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Response to The Herald's article titled 'Sokwanele predicts Zanu-PF
victory in harmonised polls'
April 04, 2013
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?
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
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.
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':
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
In fact, the
full context of that paragraph, taken from the ERC report (page
10) reads as follows (emphasis added):
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.
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
Is this article
simply an example of completely incompetent journalism, or are articles
like these also part of a broader Zanu PF election agenda?
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
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".
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