Zimbabwe: Chamisa, predator of press freedom

When Nelson Chamisa formed a new political party which he called the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), many people expected there to be a paradigm shift from the MDC, in which the first was rooted.

Chamisa marketed the new formation as a clean break from Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, hence its slogan – “Here comes the new one”.

Alas, hopes continue to be dampened as the newcomer gradually takes on the shape of his old self. This cemented the argument of some critics that the CCC was just old wine in new wineskins.

Some of Chamisa’s opponents and lieutenants now fear that the young leader and his CCC are worse dictators than those they accuse.

Chamisa’s declaration of war on public media last week will be enough to convince everyone that the CCC was even more dangerous than the Nazi Party.

“Those associated with Zanu PF may not be able to access our gatherings. Our laxity, magnanimity and generosity are abused. We will limit access to our sites to journalists who work for Zanu PF and we know We won’t allow you to,” Chamisa told a news conference.

This statement sparked negative comments and condemnation, even from allied media organizations such as the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF), the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the Young Journalists Association (YOJA) , among others.

Surprisingly, the usual self-proclaimed media freedom watchdog, the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, remained silent on the issue. Had the same statements been made by Zanu PF, the outcry would have been of seismic proportions.

This calls on the US Embassy to mask its agenda by at least shedding crocodile tears under such circumstances. Selective law enforcement has no place in a democracy.

Mr. Chamisa prides himself on being a fighter for democracy, but his manner continues to contradict the principles of a democratic movement. He must be up to it and practice the democracy he generously prescribes to others.

There is a tendency to think that he transformed the democratic movement of Tsvangirai into a simple coalition of citizens, perhaps to escape the responsibility of his autocratic leadership. It would have been a great misnomer to have a despotic leader leading a so-called movement for democratic change.

Mr. Chamisa is not even ashamed of it. Announcing his party’s new name, he revealed that he had kept the name to himself for some time as he feared his lieutenants would leak it to Zanu PF.

This only shows that the name of the new party is not the result of a consultation.

He runs this party like his personal shop. No one is allowed to speak at his gatherings. They only have a few minutes to confirm his inconceivable statements.

You must see how the lieutenants run to the dais when they are discourteously ordered to do so.

No one has a job except him. This created discontent within the interim leadership. Professor Welshman Ncube had to pretend to be ill to avoid attending the Harare election campaign launch.

According to unimpeachable sources, Professor Ncube even refused to follow Chamisa’s orders to go and beg from local embassies arguing that he needed to know in what capacity he would perform the task since he was stripped of his vice-presidency.

He begins to realize to members of his new party and allied organizations that they have a tyrant at their head, no wonder they nicknamed him “Tin Dictator”.

Welcome to the world of reality citizens! That’s exactly what we’ve been saying from the start. The young man is a real enemy of democracy and media freedom.

This is not the first time that media freedom has been threatened by opposition leaders who, ironically, pose as paragons of democracy and defenders of media freedom.

Robert Tapfumaneyi, a journalist who works for Sly Media was in January 2020 harassed and assaulted by MDC Alliance security personnel who accused him of working for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

Overzealous security also grabbed Tapfumaneyi’s camera and threw it to the ground and prevented him from covering the event.

Chamisa never showed remorse for the savage attack on a journalist in the line of duty. The party’s deputy spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, had to offer a half-hearted apology.

The yellow baby was anchored in the MDC, as such, he inherited the culture of violence that was in the DNA of the latter.

Reporters Without Borders rightly notes that “the ruling Zanu-PF party is not alone in showing hostility towards the media and opposing freedom of the press… Members of the opposition are also responsible for a climate of intimidation”.

Under the leadership of Tsvangirai who is Chamisa’s mentor, each gathering will bear the scars of violence, with several journalists being harassed and intimidated for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

On 7 June 2013, journalist Herbert Moyo of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent was nearly killed by MDC members while covering a protest in Sunningdale, Harare.

Moyo was taking pictures of demonstrators protesting the imposition of candidates when a group of thugs surrounded him and beat him. MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora then intervened to end the attack. What a peacemaker! So far, his party has no trace of hostility towards the media.

The day before Moyo’s attack, Tsvangirai’s bodyguards manhandled Mashudu Netsianda, a reporter for the Chronicle in Bulawayo, before seizing his notebook and deleting the recordings he had made on his mobile phone.

It is regrettable that journalists were attacked either under the nose of the opposition leadership or that it was the leadership itself that carried out the attack. In May of the same year, Tsvangirai himself threatened the media.

“You can’t have a newspaper with six articles saying Tsvangirai this and Tsvangirai that,” he said.

“Everyday! Regai vakadaro. Mais musi umwe gava richadambura musungo (Leave them like that, but one day the roles will be reversed). I want to tell you this, muchadya izvozvo (you will face the music)”, a- he bellowed threats.

CCC Acting Co-Vice President Tendai Biti once threatened ZiFM radio journalist Garikai Fadzai. The reporter was reporting on the use of the US$50,000 constituency development fund that Biti received as a member of the House of Assembly for Harare East.

“Ende mukaita zvemangamanga ndinokusuwai au m**** (unprinted word). Wazvinzwa here mukomana,” Biti thundered.

State media journalists have been the main targets of opposition attacks.

They now avoid opposition rallies and events. When they avoid, the same people complain about media blocking.

Herald reporter Joseph Madzimure was barred from a press conference addressed by Fadzai Mahere at the Media Center in Harare last year. In 2019, security for Mr. Chamisa attacked a ZBC journalist during a rally at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru. The ZBC crew had to leave the event in a hurry.

During a press conference at Harvest House in March 2019, to confirm Mr Chamisa as leader of this party, Zvamaida Murwira of the Herald and freelance journalist Anna Chibamu were also attacked. The marauding youths also roughed up then-Herald photographer Tawanda Mudimu, who was covering a demonstration by activists protesting the imposition of candidates.

In 2016, MDC youths also burned a ZBC vehicle during protests organized by the party’s youth wing.

This kind of behavior has no future in a democratic society. Unfortunately, it is the same culture of violence that Chamisa preserves. He has become the worst predator of press freedom.

Mr. Chamisa blocked a multitude of citizens, including yours truly, from accessing his Twitter account. Most of them were blocked after sincerely asking relevant questions on governance issues.

His adversary, President Mnangagwa has never blocked anyone despite a volley of nonsense which is posted daily on his Twitter account.

The private media devotes acres of space to stories that slander the president without receiving threats similar to those that state media reporters have received from Mr. Chamisa. And this despite the fact that he wields the power to shut down these rabid media.

Mr. Chamisa does not understand that he entered public life pretending to fight for democracy. Everything he does is newsworthy and he is always under the scrutiny of people who want to understand the person they are being asked to invest their votes in.

Those who manage his relations with the media must inform him that it is within the democratic right of the media to receive and impart information. He must either develop thick skin or ship off the political front.

While the new dispensation has taken giant strides in repealing laws that impede the enjoyment of rights such as freedom of the media, freedom of speech and others that are provided for in the Constitution, some tyrannical politicians continue to be obstacles to the enjoyment of these rights.

The nation is very worried about the political leader who will come out of Mr. Chamisa.

The threat to the media is only a microcosm of what awaits Zimbabweans if he miraculously becomes president of this country.

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