|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
MDC activist James Munetsi says he was attacked by ruling party supporters
The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) team will travel next week to speak to political parties, farmers' groups, civil rights organisations and churches, said Mozambique's foreign minister.
Sadc has been criticised for not putting enough pressure on President Robert Mugabe's government to end political violence but Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Stan Mudenge, said he had invited the Sadc team to dispel "propaganda".
The announcement came as the vice president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) remains in police custody.
Those who resort to military and paramilitary tactics will be treated in equal if not greater measure and they have no reason to complain especially when they throw petrol bombs, and dynamite bridges and buildings
Gibson Sibanda's bail hearing was postponed until Monday after the judge did not turn up because his daughter was ill, reports the privately-owned Daily News.
The MDC condemned "a deliberate ploy by the Mugabe regime to unjustifiably lock up MDC officials".
'Peace and stability'
Following an MDC-called strike two weeks ago, hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested.
The MDC says that many have been tortured but these claims have been dismissed by the authorities, who say those arrested were planning or responsible for acts of violence.
The strike was marred by violence
Mr Sibanda was arrested for organising the strike and the police do not want him released in case he organises another "more devastating" one.
An MDC deadline to the government to stop political harassment passed on Monday but the opposition has not yet announced what action it will take after Mr Mugabe ignored the ultimatum.
"We are worried because... we want to see peace, stability and harmony in every member state and in Zimbabwe you don't live under this," said Mozambique's Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao after a meeting of Sadc foreign ministers in Harare.
The MDC had earlier urged Sadc not to "turn a blind" to the "political reign of terror" in Zimbabwe.
Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said he had invited the ministerial team "to ensure that my colleagues in Sadc, who are subjected to so much propaganda, a lot of it untrue, do come and get a better view, and a better impression of the situation in Zimbabwe."
Government spokesman Jonathan Moyo defended the crack-down which followed the recent strike.
"We want to make it clear that those who resort to military and paramilitary tactics will be treated in equal if not greater measure and they have no reason to complain especially when they throw petrol bombs, and dynamite bridges and buildings," he told the official Herald newspaper.
"These are not instruments of democratic expression nor are they small matters to be handled by the police in the usual manner.
BBC Sport in Harare
Thirteen people were killed
Thirteen people died and many more were injured at a World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa at the National Sports Stadium in July 2000.
Tragedy struck when disgruntled fans began throwing objects onto the pitch when the visitors took a 2-0 lead with seven minutes of the match remaining.
Police responded by firing teargas into the crowd, resulting in a stampede as fans pushed towards the exit points, many of which were closed.
Following an inquest into the disaster, Harare magistrate Faith Musinga ruled that police were entirely to blame for the loss of the 13 lives.
She said: "May the case be thoroughly investigated with prosecution in the next two months."
Players were also affected
"I asked the police to protect my son and daughter from the stampede, but instead they threw teargas at us," said Fidesi, who broke down while testifying.
How can you disperse a full stadium if the gates are closed?
But the magistrate dismissed the police evidence as "inconsistent and unreasonable."
Musinga said: "There were a handful of hooligans, who should have been identified and arrested. The police were negligent and overreacted."
"Before firing (teargas) they should have ensured that the gates were open. How can you disperse a full stadium if the gates are closed?"
1. GENERAL COMMENT
2. PARLIAMENTARY BY-ELECTIONS
3. POST-STRIKE RETRIBUTION
in Iraq has attracted the attention of ZTV, which has established a daily
hour-long phone-in programme to discuss the morality of the conflict. But it has
done little to enhance ZBC’s reputation as an impartial national public
broadcaster when the purpose of the programme is to condemn the British and
American military initiative. This was announced by the programme’s anchorman,
Daily Mirror proprietor Ibbo Mandaza, and panelists sympathetic to this
point of view were selected to field viewers’ comments.
When viewers asked for a balanced panel, ZTV invited ZANU PF MP Eddison Zvobgo and US official Bruce Wharton (26/3), who both supported the US and Britain’s position. However, it was Zvobgo who was more vocal in his support for war. He argued that earlier UN resolutions provided for a possible legal basis for war. He also noted that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a dictator and that “dictators who are prepared to kill their own people cannot plead sovereignty and let the rest of the world just watch”. His vehement support for the American and British stance against dictators evidently disturbed Mandaza and panelist Tafataona Mahoso, who repeatedly interjected to stop Zvobgo expressing this opinion.
