By Nkosana Dlamini
Zimbabwean media will soon see a group of top journalists from different publications brought together to form a permanent team charged with investigating some of the country’s biggest corruption scandals that have routinely been swept under the carpet by the State.
The unprecedented initiative is spearheaded by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) with support from Internews.
The envisaged alliance to be known as the Zimbabwe Investigative Journalism Network, will comprise a team of willing and cutting-edge journalists with hunger to go behind the veil of flashy newspaper headlines to expose the skeletons.
Speaking at the launch of the investigative journalism fund in Harare on Thursday, VMCZ Executive Director Loughty Dube said members of the planned journalism network, will be admitted according to how they would have performed in past IJ projects.
“…It’s not going to be an automatic entry. It’s not going to be a micky mouse.
“This would be a network of people who are going to collaborate with the best journalists in the region.
“The network we are creating will not see people being taught the art of investigative journalism but to share experiences with other journalists.”
Speaking at the same event, VMCZ board member Reyhana Masters-Smith urged local media outlets to call on their collaborative efforts when tackling major corruption scandals to give their efforts more depth, variety and bite.
She also regretted that most media houses in the country were shrinking, hence left with less experienced personnel, often deployed to chase the daily story while side-lining investigative stories.
She added, “I hope the support we are providing will allow media houses to sit and think how best they can use them…Africa is resource rich but our resources are being exploited and the people who can highlight this are investigative journalists.”
Veteran journalist and mentor in the VMCZ project, Geoff Nyarota regretted the loss of enthusiasm to embark on IJ by a lot of scribes if there was no financial sponsorship involved.
“A lot of investigative stories cost virtually nothing to produce…a good investigation can still be conducted on mere enthusiasm.
“I am not saying editors should not encourage reporters to undertake investigative journalism.”
The IJ project being administered by VMCZ will see journalists receive a maximum US$600 per story.
The money is meant to cover costs such as printing, data, phone calls, transport and accommodation, if need be, when one is pursuing their story.
The four-year fund has eight partners involved with Internews being the lead partner.
Under the project, journalists will receive training which shall involve demystifying government budgets, tenders and procedures.
They will then be attached to a mentor who shall guide them through the production of the story with newspaper editors also involved in assessing pitches and story publication.
Media players have hailed the IJ project, along with few others being administered locally, as the missing link in a resource rich country which ranks lowly among world countries with a tight handle on corruption within their territories.
However, despite a patently unimpressive country profile, there has been little, if any remedial action, taken by different State organs mandated to police the country’s corruption landscape.