By Clayton Masekesa
MUTARE – Investigative Journalists play an important role in the fight against corruption, as they can enable society to demand accountability and transparency from the public and private sectors.
This came out during an Investigative Journalism training workshop held at a local hotel in Mutare on Monday. The workshop was sponsored by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) a non- profit, non- partisan and systems-oriented local chapter of the international movement against corruption.
TIZ Manicaland Research and Advocacy Officer Sam Matikiti told journalists to practice investigative reporting to hold authorities accountable to the public.
“It is important for journalists to have the mandate of writing investigative articles in the public interest to rid society of corruption. Investigative journalism plays a crucial role in bringing allegations of corruption to light and fighting against impunity,” said Matikiti.
“Investigative Journalists provide information on public sector corruption where governmental activity is obscure by design or by default. It plays a crucial role in exposing corruption to public scrutiny and fighting against impunity,” added Matikiti.
He said it is TIZ’s broad mandate is to fight corruption and related vices through networks of integrity in line with the Global Strategy.
Freeman Bhoso the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Natural Resource Dialogue Forum said instigative journalism promotes a people-centred approach to governance.
“The role of investigative journalism guarantees transparency, integrity, accountability and active citizen participation. It also seeks to ensure the provision of fair, equitable and access of information to all communities,” said Bhoso.
He added that the extent to which investigative journalists can assist in detecting corruption depends on whether the media is free and independent.
“For investigative journalism to play an effective role in corruption detection, the media has to be free and independent. Freedom of information laws is important in determining the role of the media in detecting corruption,” explained Bhoso.
Despite the importance and utility of the Investigative Journalists in the fight against corruption, Bhoso said, media ownership may undermine anti-corruption efforts, especially where politicians, business leaders or corrupt elites unduly influence the media.
“In such cases, media reporting may be biased and used to manipulate citizens,” he noted.
Veteran award winning freelance journalist Andrew Mambondiyani said it was encouraging to note that published stories on corruption by Investigative Journalists had taken centre stage at the global level.
“This is a case that demonstrates the importance of Investigative Journalists and the media in detecting incidents of corruption,” he said.
Mambondiyani lamented that Investigative Journalists have reported intimidation, attempts to undermine their professional credibility and political repressions.
“Moreover, journalists often receive death threats and some have been killed because of their investigations on corruption. Freelance Investigative Journalists are more exposed to violence than other journalists, probably because they lack adequate institutional protection,” said Mambondiyani.
He said there must be legislative frameworks in place to protect Investigative Journalists and their sources from unfounded lawsuits, recrimination and victimization.
Mambondiyani said it was disheartening for Investigative Journalists to see some perpetrators of corruption trickling in back into positions of authority.
He made reference to one of Zimbabwe’s biggest scandal – The Willowgate – that saw one of the implicated person Fredrick Shava bouncing back as a Minister of Foreign Affairs under the President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Shava replaced the late Sibusiso Moyo who succumbed to Covid -19 early this year.
Willowgate was a 1988 Zimbabwean political scandal in which the Bulawayo Chronicle revealed illegal resale of vehicle purchases by various ministers and officials from the government of President Robert Mugabe.
The officials had been given early access to buy foreign cars at the Willowvale assembly plant. In some cases, the cars were bought at wholesale and resold at a 200 percent profit.
Implicated ministers included Shava, Calistus Ndlovu, Political Affairs Minister Maurice Nyagumbo and Defense Minister Enos Nkala.
The ensuing investigation resulted in the resignations of five members of Mugabe’s cabinet. One of the five, Nyagumbo, later committed suicide after being charged with perjury.
The journalists who had broken the story, Geoffrey Nyarota and Davison Maruziva, were subsequently removed from their posts.
Corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private and civil sectors.
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has said in 2020 there have been high profile corruption cases investigated, with a potential prejudice of US$500 million.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo said there have been attempts by some political forces to scuttle investigations into corruption cases, but stressed that ZACC will remain committed to fighting the scourge without fear or favour