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Media Update # 2001/3
Monday 15th January to Sunday 21st January 2001


News of ZANU PF's by-election victory in Bikita West was quickly
supplanted in the daily media by news of the assassination of DRC
president, Laurent Kabila - and the efforts by the governments of
Zimbabwe and the DRC to obscure news of his death. As a result,
ZBC was exposed as the government mouthpiece that it is, while
The Daily News strangely relegated initial news of the shooting to
page two. The state-controlled media was saturated with confusing
news about the assassination, President Mugabe's eulogies for
Kabila and largely unhelpful speculation about the political
implications of Kabila's death. The Herald led every edition from
Wednesday with Kabila-associated stories, while ZBCTV's News-
Hour smothered its audiences with an hour and 20 minutes - a
staggering 26% of its airtime - on the topic in the five bulletins
following news of the shooting.

The greatest problem for the state-controlled media was
government's efforts to support the DRC government's claim that
Kabila was still alive - more especially difficult after Defence
Minister Moven Mahachi had been quoted in the international
media (via a Ziana story) stating that he had died. Thus readers of
The Herald found themselves on Thursday (18/1) reading a story
which largely confirmed the newspaper's second edition story of
the previous day which confirmed that Kabila had died, but this
time under the heading, Conflicting reports surround President
Kabila's fate. While the story appeared to be factually accurate,
there seemed to be little value in attempting to confuse readers
with a headline based on a feeble and desperate effort by the
Congo's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kikaya bien Karubi, telling ZBC
television in Wednesday night's News-Hour that: "As we speak
there is a team of Congolese doctors who are attending to him.
Obviously, he is in a very critical condition, but he has not
passed away yet."
Needless to say, ZBC didn't ask him why other DRC officials had
been quoted in the United States and Libya reporting his death.
Nor did any of the state media report Mahachi confirming Kabila's
Avid media watchers would have noted however, that Karubi was
obviously a very confused man. For while he was telling
Zimbabwe's "official" electronic media that Kabila was still alive, he
told The Daily News that he had indeed died. The paper duly
reported this contradiction in its Thursday (18/1) edition, together
with Mahachi's statement, confirming the Congo leader's
But Zimbabweans had to wait until Friday (19/1) for an explanation
as to why such a mystery over Kabila's death was manufactured.
While The Zimbabwe Independent (19/1) shed light on the reason
for the delay in reporting Kabila's death, The Zimbabwe Mirror
reported that Mahachi had been reprimanded by acting President
Muzenda for breaching international protocol by confirming Kabila's
death ahead of any statement by the DRC itself.
The Independent's story, Zim in Kabila cover-up, unraveled the
mystery when it reported that news of Kabila's death had been
"clumsily manipulated by Congolese and Zimbabwean
authorities to ease the transition of power in Kinshasa."  The
story was not only clearly issue-oriented and well sourced, but also
avoided the belaboured question of Kabila's fate and addressed the
question of why Kabila's death was shrouded in secrecy.
Shakespeare Maya, director of the UZ's Bureau of Strategic
Studies, was quoted as saying that the manipulation of information
about Kabila's death was "meant to ensure the collective
security arrangements by allied forces to protect troops at the
battle fronts and also consolidate central authority in
Ironically, it was a CNN report rebroadcast on ZBC TV's 11pm
bulletin on Tuesday (16/1) that first broke the story of an attempted
coup against Kabila. From then on ZBC began reporting that Kabila
had been assassinated quoting sources such as the Belgian
Foreign Minister (all stations 17/01 morning news bulletins).
ZBC Radio (17/01, 1pm) and television (6pm), also reported
Mahachi saying (mysteriously) that Zimbabwe would continue to
support Kabila's family as well as the DRC government. Radio's
bulletins also quoted Sir Ketumile Masire predicting that Kabila's
death could worsen the war. All the reports however, carefully
omitted that bit of Mahachi's statement confirming Kabila's death.
That evening (17/1) Information Minister Moyo (8pm news all
stations) said that because of conflicting reports from the local and
international media the government would only release a statement
after getting information from the DRC authorities.
Then followed the infamous interview with Karubi.
ZBC treated the official announcement of Kabila's death as
"breaking" news on Thursday 18/01 (10pm), almost 12 hours after
the actual announcement by the DRC Minister of Information on
Congolese television. Even so, ZBC relied on an earlier CNN
broadcast to provide the report.
Subsequent bulletins were saturated with items about Kabila some
of which were of dubious news value. Radio even reported (20/1
6am) that colonial powers were involved in Kabila's murder without
providing a shred of evidence to back this up. 
Zimpapers (17/1) gave the initial story the prominence it deserved
and stitched together different news agency reports highlighting the
confusion over Kabila's fate.
The Herald quoted the DRC ambassador to Belgium saying:
    Something happened, but I cannot say
    more.except that the president is alive.
But it also quoted a senior intelligence source in Uganda saying:
    He has died. He was shot by unknown
    people.earlier today.I am 101% sure he is dead.
Surprisingly, The Daily News (17/1) preferred to lead its edition with
a story about a ZBC DJ bribery scandal, dumping the Reuters
agency story of the shooting on page two. But it soon recovered
with a special edition later in the morning announcing Kabila's
death on its front page. Both papers' second editions carried
profiles of the DRC leader's life, but only The Herald reported
government meeting over the assassination and comments from
local analysts on the political implications for Zimbabwe. Notably,
Zimpapers took advantage of the fact that it has access to more
than one international news agency in providing a better picture of
the initial events surrounding Kabila's assassination than The Daily
News, which is dependent on Reuters. In this instance, it was able
to take news from Agence France Presse, which traditionally has
strong connections to Francophone countries, including Belgium,
whose sources were among the first to provide confirmation of
Kabila's death.
Subsequently, however, Zimpapers struggled to extricate itself from
its requirement to support government's policy of silence as
expressed by Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo (18/1).
The Financial Gazette's lead story (18/1) reported military sources
ascribing Kabila's assassination to the growing rift between Kabila
and some of his army generals over the conduct of the war against
the rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
Coverage of the public's response to Kabila's death varied
according to which paper the audience patronized. ZIMPAPERS
dailies reported shock and sadness, quoting a couple of ordinary
citizens, but also noting that others wanted Zimbabwean troops
pulled out. The Daily News, on the other hand, reported that
"scores" of residents it had interviewed said they were happy Kabila
was dead. 

