Zimbabwe’s state newspaper company Zimpapers has suspended the editor of the Bulawayo-based UMthunywa newspaper for allegedly publishing articles critical of the Zanu-PF government, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.


Editor Bhekinkosi Ncube is also accused of moonlighting for foreign publications.

Sources at the company who don’t want to be named fearing victimization say the letter informing him of the suspension says the step is being taken because of incompetence. But it is widely believed that the real reasons are that the weekly’s editorial stance is radically different from the rest of the state media.

Ncube has also been barred from entering the popular Ndebele newspaper’s premises and his company car has been repossessed.

One source says Zimpapers bosses were angered by a story published in the paper after the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai refused to sign a power-sharing deal with President Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
Umthunywa’s 15 August edition carried a front page photo of Tsvangirai with the headline "Walile uTsvangirai” (Tsvangirai has refused to sign).

“Management was horrified by the story because they thought it glorified Tsvangirai for not signing a deal with Zanu-F, so the CEO, Justin Mutasa summoned Ncube to Harare and he was suspended after being grilled by some members of the management, says the source.

Since 2005, Ncube has been cautioned by management several times for publishing stories critical of Zanu-F and government.
After Tsvangirai trounced Zanu PF in the March 29 elections the paper ran the headline: "Sebekhulumile abantu" (The people have spoken).

Soon after Ncube’s suspension, acting editor, Sikhumbuzo Moyo ran a story claiming that the CIO, the secret police, are coming after Ncube.

Meawhile, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have registered their anger over the failure by the government, Zanu PF and the MDC to promote freedom of expression and access to information since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by political parties 2 months ago.

MAZ says it is disturbed by the ways government continues to manipulate the public owned media, which does not tolerate dissenting views and provides only partial and partisan accounts of the ongoing talks. "What is required at this juncture is a media which informs the public of the issues at stake and allows a variety of views to be heard. Journalists should not behave as government public relations officers and should adhere to professional standards. That is clearly not the case at present” said the statement.

ZLHR says it urges all parties to the political dialogue to urgently put mechanisms in place for the speedy removal of laws that infringe media freedom and freedom of expression.