|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Zimbabwe's crisis -- political as well as economic -- remains as deep as ever, with widespread abuse of human rights and ever harder lives for the average citizen. The ruling ZANU-PF party continues to use repression and manipulate food aid unscrupulously for partisan purposes. African institutions and above all South Africa need to apply pressure to make the crucial elections scheduled for March 2005 free and fair in order to give the democratic opposition a chance. Western friends of Zimbabwe like the U.S., UK and EU should tone down rhetoric and get behind the African efforts if a vital chance to resolve the crisis peacefully is not to be lost.
President Mugabe has used economic bribery, bullying, and propaganda to stage something of a comeback. While polling data in Zimbabwe is controversial, a recent finding suggests his support may have increased from a 2000 low of 20 per cent to as much as 46 per cent, and his job approval from 21 per cent to 58 per cent. It is just possible ZANU-PF could win those elections in a relatively straightforward way now that it has used so many unfair advantages to tilt the electoral playing field.
As the party prepares for its annual Congress in the first week of December, however, it is riven by bitter ethnic, generational and even gender disputes. Important decisions foreshadowing an eventual successor to Mugabe are due but he may well continue to keep the key contenders guessing. ZANU-PF seeks a sweeping victory in the parliamentary elections so it can amend the constitution at will, perhaps to create a new executive structure and an honorary position into which Mugabe might step before his term expires in 2008.
In recent months, Zimbabwe has come under African scrutiny in regard to those elections. In July 2004 the executive council of the African Union's (AU) foreign ministers adopted a report severely critical of the government's poor human rights record. AU heads of state deferred early action, but the following month the Southern African Development Community (SADC) adopted a protocol setting out principles and guidelines for democratic elections in the region.
Partly out of his renewed sense of confidence, partly in reaction to the pressure from African quarters he cannot afford to dismiss and has thus far always been able to work an accommodation with, Mugabe endorsed the SADC principles and guidelines. The specific legislative steps he indicates he will take to implement them, however, are flawed, such as a new electoral commission whose independence will be doubtful because he and his party are to have overwhelming influence on selection of members.
As matters now stand parliamentary elections would clearly not be free and fair. If the technical reforms now under discussion are taken but are not matched by other measures -- repeal of repressive laws and an end to political violence such as that widely practiced by state-sponsored youth militias -- the best prospect in sight is a C-minus election that is fairly clean on election day but deeply flawed by months of non-democratic practices. There are no signs that the government is yet prepared to take those essential additional steps.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must revive itself quickly and develop a unified strategy if it is to make the most of the March elections. Its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has at least been acquitted of one set of trumped up treason charges but a second such case still hangs over his head, the party remains persecuted in numerous ways, and its leadership is uncertain over how to respond. The decision taken in August 2004 by the MDC leadership group to boycott the March 2005 elections unless there can be a guarantee in advance that they will be free and fair will be reviewed in the coming weeks. A last minute decision to boycott can always be made if circumstances compel it, but it is critical for the MDC's credibility and effectiveness as a political force that it participate now in the political and electoral process to the greatest possible extent. At the same time, it should seek to maximise understanding from SADC and other observers of the need for genuine electoral reforms to be implemented before the elections.
If something is to be made of the electoral opening, small and problematic as it is, it will need to be those with the greatest leverage -- Mugabe's fellow Africans -- who make most of the running. South Africa, the state with by far the most influence on its neighbour, remains committed to quiet diplomacy, and other African states strongly prefer to emphasise gradual change -- a "restoration" of at least better governance -- rather than sudden, and as they tend to see it, destabilising "regime change". If they are to be effective in the next few months, London, Washington and other Western capitals, whose own rhetoric has at times been considerably more forceful, need to harmonise policies and support the Africans.
