Heads are likely to roll at the Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers), especially at the Bulawayo daily, The Chronicle, sources that attended a meeting between the recently appointed deputy Minister of Information and Publicity Bright Matonga and Zimpapers staff have said.
Matonga, met journalists from The Chronicle and the Sunday News as well as those from Montrose Studios where Spot FM, National Television and the Bulawayo staff of Newsnet operate from on Thursday.
Though the local media quoted Matonga as saying there would not be any “purge” of journalists at the state-owned media, most of whom are perceived as former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s “cronies”, sources say Matonga had in fact lambasted the journalists at The Chronicle for lack of direction and poor language.
Matonga is reported to have taken The Chronicle staff to task over their front-page stories on Tuesday, April 26 and Thursday, April 28, the day he addressed them.
The Chronicle led with a story entitled: “Food shortages hit communities” on Tuesday and one entitled: “US$2 billion needed to avert power crisis” on Thursday.
Matonga is reported to have told the staff that the stories were in bad taste especially in view of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the country’s trade showcase that opened on April 26.
He is reported to have told the staff that the drought story, which said people in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, the Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland were experiencing food shortages and the power crisis story, were likely to scare away investors.
Though the government had admitted that the country was facing a serious food shortage and was planning to import 1.2 million tonnes of maize, Matonga is reported to have told the journalists that the story should have been confined to the inside pages. He is even reported to have mentioned page 30. The Chronicle rarely has 30 pages.
The deputy minister also lambasted the staff for the poor language in the power crisis story and queried the staff why they were talking about a crisis that was still two years away.
The story had reported that there was an “imminent” shortage of electricity and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority needed to spend over US$2 billion between now and 2010 to avert a crisis.
In its story on Friday, April 29, The Chronicle, however quoted Matonga as having told the staff that there would be no witch-hunting.
“I would like to assure you that you have no reason to worry as long as you continue to do your job diligently, serving the nation in the process,” Matonga was quoted as saying.
Though Matonga and his boss, former ambassador Tichaona Jokonya, have tried to pacify the media over wholesale changes, observers say it is too early for them to start making any changes since they have been in office for less than a month.
The observers say changes are inevitable because Jonathan Moyo had purged the state media, both electronic and print, of most experienced journalists.