Attacks on the judiciary by public officials continued this week and
were reported by ZIMPAPERS and the private press without any
analysis on the implications in terms of undermining the authority
of the judiciary.
In their editions of January 18th, The Herald, The Daily News and
The Financial Gazette all reported that Chief Justice Anthony
Gubbay had publicly reprimanded Judge President Godfrey
Chidyausiku for criticizing the Supreme Court's decisions on the
land issue during the opening of the judicial year in Bulawayo
recently. Gubbay said Chidyausiku's speech was "essentially a
political attack" on his person and sought to undermine the legal
system that he was part of.  Gubbay said:
    The Judge President cannot defend the failure to
    obey court orders on the basis that the land
    distribution is a political and not a legal issue.
    Such an attitude conflicts with the rule of law and
    his oath of office.
However, The Herald story sought comment from Information
Minister Jonathan Moyo and allowed his attack on Gubbay for
reprimanding Chidyausiku to dominate the article.
Moyo said:
    "The statement is hypocritical, dictatorial and
    undemocratic and I hope these things are not true
    of the judge himself.the reprimand has come
    without due process and smacks of a Kangaroo
    type of reprimand and a majority of Zimbabweans
    will find it offensive and unacceptable."
The Herald followed this up the next day with a statement from
Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, also attacking senior
members of the judiciary, saying judges with links to the Smith
regime should be removed from the bench because they have now
become more of an opposition party.
Chinamasa was quoted as saying:
    The elements on the present bench and associated
    with the Smith regime must know and must be
    told their continued stay on the bench is no longer
    at our invitation. Their continued stay is now an
    albatross around the necks of our population
The Herald, characteristically, allowed this alarming comment to
stand without seeking any alternative point of view regarding the
legality and implications of such a statement. In the same issue
the paper reported that Supreme Court judges had appealed to the
presidency to stop war veterans from intimidating the judiciary.
Chief Justice Gubbay's response to Chidyausiku was missing on
ZBC, as was Chinamasa's attack. But ZBC did carry its own story
complementing the Minister's criticism- Philip Chiyangwa saying
Zanu PF MPs would try to force the Chief Justice to resign and that
if he refused, to institute impeachment proceedings. He said:
"It is unfortunate that the rule of law interpretation is that which
is not defined by us... In Zimbabwe, we are the people who are
supposed to govern. Zanu PF is in power and we must rule
and we must be in control, otherwise the situation will get out
of hand...  Judgments passed in the Supreme Court have been
chaotic. They can cause war in this country."