Specifically, efforts should focus on holding the Mugabe regime to its commitment on the SADC Protocol and getting observation missions into the country immediately so they can monitor and raise warnings about the broader environment in which the election process unfolds. If ZANU-PF does not undertake major reforms in the coming weeks, and most particularly if a genuinely independent electoral commission is not operational at least two months before the scheduled date of the elections, those missions should press for rescheduling at least to June, when the term of the present parliament expires. The MDC should conduct a full campaign.
If these things can be done, it may just be possible for the 2005 elections, whether in March or slightly later, to be free and fair enough to mark an important turn back toward genuine politics as the means for resolving Zimbabwe's crisis. Out of that might come a division of power based on genuine election results, perhaps followed for the first time by productive inter-party discussion on the country's future.
It must be said frankly that the odds against such a relatively optimistic scenario are substantial. Because the international community appears to lack the will or the means to formulate and implement a more comprehensive and forceful strategy at this time, however, it is worth dedicating the next few months to even a small chance. The alternative is a continued slide toward national and regional chaos, which would ultimately require the international community to consider much graver measures in even less promising circumstances.
To the Zimbabwe Government and ZANU-PF:
1. Implement by 1 January 2005 as preparation for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2005 the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections in letter and spirit, including by:
(a) working with the opposition MDC to develop consensus on technical electoral reforms and their implementation, including appointments to a new, independent electoral commission;
(b) revising or repealing laws such as the Preservation of Public Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO) and the new NGO Bill so as to restore rule of law and political freedoms necessary for the conduct of truly free and fair elections;
(c) ending political violence by disbanding youth militias and desisting from using the military to repress political opponents;
(d) ceasing manipulation of food aid for political purposes; and
(e) desisting from messages of hate in public rallies, state events and the press, and tacit approval of violence.
To the MDC:
2. Decide to contest the parliamentary elections, and campaign accordingly, even if it is not possible to obtain at this stage absolute guarantees that they will be conducted in a fully free and fair manner.
To the South African Government:
3. Press the Zimbabwe government bilaterally and within SADC to:
(a) adhere to the SADC principles and guidelines;
(b) repeal repressive laws so that truly free and fair parliamentary elections can be held in March 2005; and
(c) cooperate within SADC and the AU to ensure a robust monitoring presence is in country by 1 January 2005.
4. Pursue implementation of the protocol on principles and guidelines for democratic elections vigorously with Zimbabwe in connection with the parliamentary elections now scheduled for March 2005, including by:
(a) setting specific timelines for incorporation of those principles and guidelines into national law, regulations and procedures and for the establishment of a genuinely independent electoral commission;
(b) sending a team by 1 January 2005 first to work with ZANU-PF and the MDC on implementation of the protocol's principles and guidelines, in letter and spirit, and then to monitor the elections;
(c) announcing publicly that SADC will call for postponement of the elections at least to June 2005, when the parliamentary term expires, if the necessary preliminary steps, including establishment of a genuinely independent electoral commission, are not in place at least two months before the scheduled date of those elections; and
(d) announcing publicly that SADC will not endorse the results of elections unless its monitoring team is satisfied that the entire election process was in conformity with the letter and spirit of the protocol's principles and guidelines.
To the Nigerian Government:
5. Use the chairmanships of the Commonwealth and the African Union to intensify pressure on the Zimbabwe government to create a level playing field for the 2005 parliamentary elections.
To the African Union:
6. Maintain a watchful eye on the human rights situation before the 2005 parliamentary elections, including by sending a team of experts by 1 January 2005 to assess the electoral environment, and support implementation of the SADC principles and guidelines by the Zimbabwe government.
To the Wider International Community, especially the European Union and the United States:
7. Support the efforts of African states and institutions to achieve free and fair parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe in 2005, in conformity with the letter and spirit of the SADC Protocol, including by:
(a) helping finance and train monitoring teams;
(b) urging deployment of a UN election monitoring team by 1 January 2005; and
(c) assisting Zimbabwean civil society voter education efforts.
