Donald Manenji and Shamiso Tavarova registered their complaint with the Media Complaints Committee (MCC) over an article published by TellZim on 2nd – 8th March headlined, “Mhunga Up for Assault”.
The complainants are aggrieved as they argue that the whole article is false and characterised by misrepresentations of the actual events being reported on. They raise the following issues of concern:
· That none of them assaulted anyone as reported in the article. They argue that the correct position is that they and their friends cited in the story were actually the victims of violence and complainants in the matter which was subsequently reported to the police
· Donald also disputes allegations made in the story that he filed a medical affidavit for one of the victims of assault. He says that he is a nurse by profession and as a result of this false claim in the story and other related false allegations, his employment has been affected as his practising certificate has been suspended.
· Donald says his professional reputation has been affected as he is currently blacklisted and cannot be employed elsewhere pending investigations. He says this situation has resulted in loss of income
· Shamiso is also further aggrieved by the association of her family name, “Mhunga” with the story and incidents of assault reported on, arguing that while she uses the name Taruvinga rather than the family name “Mhunga”, her family has nevertheless been tarnished by association with the story as her father is a prominent businessman in Masvingo.
· Shamiso also says that she was not given an opportunity to air her side of the story
· Both complainants also dispute that police records are the source of the story as allegedly indicated by TellZim in an earlier engagement between the parties. The complainants argue that this position has not been corroborated by the police. They further argue that, according to the available police documents, they are the victims and complainants rather than the aggressors and accused as portrayed in the article published by TellZim.
· The complainants are seeking relief in the form of an audience with the editor as well as an apology and retraction.
TellZim Editor, Passmore Kuzipa, raises the following issues in response to the complaint:
That the article is factual- it was reported based on a counter-report which was later filed by one Zivanai Chikwanda, who is the accused in the first police report filed by Mr. Manenji and Ms. Tavaruva.
He says the follow-up story published on the matter by TellZim indicated the docket number of the assault case which was opened at Chikato Police Station. He argues that the follow-up article, which was published after filing of the complaint, clearly indicated that the police report was a counter-report after Chikwanda was initially reported for assault by Manenji and Tavaruva and therefore, dismisses the allegation that the whole story is false. .
That the affidavit of a medical report was dismissed by the magistrate on the basis that it was not done properly, with the magistrate raising suspicion that it could have been doctored by one of the complainants. He further states that the magistrate then dismissed the case for further investigation, recommending a proper medical report written by a medical doctor. He states that as a result, the case will continue by way of summons.
Mr. Kuzipa also states that Mr. Manenji is a soldier and according to Public Relations Officer (PRO) 4 Infantry Brigade Captain Francis Chandura, he is still employed by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), still receiving his full salary and therefore the complainant’s claim that he has lost income and employment as a result of the article is false.
The editor further states that Ms. Tavaruva was not given an opportunity to respond to the issues raised in the article as no individual is allowed to comment on a court story or a story originating from the police and it is therefore misplaced for her to claim that she was not given a right of reply. He adds that it is not every story that is published that demands one to seek comment from parties involved.
Mr. Kuzipa further contends that docket numbers only originate from the police and the second story done by TellZim clearly indicated the docket number hence it is improper for the complainants to dispute that the story originated from the police.
The editor also welcomes the idea of dialogue with all parties concerned as part of resolving the complaint.
Mr. Kuzipa also urges the complainants to “desist” from violent behavior as he states that they threatened to shut down TellZim following publication of the first article.