‘We Lie’; The Independent admits

by | Oct 2, 2021 | Crime & Courts | 0 comments


Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa

The Independent newspaper has been forced to eat humble pie and retract a false story about alleged profligacy by the Government and Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube.


The Alpha Media Holdings-owned weekly publication ran a story claiming the Treasury Chief raked up over USD200,000 in accommodation bills at the plush Meikles Hotel in Harare.

In its 24-30 September front-page article titled “Government lavishes Ncube with a $200 000 hotel stay”, the publication claimed Prof Ncube stayed for over two years at the flamboyant Meikles Hotel “where an executive room costs US$200 per night.”


“Going by the figure of US$200 for a room per night, Ncube’s accommodation bill had by June this year soared up to US$168 000. This excludes food costs at the palatial hotel which prides itself for serving exquisite cuisines….”


However, the publication had to beat a hasty retreat with a retraction after a letter of demand from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development through Chief Director of Communications and Advisory Clive Mphambela who wrote to The Independent on 28 September seeking same.


“We write to inform you that not only is your report simply not factual, but misled the public through your unverified report of non-existent wasteful expenditure on account of Government and the Honourable Minister’s office,” said Mphambela.


“A simple check by your newspaper with the Meikles Hotel will confirm, that at no time did the Honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Development spend 2 years at the said hotel. Further, no such payment has either been paid by the Government nor is payable by Government as alleged by you.”


The Ministry wrote to the Editor of The Independent, one Faith Zaba seeking not just a retraction and apology but the same prominence the weekly afforded the original story.


The newspaper had quoted “impeccable” sources as references in their unverified story.


In their retraction published on Saturday, The Independent said, “In our edition of September 24, 2021, we published on our front page a story headlined ‘Government lavishes Ncube with US$200 000 hotel stay’.


“We have since learned that our sources were out to mislead us. We have since established that Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube did not stay at the Meikles Hotel for anywhere near the purported two years and the Government of Zimbabwe did not fork out US$200,000 to pay for the stay.


“We apologise most sincerely to the minister for the embarrassment the story caused him. In future, we will be more circumspect in dealing with our sources of information”


It has become the norm for newspapers under the AMH stable to carry unverified stories and then retract on the most feeble of excuses.


“My brother, nobody remembers the apology. Only the false scandal gets the wide coverage and is remembered,” said one media expect on condition of anonymity.


“This story was a deliberate ploy to embarrass the Minister who preaches austerity and present him as a dishonest prodigal who is a ‘do as I say and not as I do’. It was also to throw shade at the whole Government and present it in bad light.”