlets. Prof Jonathan Nathaniel Moyo even crafted his own cheeky weekly column, On the Other Side with Nathaniel Manheru, which castigated those perceived by him to be enemies of the state, real or imaginary. He bequeathed the column of exceeding dimension and profound pretentiousness to his then permanent secretary, the equally, if not more voluble George Charamba, a man gifted with similar diligence but greater loquaciousness.

It was perhaps in the context of a possible return to his days at the Ministry of Information that Moyo, just a few days after The Herald discontinued Charamba’s Nathaniel Manheru, suddenly made his patently amicable pronouncement on the much troubled original Daily News. Could this be a charm offensive ahead of the Great Return?

It was being said by those who claim to know the intricacies of Zanu-PF and the inner workings of the Mugabe government that Moyo was preparing to return to the Ministry of Information, where he was perceived by some in the ruling party as a valuable, albeit a controversial functionary. That way he would be dexterously removed from Higher Education, where he has quite clearly been a cause of legitimate apprehension.

Reassigning Moyo back to Information ahead of a landmark harmonized election in 2018 might not be bad strategy for Zanu-PF. But, while the stakes could be high in 2018, such move could be a disastrous gamble.

Separately, it is indeed strange that the relaunched Daily News should literally attack itself by suggesting that in its early days the newspaper was of an anti-Zimbabwean and anti-African disposition, which, on the evidence available, is most certainly not true.

Above all, why now?

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