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  • Response to The Herald's article titled 'Sokwanele predicts Zanu-PF victory in harmonised polls'
    April 04, 2013

    Yesterday, 3 April, The Herald published an article titled 'Sokwanele predicts Zanu-PF victory in harmonised polls'. The article is factually inaccurate on several levels. So much so, we wonder what the objective of the piece really is?

    Featured as a 'Top Story' on its website, The Herald's item begins by describing Sokwanele as an "MDC-T-aligned pressure group". In fact, Sokwanele is a non-partisan group campaigning non-violently for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe. This is the article's first factual inaccuracy.

    The second factual inaccuracy is extraordinary: The Herald attributes its entire argument to a report that they claim was written by Sokwanele titled '“Miracle Votes” – An analysis of the March 2013 Referendum. In fact, this report was written by the Election Resource Centre (ERC). Sokwanele disseminated this report on the 28 March 2013, as we do for many reports published by civic organisations, in line with our mission statement which is "civic action support". The opening line of our website post introducing the report begins: "This report by the ERC . . . " and it is accompanied by a picture of the ERC logo (as depicted above). How The Herald came to the view that the report was authored by Sokwanele is baffling.

    The Herald's argument that Sokwanele has predicted a Zanu PF victory centers on one paragraph they selectively extract from the report and which they cite in their article - but not in full and only after they have re-ordered the sentences to infer a different meaning (a third inaccuracy). The Herald 'quotes':

    "This high voter turnout could be attributed to the coercive capacities of the political parties, especially Zanu-PF . . . This thinking is motivated by the belief that Zanu-PF was using the referendum as a test case for the forthcoming general election slated for this year".

    In fact, the full context of that paragraph, taken from the ERC report (page 10) reads as follows (emphasis added):

    There are fears from other sections of society such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and those who campaigned for a no vote that the referendum result could have been rigged and that the high voter turnout was manipulated through ballot stuffing. This thinking is motivated by the belief that Zanu PF was using the referendum as a test case for the forthcoming General elections slated for this year, and that the results reflect on Zanu PF’s test run of its rigging machinery and its coercive machinery of systematically driving out its supporters especially in the rural areas to vote en’masse.

    Whilst we cannot be able to authenticate claims of rigging, this high voter turnout could be attributed to the coercive capacities of the political parties, especially Zanu PF to drive out their supporters in a systematic manner to vote in a block. There were reports of voters being given cards before voting in the rural areas as well as registering their names with party officials before voting. Such coercive and intimidatory practices could be replicated in the next elections.

    The fourth factual inaccuracy is that The Herald argues that these words amount to a prediction by the report writers that Zanu PF will "romp to victory" in the harmonised polls. If Zanu PF does indeed 'romp to victory', then a more accurate assessment based on the report's words would be to interrogate whether the party's 'romping success' was possibly based on ballot stuffing, on a highly evolved rigging system, and on its traditional employment of coercive and intimidatory practices.

    Is this article simply an example of completely incompetent journalism, or are articles like these also part of a broader Zanu PF election agenda?

    Perhaps The Herald's article is a further example of Zanu PF testing its complex rigging machinery, where the state controlled media functions as a key cog in the rigging machine.

    Why else would it be important for the state-controlled mouthpiece of Zanu PF to use its pages to falsely and inaccurately argue that critics of its rigging practices have suddenly predicted that Zanu PF will be victors in the harmonised polls? Is this an effort to calculatedly build a perception among the populace that everyone - including groups that campaign hard for truth and accountability in electoral practices - have come around to the view that Zanu PF will be legitimate victors? Is this an attempt to provide Zanu PF with the means, in a few month's time after a problematic election, to defend themselves by saying 'look, even our former critics have been saying for months that we would be the inevitable winner - just look at these articles in the media...'.

    Or is it an attempt to undermine the criticisms they know in advance will emerge over the next few months via the election monitoring projects Sokwanele routinely carries out, and which generally expose a gamut of troubling 'rigging practices' mostly carried out by the Zanu PF party. These Sokwanele projects include Zimbabwe Election Watch and Zimbabwe Referendum Watch.

    The Herald, and Zanu PF, should heed a warning that the common populace are not stupid, and that calculated misreporting may actually backfire on their overall agenda. We point them towards one Zimbabwean citizen who commented to one of our activists that she was planning to vote 'No' in the referendum. When asked why the citizen guilelessly responded: "Because The Herald keeps telling us to vote 'Yes' and everyone knows that The Herald lies".

    Visit the Sokwanele fact sheet

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