He is everywhere. Almost like God. On radio. On TV. In newspapers. In soccer. In music. In education. In tourism. In agriculture. You name it. He is in it. That is President Robert Mugabe’s spin-doctor, Jonathan Moyo.
Insiders say, however, this is a highly deceptive picture. Jonathan Moyo is really a loner. He has no friends in cabinet or in the ruling party. His colleagues detest him because of his meteoric rise and his closeness to Mugabe. His grip on the media can make or break anyone. But more importantly, Moyo is still regarded as a turncoat. He is therefore desperate to get what his colleagues are denying him – his own constituency.
Moyo was, until 1999, one of Mugabe’s strongest critics. But all of a sudden he was appointed to the Constitution Review Commission tasked with coming up with a new constitution for the country. It is not clear how he landed the job, but his colleagues were shocked when he left his well paying job at the University of Witwatersrand and his R1-million, six-bedroomed house in Saxonworld, one of the poshest suburbs in Johannesburg.
But he must have struck a good deal. After all, an American organisation the Kellog Foundation had poured in $20 million for the commission work. In 1999, this was good money, good enough to enable Moyo to enjoy 5-star hotel comfort during the entire commission hearing. The deal was good enough to lure Moyo to stay on as Mugabe’s spokesman when people rejected the new constitution.
One of the young technocrats appointed by Mugabe to his cabinet following the highly contested 2000 parliamentary elections, Moyo has outshone everyone. Today, some people are confused about what his role really is, whether he is just a mere government spokesman or more of the country’s Prime Minister though that post does not exist.
Moyo has been on the rampage since he was appointed government minister. First, he assumed the role of sole government spokesman. Though some people detested this as it was giving him undue coverage, Moyo made sure that the government spoke with one voice -his. There were no longer any contradictions.
Then he garnered for the media by introducing the Access to Information and Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Act. Both were very unpopular and caused an uproar worldwide but he did not back down. His insistence on 75 percent local content on radio and television, for example, is beginning to pay off.
It is probably his grip on the news that irks a lot of people. He has been dominating the news so much that his propaganda is beginning to rub in. The closure of the Daily News has given Moyo total control.
He also seems to have survived scandals that could have rocked his political career. First there were allegations that he had embezzled US$88 000 from the Ford Foundation where he had been programme officer in Nairobi, Kenya before moving to South Africa. The case is allegedly due for trial but Moyo has not been called to testify yet.
South African papers claimed that he owed R100 000 to Endemol, a TV production company owned by South African President Thabo Mbeki’s brother Moeletsi. Moyo was supposed to produce a documentary entitled Generations for the TV production company but allegedly did not do so.
The University of Witwatersrand also claimed that he had absconded with part of a R100 million research grant for a project he was working on. Moyo was allegedly working on a project entitled: The Future of the African Elite.
The South African media has also splashed stories about his luxury home in Saxonworld, his shopping sprees to South Africa, his alleged squabbles with his wife, but all that seems to have come to naught.
Insiders, however, say Moyo continues to be dogged by one thing. He has no constituency. He is there at the mercy of Robert Mugabe. And sources say he does not like that. He is therefore preparing to contest the Tsholotsho seat in 2005. And, though the elections are still 18 months away, Moyo has already started campaigning, seriously.
He is geared for the challenge. He has already spent three years building his own national image. His barrage of press statements, radio and television appearances, where he commented on everything to do with government has lifted his image. Everyone knows Jonathan Moyo, though some may be confused about who he really is.
He has not only confined himself to the political arena. ZANU-PF is not very popular with the urban and young constituents. He, therefore, went for the most popular sport, soccer, and bailed out the Warriors when they needed help most.
The gamble paid off when the Warriors qualified for the Africa Nations Cup and went on to win the Cosafa Cup. The only setback was that the man he backed to steer the national team and the national soccer body Vincent Pamire was booted out.
Moyo also garnered for the youths through his favourite pastime- music. He composed several songs that people ended up liking, even reluctantly because of the airplay they received. He has promoted several young artists, endearing himself to the youths.
Still with the arts, he poured a staggering $50 million to Amakhosi Theatre, Bulawayo’s hub of creativity, for its forthcoming soap, Amakhorokoza and its Friday Live show, which has been a showcase for upcoming artists from the region.
Even President Mugabe, who at one time complained that kwasa kwasa was obscene ended up admitting that he could not help but admire Moyo’s Sendekera video, though the dance went a little overboard. He justified the continued screening of the video by arguing that when people were excited, they could break a few rules along the way.
Moyo has become so popular, according to a poll by the pro-American Mass Public Opinion Institute, which was headed by the late Professor Masipula Sithole, that he now beats seasoned politicians like Eddison Zvobgo who most people believed at one time could succeed Mugabe. He also beats another presidential contender, Sydney Sekeramayi and Bulawayo supremo, Dumiso Dabengwa.
The poll seemed to have given Moyo the green light that he had made it. It was now time to close in on his own base, Tsholotsho. And he has spared no effort in asserting himself in Tsholotsho.
He poured $6.4 million into a soccer tournament that involved schools in the district and two of the country’s soccer giants, Highlanders and Amuzulu, the current Premier League champions.
He donated $10 million to Bayane School to repair classrooms that were damaged by Cyclone Japhet last year.
But his biggest coup was the unveiling of a scholarship fund which would cover all schools in Tsholotsho, which at the time comprised 80 primary, 17 secondary and three high schools.
Moyo said all pupils who came first and second in every class and in every grade or form would have their levies and fees paid by the scholarship fund.
For a rural constituency, nothing beats this, especially since fees have shot up, in some cases, by over 1000 percent.
But it will not be easy sailing. Moyo’s first hurdle is that Matebeleland North is controlled by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. But there is an even bigger hurdle. Reports say his boss, party chairman John Nkomo, is also garnering for the seat.
Tsholotsho was Nkomo’s constituency until 1990 when he was moved to Bulawayo North in a move which most people thought was aimed at getting rid of him because he was becoming a threat to ZAPU leader, Joshua Nkomo.
John Nkomo, who was thought to be thinking of retiring, is reported to be fiercely campaigning in Tsholotsho but his campaign is being ignored by the media.
|Mass Public Opinion popularity rating|
|Morgan Tsvangirai||35.8 percent|
|Simba Makoni||15.2 percent|
|John Nkomo||5.6 percent|
|Emmerson Mnangagwa||5.5 percent|
|Joseph Msika||4.6 percent|
|Jonathan Moyo||3.1 percent|
|Eddison Zvobgo||2.5 percent|
|Dumiso Dabengwa||0.7 percent|
|Sydney Sekeremayi||0.6 percent|
|Shakespeare Maya||0.5 percent|
|Paul Siwela||0.1 percent|
|Nicholas Goche||0.1 percent|