|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The Daily News has been shut for the past week and police seized the paper's computers and other equipment in defiance of a high court order that the paper should be allowed to publish.
News editors and reporters had been trying desperately to print a paper by alternative means, but by denying the paper a licence the Government yesterday finally and firmly closed every door. Under Zimbabwe's severe press restrictions it would be illegal for any business to give assistance to an unregistered paper.
The paper's closure will make it even more difficult for Mugabe supporters to argue that Zimbabwe should be readmitted to the Commonwealth. When Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 the Mugabe government was warned specifically to improve freedom of the press before the country could be readmitted.
'This is obviously a very big blow to democracy, freedom of expression and press freedom in our country,' said Trevor Ncube publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent, one of the remaining privately-owned weekly newspapers.
'It shows the world, once again, that the regime of Robert Mugabe will stop at nothing to hold on to power, even when it is clear that it is politically bankrupt.'
Ncube is also owner of the Mail and Guardian in South Africa.
Mugabe was put under further pressure yesterday with the reported death of Vice President Simon Muzenda. Muzenda, 81, who had been in failing health for some time, was one of Zimbabwe's two Vice Presidents. The Government had recently denied that Muzenda was in a coma and in declining health.
One of Mugabe's most trusted allies, Muzenda's death highlights a dilemma for the President: that he is surrounded by an ageing leadership.
Muzenda was a long-time African Nationalist and a veteran of the war to end white minority Rhodesian rule. But yesterday Zimbabweans showed little sympathy at his death because of their antipathy to the Mugabe Government.
'Maybe we will get a public holiday because of his death,' said one Zimbabwean worker.
'In other times we would have had a braai "barbecue" but now we can't even do that because we can't afford the meat. Without the Daily News we won't get the truth about Muzenda's death or anything else. We will just get propaganda from our own Pravda, the Herald .'
In the four years it was published the Daily News became Zimbabwe's largest circulation paper. It uncovered numerous corruption scandals and regularly exposed state violence and human rights abuses. The paper continued publishing despite two bombings, including one which destroyed its printing press.
Daily News editors and reporters have been jailed and beaten by Mugabe's supporters. In one incident a rural schoolteacher found with a copy of the Daily News was beaten to death by Mugabe's youth militia.