8. Deliver clear messages to the Zimbabwe government through diplomatic channels that it cannot expect any development assistance or positive political relations, including relaxation of existing targeted sanctions unless a clear consensus exists among monitoring teams that the parliamentary elections have been free and fair, within the letter and spirit of the SADC Protocol.
Pretoria/Brussels, 30 November 2004
We apologise for the delay in sending the Weekly Media Update update. This was due to circumstances beyond our control.
MMPZ Advocacy Office
Monday November 15th – Sunday November 21st 2004
Weekly Media Update 2004-46
1. GENERAL COMMENT
2. PARLIAMENTARY ISSUES
3. POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
MMPZ notes with concern the widespread abuse by the media of using unattributed sources to corroborate their stories. It is a fact that the hostile political climate and prevalent lack of accountability at all levels of government has given rise to a climate of secrecy, fear and anxiety throughout Zimbabwean society.
As a result, the media have often been obliged to rely on unnamed sources to bring important stories to their audiences. But the government-controlled media particularly, have exploited this situation to such an extent that they now habitually foist their opinion on their audiences by hiding behind the fig leaf of unnamed sources in their news coverage, even, on occasion, resorting to “government sources” in stories about official government activities.
The private media are also known to be guilty of what would, in a normal society, be considered to be a dereliction of journalistic duty, but have generally attempted to limit resorting to anonymous sources in “sensitive” reports where “whistle-blowers” provide information on the strict understanding that they remain anonymous. This happens anywhere in the world, but in Zimbabwe it is far more prevalent because people no longer have faith in the ideal that justice will be done and that offenders will be brought to account.
But the government media have exacerbated this gross lack of transparency by adopting the trend even in apparently harmless cases, which do not warrant masking the identity of individuals quoted in their stories. For example, in the week under review ZTV (15/11, 8pm) reported that private fuel companies had failed to shed light on the findings by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) that more than $70 billion worth of foreign currency meant for fuel procurement had been misappropriated.
The report quoted “industry sources”, “analysts” and “some companies” but failed to reveal their identity.
Similarly, Power FM (20/11, 1pm) reported that, “economists have expressed concern over recent fuel price hikes saying it will have an adverse impact on the country’s inflation rate”. Not a single economist was named and the reasons for not identifying the sources on such a general story remain a mystery. Consequently, the failure by these media to identify their sources compromises the authenticity of their reports and gives the impression that they do not entirely represent the truth of the matter.
It is, of course, easy for reporters to “interview themselves” and in fact, to distort a story at will without providing any identifiable sources. Such activities are a travesty of journalistic practice and represent some of the essential elements necessary in the creation of propaganda, which is so prevalent in the government-controlled media.
Besides its own extensive use of unnamed sources, the government broadcaster frequently also tends to misrepresent general opinion by presenting the views of a few selected individuals as reflective of all Zimbabweans’ support for government policies.
For example, on the day that the Registrar-General launched the new synthetic identification cards, ZTV (18/11, 8pm) claimed that the public had “applauded” the move, saying it would speed up the issuing of identity documents. However, only four individuals were quoted welcoming the latest development.
In fact, the credibility of ZTV’s public opinion surveys suffered another blow when it (11/11, 8pm) used one of its own staffers as a source in its report on public sentiments over commuter transport problems.
The station quoted Artwell Manyengavana masquerading as an unnamed general member of the public calling on commuter bus operators to charge government sanctioned fares.
MOST of the media failed to explain to their audiences how the self-serving interests of the ruling party appear to have assumed predominance over Parliament’s mandate to enact laws that do not violate the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of Zimbabweans.
This was clearly demonstrated by their failure to fully expose ZANU PF’s continued abuse of its majority in Parliament to subvert parliamentary procedures and ram through controversial laws such as the NGO Bill and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill, despite findings by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) that both the proposed laws contained provisions that violate the Constitution, the country’s supreme law.
