Moyo’s Fall From Grace?

Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru

Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru, the first Zimbabwean to be nominated for the post of vice president, at the fourth annual Zanu-PF congress in Harare, Dec. 2, 2004. (Photo: STR / AFP-Getty Images)

The lifespan of spin doctors is as long as the sturdiness of their spin. As Zimbabwe’s minister of information and publicity, Jonathan Moyo’s days are numbered, so goes the spin. Moyo — the cunning face of anti-democracy and freedom — was unceremoniously axed from the new Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) Central Committee last December, a slap in the face for his political ambitions.

Many Zimbabweans could not believe their ears when names for the ruling party’s decision making Central Committee were announced during the five-day fourth annual Zanu-PF congress in Harare. But it has long been coming that Moyo would one day spin himself out of favor with the party he has zealously defended through a shameless public relations campaign.

Moyo, a former firebrand academic critic turned government apologist came into the public limelight when he was appointed to the government’s handpicked Constitutional Commission formed to convince Zimbabweans to back a new constitution. When battered Zanu-PF faced demise after losing the war to win the hearts and minds of the people, Moyo did fit the bill to give the Zimbabwe government a desperate political makeover. With the earnestness of a shrewd planner, mind reader and calculating contriver, Moyo got to work and saved Zanu-PF from political oblivion. He was handsomely rewarded with a junior post of minister of information and publicity in the president’s office, a position many doubt he will hold for much longer.

The Zanu-PF congress, whose major score was elevating former freedom fighter and cabinet minister, Joyce Mujuru, to the position of vice president — was the harbinger of bad news for Moyo. First Moyo, a few days prior to the congress, lost a bun fight with Zanu-PF’s secretary for information, Nathan Shamuyarira, over the decision to accredit British journalists covering the international cricket series between England and Zimbabwe. Next Moyo took the flack for convening a meeting with six ruling party provincial chairmen in the remote Tsholotsho district. The attendees are said to have discussed plans to support the election of former cabinet minister and speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, for the second vice-presidency ahead of Mujuru whom Mugabe instructed should be endorsed by all party structures.

The opposition press splashed Moyo’s debacle on the front page, including the centrist Sunday Mirror. However, the pro-government press did not rub it in and instead focused on the deliberations of the congress even though Moyo had used the very same press to deny ulterior motives for calling the Tsholotsho meeting that signaled his undoing.

“Zanu PF ditches Moyo,” screamed the opposition Standard (Dec. 5, 2004) while its sister publication, the Independent said “Moyo’s problems mount” in a headline story (Dec. 3, 2004). Questions remain on whether this is the start of Moyo’s fall from grace given that he had single-handedly shut down the independent media in Zimbabwe through the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). If that was not enough, as the only person seemingly with authority to comment on behalf of all ministries and on Mugabe’s behalf, Moyo’s PR had worsened Zimbabwe’s image nationally and internationally.

“No true Zimbabwean is likely to feel any remorse for Moyo because of the way he has single-handedly changed the country’s political and media landscape,” commented the Standard (Dec. 5, 2004). “Moyo himself must have known that his day of reckoning would come some day, surely as night follows day. ... He symbolized the worst in humanity i.e. destruction of freedom and democracy in this country as well as wickedness, evil, racism and lies.”

The weekly paper still had more words for Moyo:

“Zimbabwe has become a pariah state in the eyes of the international community largely because of this man’s recklessness and foul mouth. ... His evangelism against the media both local and foreign can never be sustained. The triumph march of freedom can never be stopped.”

Moyo is not new to controversy. His departure following a contract in Kenya with the Ford Foundation was not so rosy after allegations of fraud were made against him. Last year, he hogged media spotlight in South Africa after going there on a massive shopping spree at a time his fellow Zimbabweans were starving. Last August, Moyo was caught in a farm purchase row after being found to have bought state land in violation of government policy. As a blue-eyed boy, nothing happened to him.

If Zanu-PF wins the elections next month and Mugabe overhauls his cabinet, it remains to be seen whether Moyo will survive 2005. Time will tell.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Julius Dawu.