All the papers gave prominence to the Bikita West by-election
result. Zanu PF candidate Claudius Makova won the constituency
over MDC's Bonnie Pakai. ZIMPAPERS dailies, particularly The
Herald, was hysterical in its celebration of the election outcome.
The Herald's Comment (17/1) was written as if it was a Zanu PF
propaganda paper:
    "Predictably, MDC's public relations and media
    machine is already in overdrive, crying foul and
    appealing once more to the international
    community for succour. The election, they argue,
    was not free and fair because of imagined rigging
    and intimidation.
    "One gaffe after another and surprisingly
    amateurish political missteps have Mr. Morgan
    Tsvangirai's supporters now openly wondering if
    he really has what it takes to be CEO of Zimbabwe
    Inc. Running a political party is no sissy job as Mr.
    Boycott must now be finding out."
The private press remained consistent in its coverage of the poll by
giving follow-ups and reviews, and The Daily News (17/1) carried a
more realistic editorial giving a critical, in-depth review of the by-
election. The comment did not only attribute ZANU PF's victory to
violence, but also highlighted how the ruling party had poured
material and human resources into the constituency to coerce the
people into voting for it. ZANU PF is alleged to have "poured 20
000 of its members and war veterans to whip up the 40 000
voters in the constituency."
Against this backdrop, the Comment challenged Zimbabweans to
reject the use of force and bribery in elections and called for more
local election monitors to document any future blatant manipulation
of the democratic process. Surprisingly the Comment did not refer
to Tsvangirai's statement that the MDC would deploy 20000 of its
own youths in the constituency. The Financial Gazette  (18/1) and
The Independent (19/1) also took a swipe at the ruling party and
educated the public about how violence and bribery, mainly
perpetrated by ZANU PF, undermined democracy and
dispossessed the electorate of its power to choose its leaders
freely. The Zimbabwe Mirror (19/1), as usual, took a middle-of-the-
road approach in its review of the poll, saying that both parties were
to blame for the pre-election violence which made the election
neither free nor fair. The paper noted that ZANU PF's victory had
been overshadowed by the degree of violence by both parties and
    ". a worrying trend seemed to be entrenching
    itself in Zimbabwean politics, indicating that
    elections in this country will never again be a
    peaceful affair unless political leaders on either
    side of the political spectrum exercise political
Radio reports on the by-election lacked credibility, partly because
of their insistence on reporting stories without sources. Initial
reports as the vote counting began on Monday 15/1 said that vote
counting had begun but did not provide a source for the story.
Radio 1/3 added the information that three MDC supporters had
been arrested for stoning Hunzvi's car. The response to the
election results in which Zanu PF won, was carried in a single
story on the bulletins monitored. Radio only quoted Minister Moyo,
Border Gezi and the winning MP Makova 16/01 6am.
ZBC TV on the other hand, carried the election victory throughout
the day, including comments from ZANU PF campaign officials.
But news of Kabila's assassination the next day mercifully brought
an abrupt end to television's indulgent celebration of the ZANU PF