While ZBC audiences were still relishing this rare feat of balanced coverage, ZTV (27/3, 8pm) turned it into a news story by reporting criticism of Zvobgo’s point of view, saying “some Zimbabweans…feel there is no basis to justify the invasion of Iraq”. That same evening the programme reverted to its original one-sided approach. Suffocating alternative opinion shortchanges audiences who are entitled to access fair and balanced information of their choice.
Predictably, ZBC extended its unprofessional conduct to its coverage of the Highfield and Kuwadzana by-elections. As in previous elections, ZBC swamped news airtime allocated to the election campaign with favorable ZANU PF coverage. For example, out of 17 minutes ZTV devoted to the topic during the week, ZANU-PF was allocated 11 minutes and 55 seconds (70%), while the remainder was allocated to the other three contesting candidates from small parties. No positive coverage was given to the main opposition MDC. Instead, the party was mentioned negatively in about 8minutes and 10 seconds or 48 percent of the total time allocated to the election campaign.
ZTV’s anti-MDC stance was more apparent a day before the election. It aired comments from most of the contesting candidates (28/03, 8pm) on their chances of winning the election and then claimed the MDC candidates were not available for comment.
Highfield and Kuwadzana by-elections dominated media space during the week under
review. While the public and private media agreed that violence was a cause for
major concern in the electoral process, they differed on who the perpetrators
were. The public media accused the MDC of fanning violence and used isolated
incidents that broke out during the previous week’s stay-away as examples.
Conversely, the private Press observed that violence against ordinary civilians and those perceived to be opposition party supporters by ZANU PF activists and security agents would render the elections not free or fair. Unlike the public media, they also noted that the combination of violence, vote-buying and the manipulation of the voters’ roll by the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, would tilt the scales in favour of the ruling party. For example, The Daily News (28/3) reported that the MDC had discovered that about 19,000 “ghost” voters who did not live in the two constituencies had been added to the voters’ roll. The party’s director of elections, Remus Makuwaza, was quoted as saying his party suspected these anomalies to be the main reason why Mudede had delayed providing the opposition with copies of the roll. In fact, Mudede only released the voters’ roll after the High Court had ordered him to do so.
(28/03, 8pm) tried to dismiss these claims by presenting the RG’s office as
transparent in its conduct. It quoted Mudede as having said interested members
of the public could buy copies of the voters’ roll provided they complied with
conditions set by his office. However, these conditions were not stated.
was Mudede challenged to explain the alleged irregular inclusion of an extra
19,000 names, a fact also reported by The Daily Mirror (24/3) and (28/03).
Suspicions that Mudede would use the roll to rig the two elections was also aired in The Zimbabwe Independent’s comment (28/03), which observed that ZANU PF was “incapable of winning an election without the help of the Registrar-General’s office”. The Weekend Tribune (29/03) weighed in with a call for impartiality in the RG’s office. It stated: “ … it is important that the Registrar-General’s office that is running the elections be fully prepared and be fair to all contesting parties. We do not want a sham of an election, one that is skewed in favour of one political party.” In its front-page article, the paper reported that the MDC had even contemplated withdrawing from the elections because of fears that the RG would facilitate a ZANU PF victory. Indeed, these fears saw the MDC threatening mass protests if the elections were rigged, The Daily News (24/03) and The Financial Gazette (27/03). The Daily Mirror (24/03) also carried the MDC’s threats, but deliberately distorted the remarks made by one of its MPs, Tendai Biti. He said his party would “go onto the streets” if the elections were rigged, a statement The Daily Mirror interpreted to mean MDC promises more violence, according to the article’s headline. The story also sought to present the violence that broke out during the two-day strike as having been sanctioned by the party.