For example, except for The Financial Gazette (18/11), none of the media attempted to fully discuss the controversies surrounding government’s determination to promulgate the two Bills. Neither did they give full details of the PLC’s strong criticism of the proposed laws, let alone, reconcile the committee’s objections with ZANU PF’s justifications for disregarding them.
Rather, the government media avoided these issues by dwelling more on the trivial aspects of the matter as exemplified by Power FM (17/11, 6am) ZTV (17/11, 8pm), The Herald and Chronicle (18/11). Instead of adequately informing their audiences of the MPs’ debate during the unprecedented all-night sitting of Parliament, which resulted in ZANU PF’s legislators throwing out the PLC’s adverse reports, these media were content with magnifying the fact that the legislators had sat for a record 16 hours “without recess breaking its 2002 record of 13 hours”.
The Herald (19/11) even went on to claim that the 16-hour marathon debate was “a celebration of the vibrancy of our parliamentary democracy and a sense of selfless duty by MPs” from both ZANU PF and the opposition MDC. None of the government media questioned why government was in such a hurry to fast-track the enactment of the laws to the extent of suspending parliamentary standing orders.
Instead, The Herald (19/11) drummed up a vague and feeble defence of the conduct of the ruling party’s legislators, saying the suspension of parliamentary standing orders was necessary because “detractors” have always alleged that there was “insufficient time for the implementation of electoral reforms and called for the postponement of next year’s general election”. Moreover, it contended that Parliament’s all-night debate reflected “meaningful engagement between ZANU PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe”, which, it claimed, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has always “trashed”.
Ironically, while the paper was giving the impression that there was meaningful dialogue in Parliament on the proposed laws, its previous issue (18/11) and ZTV (18/11, 8pm) quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa attacking MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, during parliamentary debate, as “unpatriotic” and “State enemy number one” for allegedly lobbying Europe to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
There was no attempt to analyse the underlying implications of such potentially harmful remarks, which the Speaker, Emmerson Mnangagwa, defended when the opposition sought a retraction.
Only SW Radio Africa (18/11) condemned Chinamasa’s remarks and quoted MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi saying it was within Tsvangirai’s “rights to suggest ways and means of exerting pressure on the government of Mugabe so that it does what the people of Zimbabwe expect”.
The Sunday Mirror (21/11) also quoted MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube expressing similar sentiments.
However, these two organisations remained largely reticent about explaining the effects of the proposed laws and failed to give details of the PLC’s damning reports.
The Zimbabwe Independent (19/11) also failed in this regard. The paper briefly mentioned the parliamentary proceedings on the NGO Bill within the context of a demonstration by the National Constitutional Assembly in its story, NCA protest foiled.
It was only The Financial Gazette which highlighted that the PLC had declared 12 provisions of the NGO Bill as “inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe” and had thus described the Bill as constituting “a determined and pervasive attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms” of Zimbabweans.
The paper’s story, compiled while Parliament was still conducting its night deliberations, warned that the PLC’s findings notwithstanding, ZANU PF would use its parliamentary majority “to rubber stamp” the two pieces of legislation.
In contrast, government media reports were evasive, severely biased and misinformed their audiences over the gravity of the PLC’s condemnation of the Bills.
For example, The Herald (17/11) drowned the PLC’s critical report of the ZEC Bill with the purported virtues of the proposed law, which Chinamasa maintained dovetailed with the SADC principles and guidelines on democratic elections.
Power FM (17/11, 6am) also suffocated the PLC’s findings and cynically seemed to celebrate the fact that ZANU PF had abused its majority to reject the committee’s reports, saying the passage of the Bills to the committee stage demonstrated that “the power of numbers (has) started to work for the ruling ZANU PF”.