This report was produced and distributed by the Media Monitoring
Project, Zimbabwe (MMPZ), 221 Fife Avenue, Harare, Tel/fax: 263
4 734207, 733486, Cell: 011716645, E-mail:, Web: Feel
free to respond to MMPZ. We may not be able to respond to
everything but we will look at each message. Also please, feel free
to circulate this message.
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From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 26 January

Bush urged to act on "African World War"

Washington - A US lawmaker back from a visit to the DRC has described the vast central African nation as "a ticking bomb," calling on President George W Bush to make Africa a top foreign policy priority. "The Congo is a ticking bomb," Representative Frank Wolf told reporters, noting six African countries - Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia - have had troops fighting there for more than three years. "It is, if you will, an African world war," said the Virginia Republican, who met with the late DRC leader Laurent Kabila just days before he was assassinated.

Wolf said it was too soon to tell how the DRC's new leader, Kabila's son Joseph Kabila, would deal with the situation. The army major general, believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s, is due to be sworn in Friday. Wolf called on Bush to create a task force to thoroughly review US policy toward Africa, work on debt relief for the poorer nations and appoint a special envoy to the region. The envoy, Wolf said, had to be a high-profile diplomat "with a direct line to the president." US Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, has suggested many of the special envoy positions from the administration of former president Bill Clinton may not be renewed, which could include Jesse Jackson's appointment as US Democracy envoy to Africa. Bush's administration also has yet to announce specific policies toward Africa.

Wolf, describing the toll that prolonged war, famine and AIDS are inflicting on sub-Saharan Africa, insisted the United States had to remain involved, particularly in the DRC and Sudan. "We (US) have made a difference in Northern Ireland. We have worked to stop the violence among ethnic and religious factions in Eastern Europe. We are attempting to bring peace to the Middle East. It is time to focus on Africa," he said.

From The Star (SA), 26 January

Zim government promises clampdown on protests

Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government said on Friday it would deal ruthlessly with attempts by the opposition to force it out of power through mass protests. "Any attempt to remove the government of Zimbabwe by unconstitutional means will be dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly and within the provisions of the law," Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo told a news conference. The MDC has promised to organise mass action - including strikes and street marches - against the government. It has not said when it will stage the protest after suspending one planned for last December. "What the MDC calls mass action is in fact an insurrection. The security arms of the state will be in full force to ensure law and order throughout the country during the intended insurrection," Nkomo said on Friday. "I have accordingly instructed the arms of the state to be ready for the task to defend our gains." He accused the MDC of also planning to hijack a civil servants' pay strike that began on Wednesday…

From The Daily News, 27 January

Farmer injured in war veterans attack

Boet Jacobs, a Chivhu commercial farmer, sustained serious injuries after an attack by six axe- and stick-wielding war veterans at his Badza Farm on Wednesday. Jacobs was rushed to The Avenues Clinic in Harare where he is being treated. Malcolm Boyland, managing director of the hospital, confirmed yesterday that Jacobs was in the hospital but refused to give details of his condition.

Commercial farmers said Jacobs was attacked by six war veterans who have been occupying the farm since February last year. The official said trouble started when the war veterans drove Jacobs' cattle into the security fence surrounding his residence. A farm worker is alleged to have alerted Jacobs. "While Jacobs was coming from the workshop, the six war veterans attacked him with axes and sticks," said the CFU official. "They left him unconscious for some time. He sustained multiple facial injuries. He had a deep wound on the back of his head. He had an axe wound on his right forearm".

Jacobs engages in mixed farming on his Badza Farm. Chivhu police yesterday referred all questions on the incident to Harare, where the police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, said he could not assist as he was not in office. More than 33 people, five of them white farmers and most of them supporters of the opposition, were killed, some of them on the farms, in the run-up to the June parliamentary election. The latest victim was a Kwekwe farmer and former Member of Parliament, Henry Swan Elsworth. He was killed outside his farm by unknown gunmen last month. There have been no arrests.

