President Robert Mugabe is angered by news stories which portray him in bad light, Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu said yesterday.
Shamu, who summoned editors from various media organisations to his Munhumutapa offices in Harare to give them a tongue-lashing, said Mugabe told Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that he was not happy with the negative stories about him and the high-level of intrusion into the private lives of government leaders.
Shamu claimed that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the two Vice-Presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo and most Cabinet ministers present were all in agreement with Mugabe.
“I have taken a lot of flak from Cabinet because of your negative stories,” he said.
“It’s unAfrican to show that level of disrespect to our leaders. I wonder what would have happened if you were together with us during the liberation struggle.”
Shamu, who was flanked by Augur Investments chairman Ken Sharpe, whose organisation is constructing the Harare Airport Road, claimed that some of the stories being written were anti-development.
He cited a recent story in a local paper which alleged that controversy surrounded the construction of Augur Investment’s $100 million shopping complex dubbed “The Zimbabwe Mall” along Borrowdale Road as Harare City Council and environmental authorities had not approved the project.
“Are you now part of the sanctions agenda by trying to destroy what is being built?” he asked.
“The British and the Americans have failed and maybe you have become their foot soldiers.”
Sharpe claimed the construction of the mall was above board with all the relevant authorities having approved the project.
Shamu also said he was not amused at the publishing of purported travel arrangements for Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth Macheka by The Herald.
The paper last week claimed the PM’s wife had gone on a week-long government-sponsored shopping spree to South Africa and India, which turned out to be false.
Shamu said although he was against gagging the media, he expected journalists to behave responsibly and work for the protection of “national interests”.
“We are now tired of reading grossly exaggerated reports. Don’t misrepresent facts and select stories that favour one side,” he said.
The minister also promised to “deal” with fellow Cabinet ministers who threaten journalists and fan hatred, saying they were putting the lives of media practitioners at risk. But he was taken to task by some of the editors who questioned why private companies were making complaints against the media through him.
During the recent World Press Freedom Day commemoration, Shamu threatened that “gloves may soon be off” against the local private media and journalists if they persisted with an “anti-African and anti-Zimbabwe frenzy” - Newsday.