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Media ban undermines govt's sincerity in fighting graft
Matikinye, The Zimbabwe Independent
February 23, 2007
blocking of journalists by a senior Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
official from hearing evidence during a parliamentary probe into
gold dealing could easily turn the fight against corruption into
a dead letter.
screen could undermine the sterling work done thus far by parliamentary
committees since they started to allow the press to attend their
meetings. The victim of this move is the public who have a right
to know — a fundamental facet of any democracy and a key weapon
in the fight against corruption.
frustration and angst of a mob about to catch a thief in the village.
Just then the community leader asks everyone to retreat, because
the loot likely to be retrieved from the burglar could cause social
upheaval in the community.
the director of financial intelligence, inspectorate, evaluation
and security at the RBZ, who refused to give evidence before parliament’s
special committee in the presence of journalists set an unwelcome
precedent that imperils the oversight role vested in portfolio committees.
But Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma this week said this was not
does not make a summer," he said. Portfolio committees are
meant to make government ministries, departments and ministers accountable
for their actions.
show of shyness also sounds the death knell for all pretence government
has been retailing regarding its fight against corruption and to
name and shame corrupt officials.
One useful insight
of the request is that Chiremba involuntarily let the cat out of
the bag on the frightening level of corruption in the illegal gold
"I do not
think it is suitable to have the press here. I do not wish to say
anything that will cause instability in the country," Chiremba
pathetically whimpered, evidently ignorant of his public duty.
to put a lid on media coverage on illegal gold mining activities
countermands RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s observation: "Unless
and until a deterrent framework is put in place and is consistent
across the board, the country risks continuing to engage in disruptive
brawls with economic crimes to no avail or benefit to the country."
is one such deterrent.
committees are set up in terms of Standing Order Number 151 to examine
the expenditure, administration and policy of government departments
and other matters falling under their jurisdiction.
Chiremba’s actions serve to justify strong fears expressed by some
stakeholders who have appeared before the committees to give oral
evidence but have flatly refused to name names, scared of endangering
As part of recent
parliamentary reform measures to "take parliament to the people",
the media has been allowed into committee hearings over the past
But Zvoma said
nothing had changed, adding that there was nothing untoward in proscribing
is not being banned," Zvoma said in reference to the Reserve
Bank official landmark incident.
can be selective exclusion for the media if any official is giving
oral evidence which they do not want the media to divulge."
He said this
was in accordance with Select Committee rules.
Banning by a
different name, it would appear! This is precisely the sort of information
that needs to be made public.
grappling with high levels of corruption and illegal dealings, which
have enriched a few while pushing the majority of the people deeper
can prescribe to the committee what issues ought to be covered by
the press because of what they perceive as national importance.
The discretion rests with the committee," Zvoma said, citing
Select Committee Rule Number 16.
What made the
incident more relevant for the media was how it could expose the
fat cats living off the fat of illegal gold mining, particularly
after accusations by small-scale miners recently that the RBZ had
been provided with evidence of illegal activities and the perpetrators.
John Makumbe said the request by the RBZ official says a lot about
people in the RBZ, Cabinet and the ruling Zanu PF party.
on Wednesday admitted some of his ministers were dishonest.
was understandable," Makumbe, who is a political science lecture
at the University of Zimbabwe, said. "It is obvious that some
of the people he was supposed to name have the capacity to mess
up his life. He would be afraid for his life, or his job because
some of the people his evidence would implicate are too powerful
and the press would go to town about it."
even President Mugabe was afraid to name them.
He said while
parliamentary committees have done a good job and played an important
role in probing corruption and other illegal dealings, they still
reports which are damaging but neither the Anti-Corruption Commission,
the police nor the judiciary takes them seriously. They never make
follow-ups and the committees remain a circus," Makumbe added.
While the committees
provide an opportunity to expose the wheeling and dealing, Makumbe
doubted their usefulness.
members know they have no bodyguards to protect them," he said.
Tsitsi Muzenda told journalists after the closed-door session that
the RBZ had not disclosed names of senior government officials involved
in minerals smuggling because it did not have such
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