Mugabe spin doctor quizzed over leave

July 7, 2000

South Africa's University of the Wi****ersrand has given Jonathan Moyo, the controversial election campaign manager for Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's ruling party, until today to explain a prolonged absence from his post as research professor.

Professor Moyo was employed full time by Wi****ersrand until the end of last year, when funding for his research project, "Generations: The making of a new Africa", ran out.

Tom Lodge, head of Wi****ersrand's department of political studies, said the university needed to know if he was still working on the unfinished project. Professor Moyo's research had been funded through Wi****ersrand, and the university was accountable for the project.

Professor Moyo, 43, once a critic of the Zimbabwean government, did a U-turn when he took on the role of spin doctor for Zanu-PF, which narrowly secured a majority against the country's opposition Movement for Democratic Change in last week's elections.

Professor Moyo worked on the constitutional commission set up to make changes to the constitution - changes rejected by citizens in the February referendum that led to a panicked Zanu-PF orchestrating the invasion of 1,500 white farms by liberation "war veterans" and initiating a terror campaign aimed at crushing rising opposition to its 20-year rule.

Professor Moyo has been making controversial statements for the party. He said that white Zimbabweans with British ties were not welcome in the country and that relations with Britain were poor because of Labour Party incompetence. He dismissed as "anecdotes" reports by human rights organisations that more than 30 opposition supporters had been killed by Zanu-PF cadres.

Professor Lodge confirmed that the university had written to Professor Moyo, "trying to establish if he is working for the university or for somebody else".

It was possible, Professor Lodge added, that working with Zanu-PF and the constitutional commission was providing rich material for Professor Moyo's research in the shifting patterns of political leadership in Africa.

Professor Moyo last week told Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF-supporting Sunday Mail that he was not employed full time by either Zanu-PF or the constitutional commission and that he was not employed by Wi****ersrand but was still conducting his research.

He said that he had an assignment with Zanu-PF. He added that he had been receiving hate mail posted from Wi****ersrand to his family in South Africa threatening their lives.

Professor Moyo told the Sunday Mail that Wi****ersrand had a respected liberal tradition of tolerating different views. "What seems to be happening in this case is an attack on that tradition."

Wi****ersrand, said Professor Lodge, had no problem with academics being contracted as advisers. Professor Moyo's "personal political preferences are nobody's business but his own", he said.

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