Zimbabwean Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya had some harsh words Monday for local media professionals to whom he referred as "traitors" and at least rhetorically threatened with death for their alleged collaboration with neo-colonialist forces.
Addressing journalists in the presence of visiting Obi Egbuna, a delegate of the U.S.-based Pan-African Liberation Organization, Jokonya said the country's media lacked “rukuvhute,” Shona for umbilical cord, and were thus disconnected and disloyal.
"If you do not have (umbilical cord)," he said, "then you serve any master."
The remarks were somewhat untypical of Jokonya, who has cultivated a reputation of moderation and conciliation with the media in contrast with his predecessor, Jonathan Moyo, who oversaw the passage of media legislation widely regarded as repressive.
Jokonya went on to defend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or AIPPA, signed into law by President Robert Mugabe under Moyo's tenure as minister of information, as one of Zimbabwe's most democratic pieces of legislation ever. He contended that the law made it easier for journalists to collect information.
Some local media representatives expressed bafflement at his comments, noting that Jokonya has been receptive to proposals to expand media autonomy.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists President Matthew Takaona told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Jokonya’s comments contradicted discussions the minister has been holding with local media organizations.