SABC investigates Ncube smear report

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By MATT MEDVED

The SABC is investigating a report that alleges a relative of Robert Mugabe, who works as a correspondent for the broadcaster, used his SABC credentials to set up a sting interview with prominent Mugabe critic Archbishop Pius Ncube, which was made to look as if he had acknowledged having an affair.

The report, printed on Thursday in the independent newspaper The Zimbabwean, claimed the SABC was implicated in the sting when its correspondent Supa Mandiwanzira conducted an interview with Ncube.

A Cape Argus source on Thursday confirmed that Mandiwanzira is the nephew of Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace.

It is alleged Mandiwanzira later misrepresented one of his statements to implicate the archbishop in an adulterous affair with Rosemary Sibanda, a married woman who used to work as a secretary in the Archbishop’s office.

According to The Zimbabwean, sources alleged Mandiwanzira was privy to the plot and was instructed by upper level officials in Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to arrange the interview using his status as an SABC correspondent.

It also reported Mandiwanzira was at the centre of a row in 2003 when he was hired to cover Zimbabwe by the SABC.

At the time, the Democratic Alliance said: “Our information on Mandiwanzira is that he is the nephew of Grace Mugabe and that he was given the farm Lang Glen in Mashonaland as part of the land grabs.”

SABC news and current affairs managing director Snuki Zikalala said on Thursday he was unaware of the allegations and would investigate the matter immediately.

“We are hearing this for the first time,” said Zikalala. “If there is any truth in what has been said then we will take the appropriate action.”

The Zimbabwean reported that Ncube, who has refused to grant interviews to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in the past, citing a bias against those who criticise Mugabe’s regime, only agreed to the interview after he was told Mandiwanzira was the SABC correspondent for Zimbabwe.

Mandiwanzira, who previously worked for the ZBC, allegedly then provided SABC jackets to cameramen from Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH).

Mandiwanzira allegedly set up the operation with ZBH editor-in-chief Tazzen Mandizvidza and Twenty Four Seven station head Happirson Muchechetere.

According to the newspaper, the Harare-based broadcast journalists then allegedly approached and interviewed Ncube, under the guise of being from the SABC.

A journalist who was present at the interview said one of the initial questions put to Ncube was what he thought about Catholic bishops in the US who had broken their vows of celibacy, to which Ncube replied: “Everybody is a sinner, there is nobody who does not sin.”

The statement was allegedly later broadcast to appear as if Ncube had been responding to a question on whether he had engaged in an adulterous relationship with Sibanda.

Zikalala said Mandiwanzira was not a fulltime SABC employee, but owned an agency from which the SABC commissioned stories on a daily basis.

Zikalala also said he was not aware of the report that Mandiwanzira was a relative of Mugabe and that the SABC had plans to open its own agency in Zimbabwe.

According to The Zimbabwean, the country’s state radio reported that Ncube is currently facing a Z$20 billion (about R1,12-million) lawsuit filed by Sibanda’s husband Onesimus.

Ncube’s attorney Nick Matonzi reportedly said it was “some kind of orchestrated attempt to embarrass the archbishop”, who he said would deny the allegations in court.

The Cape Argus was unable to contact Mandiwanzira at the time of going to press.

The Zimbabwean also reported that, in 2002, Mandiwanzira produced a documentary on the sting operation launched by the CIO and Canadian-based Ari-Ben Menashe in which they attempted to implicate MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on treason charges. After a lengthy trial, Tsvangirai was cleared of the charges.

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~ by Matt Medved on August 17, 2007.

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