Zimbabwe’s government was fuming when the New York Times published the quotes before confirming their authenticity from them.
East Africa Bureau chief for NYT Jeffrey Gettleman wrote the story first, and then following widespread reports that the quotes were fake, went ahead to retract and offer an apology.
He gave this explanation on Facebook.
Corruption in Kenya is real but that Mugabe quote was fake.
I want to explain what happened. A source sent me an article from the Spectator magazine that included harsh quotes from Mugabe criticizing Kenya’s corruption, which many people in Kenya and beyond say has reached an outrageous level.
I emailed it to a Zimbabwean journalist in Harare to check if Mugabe had actually said those things. The Zimbabwean journalist told me that it appeared he had.
Many Kenyans, too, believed Mugabe had said those things.
See this link: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-34735212
After my article was published, I started receiving messages that the Mugabe quote was fake. I looked into it immediately and contacted the Spectator and an official in the Zimbabwean government. The Spectator admitted to fabricating the story, saying that it was using satire to fight corruption.
We have amended our article, which can be found here:
I deeply regret the way I presented that part of the story and I’ve learned from this mistake. Unfortunately it has drawn attention away from what many believe is an alarming problem in Kenya: runaway graft. As that story revealed, Kenyan officials are believed to have stolen millions of dollars in public money through a scheme of wild purchases, like buying simple ballpoint pens for $85 each.
The Kenyatta government’s response is that it is investigating these allegations seriously.
Many Kenyans have told me that corruption is the single greatest problem in their country.
That explanation has apparently put a Zimbabwean journo in trouble. Local press reports that police spokeswoman Charity Charamba has confirmed that they are indeed looking for the ‘culprit’.
“The law will certainly take its course on the culprits.” the two main Sunday newspapers reported her to have said. “Police are eager to identify the local journalist who worked with Jeffrey Gettleman in the false story.”
Publishing falsehoods is an offence which can carry a fine or a jail sentence of up to 20 years upon conviction. Zimbabwe is not known for its media freedom, and in the past few weeks has arrested at least 3 journalists for various reasons.
We just hope they’ll not be able to figure out which journo contributed to the mis-information.
The fake quotes started a fight on social media between Kenyans and Zimbabweans.