The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ndavaningi Mangwana does not know why prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested.
Speaking during South African broadcaster SABC’s Morning Live programme, Mangwana was asked by the show’s host, Sakina Kamwendo, the charges against Chin’ono but struggled to give a coherent response.
After stumbling for the proper answer, Mangwana said Chin’ono is facing treason allegations (subverting a constitutional government), when in fact, the journalist is being charged with inciting public violence. UK-based constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa commented on Kamwendo and Mangwana’s exchange:
A hard moment for the Propaganda Chief
Here’s Secretary Nick Mangwana having a terribly hard time on South African television. He is the government’s spokesman but looked terribly underprepared for the job at hand.
The presenter Sakina Kamwendo, whom I’m told takes no prisoners on her shift, asked him a simple question: what is the charge against jailed journalist Hopewell Chin’ono?
A visibly befuddled Secretary Mangwana pleaded that he had not heard the question properly. The patient Kamwendo obliged and repeated the question.
But Secretary Mangwana, who had bought himself a few seconds to process the question still struggled to come up with a suitable answer.
Since he did not know the answer, he decided to hazard a wild guess. It’s something to do with subverting a constitutional government he said. He was like a fisherman who throws in a net hoping it will somehow catch some fish.
But the net had missed. Hopewell Chin’ono is being charged with inciting public violence; not subverting a constitutional government. Sakina Kamwendo saw an opening. Clearly the government spokesman did not know the answer. She went for the kill, but very softly and delicately.
How could a government spokesman not know the details of such a high profile case which has attracted worldwide attention on Zimbabwe, Sakina Kamwendo asked.
It was a reasonable inquiry. It didn’t make sense that the government spokesman sounded so clueless about a charge against someone that the regime is saying poses a danger to society. Surely he should have the facts at his fingertips? Not Secretary Mangwana, no.
Sure enough, Secretary Mangwana looked and sounded flummoxed. A rabbit caught in headlights would have been better placed. I do not have to cram the charges in my head, Secretary Mangwana pleaded in defence. It was a feeble defence of a defeated man.
He was like the punch-drunk boxer who gets up from the canvas because his mind compels him to do so even though the body has retired.
Those are moments when the boxer needs someone in his corner to throw in the towel. Secretary Mangwana had no one kind enough to do that. So he waffled a bit but really, it was all over. Realising the job was done, Sakina Kamwendo moved on to the next question.
We Zimbabweans must live with the fact that Secretary Mangwana is the face and voice of our government and therefore our country. I do not know what crime we committed as a people to deserve such a circumstance.