The SABC’ s Zimbabwe correspondent, Supa Mandiwanzira, has rejected
claims that he led the country’s secret police in a media sting
operation against Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, writes Gugu
Ziyaphapha.


This follows an official complaint from the Solidarity Peace Trust, which asked the SABC to take immediate action against its Harare correspondent for allegedly working with the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) in smearing Ncube, a fierce government critic, over adultery claims against him.

Ncube faces a Z$20 billion (R1 155 000) lawsuit over an affair he is alleged to have conducted with married parishioner.
 
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the involvement of the SABC, through Supa Mandiwanzira, in the smear campaign against Archbishop Ncube and in the gross violation of the human rights of Archbishop Ncube and millions of Zimbabweans,” read the Solidarity Trust letter.
 
The letter, copied to the SA Broadcasting Complaints Commission, the SA Embassy in Zimbabwe , and the South African Parliament said: “It is alleged that Mandiwanzira used his SABC credentials to assist the spy Central Intelligence Organization and state media to ambush Ncube into accepting an interview, which was later doctored by government spindoctors to show as if the cleric had accepted the adultery charges.”

The trust also urged the SABC to “unequivocally apologize to Ncube and Zimbabweans in general for the role of the SABC in attempts to stifle democratic forces in Zimbabwe.”

British-trained Mandiwanzira dismissed the claims, saying they were fabricated, libellous, malicious and only designed at discrediting his record as a professional journalist

Mandiwanzira said: “I was never involved in any sting operation against Archbishop Ncube, neither did I go to interview him in the company of Tazzen Mandizvidza and Happisson Muchechetere of the ZBC as alleged.  Allegations that I have "quoted" the Archbishop out of context are also ludicrous. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
 
He pointed out that the story was extensively carried in the major international networks. “Those people don’t work for the CIO. It’s nonsense that anyone who covers the story is a CIO because it is helpful to the state. People are desperately trying to find issues where they will exonerate the bishop, but I don’t think that it’s fair for journalists to be thrown into the fray.

“I don’t believe in the journalism of bashing the government so you can be a star. I believe in journalism of fairness and balance and the principles that we all know,” he said.

SABC’s News and Current Affairs Managing Director, Snuki Zikalala, was quoted in SA media saying the case would be investigated and appropriate action taken.
 
"We are hearing this for the first time. If there is any truth in what has been said then we will take the appropriate action," Zikalala said.
 
The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa also criticized the coverage of the case by the ZBC and SABC.

“Both the state and private media have in the past reported and published photographs of commercial sex workers who ply their trade in the country’s urban red light districts.

“Care has, however, been taken to cover the faces of the commercial sex workers in question ostensibly with the ethical objective of avoiding the stigmatisation or ostracisation of the subjects in question by society at large.

“In this instance, the gloves were off and the woman at the centre of the alleged adulterous affair was openly paraded on national television and in state newspapers.
The ethical conduct and motive of the state media then becomes questionable in that regard.

“Reporting on matters that are sub judice or before the courts demands proceeding with great caution to avert the risk of convicting or acquitting involved parties before judgment is pronounced and undermining court proceedings and above all the independence of the judiciary” said a statement from MISA Zimbabwe.

Ever since the media blitz the CIO has produced and distributed to selected state media journalists and online publications pornographic photographs and video footage of the archbishop’s alleged sexual escapades.
 
A Bulawayo man is suing the Archbishop for allegedly sleeping with his wife for over two years.  The Archbishop has not denied the allegations to the media but is defending the suit in court.

The Deputy Sheriff was accompanied by a large contingent of journalists and photographers from the state media when he served the adultery lawsuit papers to the Archbishop at the Cathedral.