However, it emerged through The Daily Mirror (16/11) and the Financial Gazette that ZANU PF had to whip its MPs into line to ensure that the party outvoted the opposition to enact the Bills. The papers reported that during caucus held a day before the debate on the Bills, ZANU PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo had threatened ruling party MPs with unspecified action from President Mugabe if they skipped parliamentary sittings ahead of the debates on the Bills.
Although ZTV (15/11, 8pm) and The Herald (16/11) carried similar reports, they failed to view the issue as ZANU PF’s attempts to force its MPs to support the promulgation of unconstitutional legislation regardless of their own independent convictions on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Independent reported corporate law experts expressing concern over government plans to fast-track into law before year-end the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies (RSIIC) Bill following its recent amendment to cover banks as well. The paper quoted lawyers criticising the law, which they viewed as plans by the authorities to nationalise certain private companies “in the wake of similar actions in agriculture”.
Lawyer Sternford Moyo told the paper that the “mischief” that RSIIC was meant to address was well catered for under the Banking and Companies Acts, so there was no need for the “drastic measures proposed in the Bill”. He also observed that “the potential for abuse of the new powers is very high”.
The government media ignored this matter, with The Herald (19/11) choosing instead, to gloss over the full provisions of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill. The paper only dealt exclusively with that section of the Bill repealing the Witchcraft Suppression Act while remaining silent on the changes it would bring to other affected laws such as the Marriage, Sexual Offences, and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Acts.
And besides briefly referring to the fact that Parliament had thrown out the PLC’s adverse report on that Bill as well, the paper once again failed to state categorically what the committee’s objections were. A glimpse into some of the secretive provisions of the Bill only emerged after the paper cited acting chairperson of the PLC, Innocent Gonese, as claiming that “some sections of the Bill that included Clause 33 criminalising statements denigrating the person of the President or Acting President were unconstitutional” because to “ring-fence his office amounted to a derogation from fundamental freedoms” of the citizenry.
Unforgivably, the private media completely ignored reporting on this proposed piece of legislation.
THE government media’s censorship of the power struggles within ZANU PF, largely triggered by the scramble for the post of vice-president, reaffirmed them as unreliable sources of information unable to inform the public adequately on important events.
While the private media openly discussed the succession issue, the government media largely ignored the matter and only covered it at the weekend, more than a week after the private media broke the story.
Even then, coverage by the government broadcaster (20 & 21/11, 8pm), The Sunday Mail and Sunday News (21/11) seemed to have been prompted by President Mugabe’s public comment on the matter during his address to ZANU PF supporters who had come to meet him at the Harare International Airport on his return from a two-day visit to Tanzania.
These media reported Mugabe saying he fully supported the decision by his party’s politburo to reserve the vice-presidency for a woman.
Ironically, a day before Mugabe’s comments, ZTV (19/11, 8pm) even tried to dismiss private media reports on the issue. It passively quoted ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira dismissing the Zimbabwe Independent (19/11) story, which noted that the decision by the politburo to nominate a woman for the vice-presidency had enhanced the chances of Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru of clinching the post while diminishing those of another contender, ZANU PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Without attempting to carry out an independent analysis of the matter, ZTV’s chief correspondent, Reuben Barwe, simply resorted to editorialising his report with his own spiteful bias “calculated to influence opinion”: “…The report in the so-called independent weekly that has unashamedly taken a position to denigrate the ZANU PF leadership over the years is littered with a lot of spite all calculated to influence opinion.”
However, The Daily Mirror (15/11), The Financial Gazette (18/24), Zimbabwe Independent (19/11), The Standard and the Sunday Mirror (21/11) did not display such professional journalistic poverty. They fully updated their audiences on the unfolding events and explored the power struggles within the party that the issue had sparked.
For example, The Standard reported that the decision to appoint a woman as one of the two vice-presidents had created disenchantment within ethnic groups, such as the Karangas and Manyikas, who believed the elevation of Mujuru to the vice-presidency would “perpetuate” the Zezurus’ stranglehold on the ZANU PF leadership.