In fact, the public media continued to milk the stay-away violence and the MDC’s threat to protest to bolster the notion that it was a violent party. For example, ZTV (28/03, 8pm) quoted Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi saying the MDC was “bussing people from outside Harare to come and cause havoc. The train last night brought in people from Bulawayo and picked up another group of people from Gweru just to come and cause some mayhem.” Without providing any evidence, Mohadi added: “We are very much aware that whether MDC wins these by-elections or loses they are still going to cause violence”. The Herald (29/3) also unquestioningly quoted Mohadi making similar remarks. It was not surprising the public media allowed Mohadi’s claims to pass without scrutiny because they suited the media’s stance to sell the MDC to the electorate as a violent party. In the same ZTV bulletin, President Mugabe was quoted employing grossly inflammatory rhetoric when he accused the MDC of fanning violence, describing it as a “terrorist party” that “murders wives and kills women”, adding, “it should thus be confined to the electoral scrap heap and I hope this happens tomorrow and Sunday” His remarks were also carried the in public Press the following day (29/3).
While the public media remained silent on ZANU PF candidates’ vote-buying tactics through the use of scarce basic commodities, the private Press diligently exposed this chicanery. For example, The Weekend Tribune, Basic foods galore in Highfield, reported ZANU PF candidates had brought scarce commodities to the two constituencies to lure voters. The paper interviewed two political commentators, Heneri Dzinotyiwei and John Makumbe who both agreed that food would not yield support for ZANU PF.
Although the private Press was tenacious in exposing ZANU PF’s irregular efforts to engineer election conditions that would favour its candidate, it failed to fully explore the issue of polling stations and their location. It was only on voting day that The Daily News (29/03) revealed that polling stations had been increased in both constituencies. The paper quoted MDC candidate for Kuwadzana Nelson Chamisa as saying, “The number of polling stations has been increased to facilitate the traffic of their (Zanu PF’s) ghost voters. The intention is dubious.” However, Chamisa did not clearly explain how the increase would facilitate rigging. The Herald (28/3) merely announced that a total of 19 polling stations had been established for both constituencies without even notifying its readers that this was an increase of six from the previous 13 that were used during the presidential election. Similarly, ZBC, (ZTV, 28/03, 8pm & Radio Zimbabwe, 29/03, 1pm) reported the issue as a mere announcement.
Besides the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)’s supplement in The Daily News (26/3), no other media carried adequate information on voter education. Also, no media fully investigated the boundaries of the two constituencies particularly Kuwadzana, following speculation that settlers at White Cliff farm, which is outside Kuwadzana, would vote.
Meanwhile, the extremes of perspective between the private and the public Press were again highlighted in their coverage of the election days. While The Sunday News & The Sunday Mail (30/03) and The Herald (31/3) reported that the polls were conducted “without incident” and “ended peacefully”, The Standard (30/3) and The Daily News (31/03) observed otherwise. The Standard reported that ZANU PF youths “ran amok trying to intimidate voters and to influence the poll result”. It also alleged that the police “watched helplessly” as ZANU PF supporters held gatherings near polling stations where “voters were being invited … to register for scarce food commodities such as mealie-meal which could be seen piled up nearby”. The Daily News (31/03) and (1/04) corroborated The Standard’s report.
were also conflicting reports on voter turn-out. While The Sunday
Mail reported, Huge voter turn out in Highfield, Kuwadzana
by-elections, The Sunday Mirror led with, Low turn-out mars
decisive by-elections. Notably, both papers based their reports on the same
statistics of the number of people who had voted by 7pm on Saturday, figures
which represented a mediocre response at best.
ZTV (29/3) also confused its audiences on the turn-out on the first day of the election. While its 6pm bulletin reported that voting in Kuwadzana began at a “slow pace”, it later reported, in its 8pm bulletin, that, “when polling started at 7 o’clock in the morning in Kuwadzana, there was a large turnout of voters, the biggest queue of 350 voters was reported at Kuwadzana district office.”
emerged that the MDC had won the elections, the public media downplayed the
newsworthiness of the opposition’s victory. For
example, ZTV (31/03) carried the results as item five out of 11 news pieces in
its 6pm bulletins. And in its 8pm bulletin, the station led with a review of a
previous day’s soccer match between Zimbabwe and soccer minnows Seychelles. The
story was accorded about 10 minutes. It was only after the soccer story and a
short break, that ZTV then announced the results in a two-minute report.
