via MDC-T gags officials – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 22, 2015
THE main opposition MDC-T has ordered all party mayors, chairpersons and councillors to first seek “guidance” from the party before addressing the media, a move widely viewed as a gag order.
by NQOBILE BHEBHE
The new media guideline is contained in the party’s local governance blueprint, Smart City Campaign, launched in Harare last Thursday.
“All mayors, chairpersons and councillors must recognise the need for careful and consistent message and media management. Where they are unclear about what to say on any issue they should seek guidance from the party in advance,” the document says.
MDC-T national spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday defended the party’s new media policy saying it was meant to instill “discipline” among members and top officials.
“The MDC-T is a democratic political party that doesn’t muzzle free speech and debate,” Gutu said.
“However, there is always the need to maintain message discipline in order to ensure that all party cadres understand the party’s policies and sing from the same hymnbook at all relevant times.
“Any serious organisation would insist on its members understanding the organisation’s policies, programmes and resolutions so that no conflicting and/or discordant messages are disseminated.”
Early this year, MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai stirred a heated debate with the opposition party after he banned members from attacking each other on social media claiming the platform was divisive.
Tsvangirai ordered that all WhatsApp groups administered by party activists be closed.
“I, therefore, issue the order that any WhatsApp group administered by anyone who is an MDC member without exception, be shut down,” Tsvangirai said then.
“Any party structure which needs to run a social media group should access forms from the office of the president.”
Social media users criticised the move as petty and meant to stifle members’ freedom of speech.