From BBC News, 26 January

Funeral trouble in Zimbabwe

Bulawayo - Trouble erupted on Friday at a funeral service in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe for a soldier killed in the DRC. President Mugabe's decision to send thousands of troops to help his ally, the former President Kabila, in the DRC, has not proved popular in Zimbabwe. Tempers flared when army officers present at the service told the bereaved family, including his twin brother, that there could be no viewing of the body because it was in such a bad state. When they then told the family to proceed with the burial they refused to go ahead. Some demanded to know what the army officers were hiding.

The drama was eventually resolved when the officers were told of an unusual custom of the Shangaan speaking people. According to the custom, if the living twin is not allowed to see the body of his twin brother, he too dies in less than 24 hours. Shangaan elders say it has happened in the past and the tradition should be respected even by the government. In the end, the officers felt they had no choice but to allow the family and the surviving twin brother to see the body of the dead soldier.

At the funeral service, speakers could hardly contain their anger at the government's continued involvement in the war in DRC. Military officers kept on interrupting them asking them to stick to the word of God and stop talking about politics. Even so, one speaker told the mourners that their children were dying for nothing in the Congo. Residents told me there have been eight other funerals of Zimbabwean soldiers killed in Congo just in the township suburb of Cowdray Park. Army drivers have been working overtime transporting mourners to different houses in the township. Zimbabwean army casualties from DRC are not reported officially and journalists questions are not answered by army headquarters or the ministry of defence. Information about the war is withheld for security reasons.

From The Independent (UK), 27 January

Tight security in Kinshasa as President Kabila is sworn in

Ten days after his father's assassination, Major-General Joseph Kabila was sworn in yesterday as the fourth President of the DRC since its independence in 1960. His much-anticipated first speech to the nation was due to be broadcast on television last night. Although his selection by the government and military leadership has been criticised by many in Kinshasa as monarchic and anti-democratic, observers hope his appointment will mark a generational shift that could herald peace.

The DRC, Africa's third-largest nation, has been at war since August 1998 with rebels backed by Laurent-Desire Kabila's erstwhile allies, Rwanda and Uganda. They backed his march on Kinshasa in 1997 when he succeeded Mobutu Sese Seko, who had been in power for 32 years. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have also been drawn into the conflict. If President Kabila signals that he wants a cessation, new peace efforts launched this week by Belgium, the former colonial power, are likely to bear fruit. Yesterday's ceremony at the Palace of the Nation sent few clear signals. But observers said it was significant that President Kabila, thought to be 29, did not appear in uniform, opting for a blue suit, and that he spoke French - the most widely spoken national language. As during his father's funeral last Tuesday, tight security was provided by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. The government decided against lifting a night curfew that has been in force almost continuously since the assassination in the capital.

From Pan African News Agency, 26 January

Adviser Cites Foreign Involvement in Kabila's Assassination

Lome, Togo - "A preliminary inquiry proves that a foreign and enemy hand had expertly prepared President Laurent Kabila's assassination," a presidential adviser of the DRC, Constantin Nono Lutula, said Thursday. "When the time comes, the Congolese people will be informed, as well as Africa and the whole World," Lutula added. Lutula, who has been designated adviser to President-designate, Joseph Kabila, was speaking after holding talks with President Gnassigbe Eyadema, current OAU chairman, at his home village of Pya. "An event we all deplore took place at home. That is the assassination of Mr Laurent-Desire Kabila by a bird-brained Congolese, actually one of his bodyguards, but armed by a foreign hand," Lutula said. He said there was unanimity within the Public Salvation Government and the army to hand over power to Maj.-Gen. Joseph Kabila.

From The Star (SA), 26 January

Dos Santos fires Angolan army chief of staff

Luanda - Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos sacked his army chief of staff on Friday, bringing further uncertainty to the region after the killing of the DRC's president, Laurent Kabila. No explanation was given for the sacking, announced in a presidential decree, of General Joao Baptista de Matos. The decree said deputy defence minister Armando da Cruz Neto would replace him. Matos had held the army's top job since 1992. Angola, along with Zimbabwe and Namibia, has been supporting the DRC government in its war against Ugandan and Rwandan-backed rebels that erupted in August 1998, and fighting Unita rebels at home.

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