was not different in the public Press. The Herald (01/03) and
Chronicle (01/03) reported that results showed that ZANU PF “was
consistent by maintaining its support base while that of MDC
The Herald led with the story, the Chronicle placed it on page two
preferring to lead with an unsubstantiated article, MDC’s security agents
papers also quoted Chinotimba as saying, “Zanu PF supporters were on
Sunday threatened by Glen View MDC MP Paul Madzore who moved around polling
stations wielding a pistol.” Notably, it was the same papers that
reported the elections were peaceful.
In announcing the results, The Daily News (1/4) reported that the MDC had managed to retain the two Harare seats “despite massive intimidation by pro-Zanu PF militias in the run-up to the polls.” According to the report, both Chinotimba and the winning MDC candidate Mungofa acknowledged that the elections had not been free and fair.
The Daily Mirror (01/03) comment expressed surprise that MDC candidates accepted the results “despite the fact that the MDC had made claims to the international world that the elections had been rigged before they were held”, adding that “Zanu PF candidates, Joseph Chinotimba and David Mutasa must be commended for accepting by-election results.” Surprisingly however, its lead story contradicted this position, reporting that Chinotimba had refused to accept the results and had “briefly addressed his supporters outside Cecil (sic) Jennings Hall who in turn let volleys of stones at the celebrating MDC supporters …”
by-elections in Kuwadzana and Highfield were conducted against a backdrop of
widespread allegations of human rights abuses by state security agents in the
form of arrests, detentions, harassment and torture of opposition supporters
following the success of the MDC-organised national job stay-away.
Eleven incidents of this nature were reported in the week and all were carried in The Daily News. In one of its stories, The Daily News (28/03) reported that soldiers had forced nightclub patrons in Chitungwiza to have unprotected sex and “ …those men who failed to get erections were severely assaulted”. The paper (27/03 and 29/3) also revealed that some opposition MPs had fled their homes as a result of state-sanctioned retribution.
The public media ignored reports of the security agencies’ gross human rights violations and merely presented the arrest of MDC activists (24/3) for allegedly supporting the party’s mass action as the right course of justice. They also called for the arrest of the MDC leadership. For example, the Chronicle comment (24/03), Terrorists must be locked up, described Tsvangirai as a “coup plotter” adding that “Such coup plotters and thugs must be locked up and the keys thrown in Lake Kariba.” Similarly, The Sunday Mail story (30/03), Arrest Tsvangirai, say local leaders, claimed that “ordinary Zimbabweans, legal experts, church leaders and some indigenous business leaders” had called on the police to arrest the opposition leader whom they accused of inciting violence “despite the fact that he is facing high treason charges”.
Meanwhile, the clampdown on the MDC and the public in general put Zimbabwe back under the spotlight of the international community. The private Press reported that the international community had criticized Zimbabwe for gross human rights violations. For example, The Daily News (24/03), US official slams Mugabe for abuses reported that the US had tabled a resolution calling on the international community to take note of the gross human rights violations by the government. The Zimbabwe Independent reported that German MPs had criticized the clampdown on dissent and urged their federal government to use its position in the UN Security Council to have Zimbabwe put onto the agenda. In another story, Mbeki slams Mugabe clampdown, The Daily News (27/03) reported the South African President telling his country’s Parliament that the he had instructed the South African High Commissioner to Zimbabwe to investigate the alleged human rights violations. “Indeed, we have said to the Zimbabwean government that we would not agree with actions that deny the right of Zimbabweans to protest peacefully, democratically…” Mbeki was quoted saying.
The Herald (28/3) only carried some of the international community’s concerns as part of Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s response to them. Moyo made it clear that government would not relent in its stance towards MDC activists, saying any government “anywhere in the civilized world would not tolerate such thuggery and violence”. His statements set the tone for President Mugabe, whom The Herald (29/03) quoted defiantly saying, “It is now time for law and order to have the upper hand, and we will not seek the approval of outsiders to enforce law and order in our country.”
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; email@example.com
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