INFORMATION minister Jonathan Moyo was this week in trouble over the state media’s attack on South African President Thabo Mbeki for allegedly pandering to the whims of M
ovement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Moyo’s department was blamed for giving its tacit approval, if not instigating the criticism.
Official sources said Moyo was struggling to disentangle himself from the problem after President Robert Mugabe slammed the Herald over a feature last Friday that cast aspersions on Mbeki’s involvement in the Zimbabwe crisis.
This came as Zanu PF last week adopted regulations which bar members who have not been in the party for five consecutive years from holding national positions. This was seen as aimed at newcomers like Moyo and others who desperately want to be elected MPs. Moyo, an appointed legislator, is trying to become an elected Zanu PF MP in Tsholotsho.
Mugabe’s anger with Moyo’s department follows recent clashes involving the Information minister and senior colleagues such as Vice-President Joseph Msika, Special Affairs and Land Reform minister John Nkomo, and Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.
A senior government official yesterday said there was “mounting grave concern” over Moyo’s perceived hostile working relationship with colleagues.
“Moyo is under immense pressure over these issues because we are now gravely concerned about his conduct,” a senior government official told the Independent.
Efforts to get comment from Moyo failed yesterday as he first dropped and then did not pick up calls.
Sources said photocopies of an article in the government-controlled Sunday Mail’s current edition, written by the columnist operating under the pseudonym Lowani Ndlovu, were distributed in cabinet.
The motive for the move was not clear but some suspect it was designed to extricate Moyo after Mugabe heard his explanations on the Mbeki issue.
The Sunday Mail article was written by someone who pretended to be worried about Moyo’s reaction last Saturday to the controversial Herald feature, which was thought to have been authored by a government spin-doctor.
Moyo’s official response to the Herald feature, clearly triggered by Mugabe’s ire, said Mbeki’s involvement in Zimbabwe was “open, honest, and above board”.
In what was seen as a bid to find a scapegoat his department attacked the Herald for being “negative, disrespectful, and even antagonistic” towards Mbeki.
The Herald feature was described as replete with “damaging falsehoods, imputations, innuendoes and unfair comments”.
But the Sunday Mail columnist, who has not hesitated to take pot shots at ministers like Nkomo, tried to defend criticism of Mbeki, saying if it was “fair game” to criticise Mugabe in the South African press why was it not okay to do the same with Mbeki?