The former news editor of the Financial Gazette Nelson Banya said retired army general Solomon Mujuru and his wife vice-President Joyce Mujuru felt threatened by central bank governor Gideon Gono who owned the Financial Gazette because they saw him as a possible candidate in the post-Mugabe succession race.
Banya said this after the Media and Information Commission had threatened to shut down the paper if it did not retract a story that the paper had published which said the Central Intelligence Organisation had pressured the MIC to refuse a licence to the closed Daily News.
Banya said the threats were politically motivated with MIC boss Tafataona Mahoso also fighting his own personal battles.
The Financial Gazette had published several exposes of the Mujurus and their supporters’ business dealings and according to Banya the Mujurus viewed Gono’s ownership of the paper and its attacks on them as proof of his political aspirations.
The United States embassy said Banya’s description of a Gono-Mujuru rivalry contradicted reports from other sources connecting Gono with the Mujuru faction.
“In the hothouse atmosphere that ZANU-PF is becoming, both could be correct,” the embassy, however said. “Our sense is that intra-party alliances are shifting constantly as the major players try to position themselves for political power in the post-Mugabe era.”
Viewing cable 05HARARE1675, MIC CENSURE OF FINGAZ POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001675
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2015
SUBJECT: MIC CENSURE OF FINGAZ POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED
REF: A. HARARE 1345
¶B. HARARE 988 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) On December 1, the Media and Information Commission
(MIC) gave the Financial Gazette newspaper seven days to
retract an article the paper had published or face charges
under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(AIPPA). The article accused the Central Intelligence
Organization (CIO) of pressuring the MIC to refuse a license
to the closed independent daily newspaper The Daily News
(TDN). The Financial Gazette is standing by the story and
has refused to publish a retraction. Its news editor
speculated the MIC,s ultimatum was the result of ZANU-PF
infighting and was directed at Reserve Bank Governor Gideon
Gono, the paper,s majority owner. End Summary.
MIC Censures Financial Gazette
¶2. (U) On December 1, the Financial Gazette, a
semi-independent weekly, whose majority shareholder is
Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, published a story claiming
that the MIC had voted in June to grant a license to The
Daily News, because there was no legal basis for denying it.
TDN had been closed by the government in 2003 but had won a
court judgment requiring the MIC to consider a fresh
application (ref B). According to the news report, the CIO
had then pressured MIC commissioners to reverse the decision.
The source for the story, former commissioner Jonathan
Maphenduka, said he had resigned in protest after the denial
of the license was announced.
¶3. (U) On December 2, MIC commissioner Tafataona Mahoso
announced that the Commission was censuring the Financial
Gazette and gave the paper seven days to agree to retract the
story and allow the MIC to publish a rebuttal in the paper.
He threatened the paper with charges under AIPPA if it failed
to respond. In his statement, Mahoso said the story had
sought to discredit a quasi-judicial body, which he claimed
was a violation of the media law.
MIC Editor–No Retraction Forthcoming
¶4. (C) On December 8, the day before the ultimatum was to
expire, Financial Gazette news editor Nelson Banya told
Embassy staff that the paper stood by the story and had no
intention of publishing a retraction. The paper,s lawyer
had determined that there was absolutely no violation of law
and had communicated the paper,s decision to the MIC. Banya
said Mahoso,s ultimatum was a bluff and he was interested in
seeing how Mahoso handled the embarrassment of dealing with
the paper,s refusal to retract. (Comment: As of December
12, the MIC had taken no further action against the paper.
However, the Commission has in the past pushed forward with
prosecutions that appear to have no legal merit and may yet
follow through on its ultimatum.)
MIC Attack Due to Gono Rivalry with Mujurus
¶5. (C) Banya said the more important reason for the MIC
ultimatum was internal ZANU-PF politics. Banya claimed that
the ruling party faction, led by Vice President Joyce Mujuru
and her husband, retired General Solomon Mujuru, felt
threatened by Gono, whom it saw as a potential rival for the
post-Mugabe succession. Gono owned a majority share of the
paper, which had published several exposes of the Mujurus and
their supporters, business dealings. The Mujurus viewed
Gono,s ownership of the paper and its attacks on them as
proof of his political aspirations. Banya said Gono owned
about 70 percent of the paper. However, he did not directly
influence its content and Banya said that, as news editor, he
felt no pressure to cut stories or slant them any particular
way. That said, he admitted the paper,s financial reporting
avoided criticism of Gono and the RBZ,s monetary policies.
¶6. (C) Banya added that Mahoso had taken the Financial
Gazette story as a personal attack on himself. Mahoso had
been his teacher in college and had been a committed
socialist and an idealist. However, Mahoso had now become
self-important, driving around in a brand-new sport utility
vehicle and using police to guard his home, and this had made
it easy for the Mujurus to use him to attack Gono.
Moyo Also After the Financial Gazette
¶7. (C) Banya added that, to his knowledge, there was no truth
to the stories in the weekly newspaper The Independent,
claiming that the Financial Gazette was partially owned by
the CIO. The Independent,s publisher, Trevor Ncube, was a
good friend of former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, and
Banya speculated that the paper,s attack on the Financial
Gazette was on behalf of Moyo, who felt that the Financial
Gazette was not sufficiently supportive of his new political
party, the United People,s Movement (UPM).
Information Ministry Rivalries
¶8. (C) Banya offered several insights into the GOZ,s
propaganda machine. He said Information Minister Tichaona
Jokonya was very ill and tired and had not wanted the
position but had been brought back from New York (where he
had been UN Ambassador) at the Mujurus, behest. George
Charamba, the Permanent Secretary at the ministry was really
running the ministry. However, Charamba was not a Mujuru
supporter. Banya said Deputy Information Minister Bright
Matonga was corrupt and was attempting to collect as many
farms and investments as he could while in office.
¶9. (C) ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira, who had promoted
Matonga into the job, was Charamba,s real rival for control
of the machine. Shamuyarira wanted to reorganize the
ministry, weed out former supporters of Jonathan Moyo, and
establish for himself the kind of power Moyo had gained
through control of the state media. Banya said, however,
that regardless of the personalities involved the
government,s attempts to curb the media were ultimately
futile. He claimed that most of the news on the Internet was
written by reporters from the state media and even police
officers. With insiders writing news reports, eventually all
the government,s misdeeds would and did come out.
¶10. (C) Banya,s description of a Gono-Mujuru rivalry
contradicts reports from other sources connecting Gono with
the Mujuru faction. In the hothouse atmosphere that ZANU-PF
is becoming, both could be correct. Our sense is that
intra-party alliances are shifting constantly as the major
players try to position themselves for political power in the
post-Mugabe era. Meanwhile, Gono, the Mujurus and the other
ZANU-PF players, nervous about whether ZANU-PF will be able
to retain power at all, are competing to steal as much as
they can while still in power.