These observations seemed to tally with President Mugabe’s apparent confession on ZTV (20/11, 8pm), and in The Sunday Mail and Sunday News the next day, that some party officials were unhappy with the politburo’s decision. He warned that the issue could become a problem at the party’s Congress in December.
Besides revealing the extent of the fierce rivalry within the ZANU PF leadership, the media also exposed serious in-house fighting among ruling party officials as tension heightened ahead of the party’s primary elections to nominate candidates to represent ZANU PF in the 2005 general election.
For example, the Press carried six reports about violence erupting within the ruling party in areas such as Masvingo and Beitbridge. Three of the stories were carried in the government Press, the rest in the private Press.
In fact, the Independent reported that campaigning among ZANU PF candidates ahead of the party’s primaries had assumed fever pitch with the ruling party’s aspiring candidate for Kadoma, Jimayi Muduvuri, “using bizarre campaign tactics such as buying lingerie for women to attract voters”.
The broadcast media ignored these issues.
Nevertheless, the private radio stations continued to highlight the continued rights violations allegedly perpetrated by state security agents and supporters of ZANU PF against members of the opposition and civic society by carrying about seven reports on the issue.
However, these were compromised by their over-reliance on the MDC’s account of the incidents, which were not balanced by alternative sources.
The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to write to MMPZ. We may not able to respond to everything but we will look at each message. For previous MMPZ reports, and more information about the Project, please visit our website at http://www.mmpz.org.zw/
Gender Inequality Has to Be Properly Addressed If We Are to Reverse the HIV/AIDS Pandemic
Tomorrow thousands of events will be held around the world to commemorate World Aids Day. It is hoped that the events held, and the attention generated, will further assist in galvanising global efforts to tackle and reverse the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
statistics are deeply disturbing. Sub-Saharan
are losing a generation of workers and are producing a generation of orphans.
Women account for over half of those infected, a factor which underlines the urgent need to tackle the key issues of stigma, discrimination and gender inequality. We need to promote women’s leadership and ensure equal access to treatment and care.
Reversing the pandemic will take a collective effort by all elements in society. Everyone needs to play their part. Civil society organisations in particular have a key role to play given that many of them are already on the frontline of service delivery.
The progress of the NGO Bill through parliament is therefore a source of deep concern. It contains provisions that pose a grave threat to the continued ability of civic organisations to continue operations in the area of humanitarian relief. The ban on foreign funding will force most of these organisations to close down.
Will the government make up this inevitable deficit in humanitarian support and aid? Unlikely. In its annual Budget statement last week the government illustrated its warped sense of priorities by allocating Zim$5 trillion to defence and only Zim$2 trillion to health.
The deliberate lack of investment in the health sector has reduced a once vibrant and efficient infrastructure to a stagnant, ill-equipped and crumbling mess that is increasingly unable to cope due to the Aids-related opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
We need to usher in a new beginning in order to implement this policy programme. This new beginning can only come about through a free and fair election.
HIV/AIDS is a
national development crisis in
NOTES TO EDITORS
Ø provide strong leadership on HIV/AIDS across the political, public, private, and community sectors
Ø declare HIV/AIDS a public development crisis
Ø mobilize national and international resources to ensure that those suffering from the disease receive adequate treatment and care
Ø establish a policy and regulatory framework for treatment and the provision and distribution of drugs
Ø establish a National Aids Trust whose core responsibilities will include the co-ordination and provision of support to ‘Aids Orphans’.
Ø guarantee free access for all to anti-retroviral drugs for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and post-exposure prophylaxis for health workers
Ø eliminate stigma and discrimination. This is particularly important in the case of women sufferers who often face discrimination in their own families, in the workplace and in society
Ø put in place laws and mechanisms to ensure that labour organizations actively enforce non-discrimination in the work-place and to penalize gender violence and sexual abuse in all forms, especially where it relates to deliberate HIV/AIDS transmission