Kariba-based freelance investigative journalist, Obert Siamilandu, has received anonymous phone calls threatening harm to his personal life for penning the stories he does.
Siamilandu first received the threats through a phone call on the 17th April 2021 in which he was told to drop what he was doing (“siyana nezvaurikuita”). When he sought clarity on what exactly he needs to stop doing, the caller simply said “unozviziva” (you know what you are doing).
The caller further warned that at this stage he was only warning the journalist, but would move a gear up and unleash actions to incapacitate and harm the journalist (“yandirikukupa is advice but ukaramba uchienderera mberi I will go on another stage”). Siamilandu had that week broken the story of Municipality of Kariba’s suspension of its Town Planner for improper conduct. The story was carried by Newsday and was an instant hit online.
Although at that stage Siamilandu took the threat, veiled as advice, lightly , he was taken aback when they were repeated when he attended the opening of court proceedings against three Municipality of Kariba officials in Chinhoyi on Wednesday. Richard Kamhoti (Town Clerk), Saratiere Chitenhe (Director of Financial Services) and Tendayi Mapondera (Ward 5 Councillor) are facing fresh charges of abuse of office as public officers.
It has emerged that Siamilandu, who used to anchor a Municipality of Kariba-sponsored programme on Nyaminyami FM, a provincial commercial radio station based in Kariba, called “Municipal Talk”, recorded the calls and is now co-operating with state security agents who are on the trail of the caller/s.
Now a freelance journalist who is a correspondent for several media houses, Siamilandu is a thorn in the flesh of a cartel of corrupt officials in Kariba who thrived on the backdrop of a docile media content to receive brown envelopes and other preferential treatment to overlook clear corruption harming the resort town.
Siamilandu admits that perks and inappropriate gifts are “killing our journalism” and vows not to take his leg off the pedal in the anti-corruption drive. “They want to silence me but unfortunately they won’t succeed”, enthused Siamilandu.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) Kariba Chapter Chairman, Addmore Mbonda, when contacted for a comment, claimed that Siamilandu was yet to contact him, adding “if he did so we could have made a statement or a report to Police”.
The fear mongering is escalating as more and more officials at the municipality are afraid the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which is probing Kariba, might unravel more corruption and make more arrests.
Ward 9 councillor and lawyer, Simbarashe Lloyd Manyumwa, has also confirmed on social media receiving similar threats.
Samu Mawawo, formerly Executive Chairman of the vocal Kariba Incorporated Area Residents and Ratepayers Association (KIARRA) wrote that “I have also received one threat” after current KIARRA Executive Chairman, Dickson Siapunda, had advised on the KIARRA WhatsApp platform that he was being threatened following the arrest of Municipality of Kariba officials. “Ndavakuvhundutsirwa namamwe maboora ngoma panyaya dzevakasungwa” intimated Siapunda.
Mawawo was accused by his caller of having written to Local Government Minister, July Moyo, detailing corruption in Kariba.
Kariba has been dogged with corruption allegations for a long time which some claim has crippled service delivery in the once thriving town.
The resort town has no formal modern vegetable and vending markets despite funding having been availed through Devolution Funds. Probably the most baffling anomaly is the unavailability of a constant supply of water in the majority of suburbs despite a huge investment in supposedly functional water pumps.
Kariba is blessed with the world’s biggest man-made lake, by volume and availability of water should not be an issue at all.
Residents point to a failed and corrupt leadership at their municipality and are relieved that ZACC has finally moved in. Better late than never, they reckon.