The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) on Friday blasted journalists who accepted food hampers from First Lady Grace Mugabe, saying doing so was “unethical and disgraceful.”
Dozens of journalists from both private and public news outlets registered for the donations after Mrs. Mugabe pledged to extend her controversial benevolence to them at a political rally in Mbare last week.
And on Thursday, she made good on her promise. Each reporter received a 50kg bag of Chinese rice, 4 liters of cooking oil, 4 bars of bathing soap and a bag of washing powder.
The VMCZ quickly took umbrage and called out the recipients, advising them to return the handouts for their own sake and the integrity of journalism.
“It’s unacceptable for starters and unethical, we don’t acpect journalists to stoop so low as to accept gifts from whomever,” said VMCZ boss Loughty Dube.
Dube said accepting gifts compromises journalists’ ability to report objectively about their benefactor; in this case, the First Lady who has been controversially dolling out to Zanu PF activists food and resources sourced by the government.
“They are portraying a sign of desperation,” Dube added. “Those who have not used the gifts must return them and retain their integrity.”
One reporter concurred and questioned the First Lady’s motives, saying she might be trying to curry favor with journalists as "she pushes her agenda to succeed her husband" as Zimbabwean President.
Still, the reporter was delighted to receive the “gifts” but vowed she will “not be corrupted. I can’t be bought with rice from China.”
Another beneficiary told Studio 7: "This is a timely Christmas gift but she can't buy us."