The chairman of the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) Tommy Sithole has openly told editors not to be ashamed of supporting the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of 2023 elections because “it happens everywhere.”
Sithole, a former editor of The Herald told editors last week in Victoria Falls that they should not be “ashamed” of supporting the ruling party, claiming this was a “national agenda.”
“We can do better, and we want to do the best we can to support the government, to support the system, because it’s never something to be ashamed of to be supporting a government, to be supporting the party (Zanu PF),” Sithole said.
“It happens everywhere, even in the United States and the United Kingdom that before elections, newspapers declare which candidate they are going to be supporting. It’s not something that we’re inventing, it’s something that’s there.
“The fact is that there’s not a single editor in our entire system who is going to sit there and say I’m going to take down the government.”
Zimpapers is majority-owned by the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust on behalf of the public, with other shareholding held by private investors who bought shares on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
The conglomerate that includes the Herald, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Chronicle and H-Metro among other entities has always been pro and controlled by Zanu PF.
Zimbabwe Editors Forum secretary Njabulo Ncube is quoted by ZimLive saying Sithole’s ideas did not apply to Zimpapers because it is funded and should be controlled by the public.
“While Mr Sithole is right that newspapers around the world have been known to pick a candidate during elections, a close analysis will show that those who do so are private organisations and not public-owned entities like Zimpapers or the ZBC who have a public duty to be neutral and fair in their reporting.
“He should remind us of the day the BBC or even the SABC next door ever picked a political party during elections. Of course he can’t, never happened. His directions to the editors are therefore quite unfortunate.”
Staff at Zimpapers has been accusing Sithole of interfering with the editorial works. Following his appointment, he demanded and was given an office at the Zimpapers head office at Herald House.
It is further reported that he once created a WhatsApp group for all editors where he was daily reviewing their work. The WhatsApp group was eventually shut down after editors complained to information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.