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Post strike retribution - Excerpt from Weekly update 2003-23
June 09 - June 15, 2003
THE arrest and
detention of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai following the opposition
organized mass action, was by no means the only form of government’s
retribution against perceived opponents during the week. Government
officials also threatened to punish farmers, businesses, teachers
and even some diplomats for allegedly supporting the MDC protest.
While the government-controlled
media unquestioningly regurgitated the authorities’ inflammatory
statements, exposing themselves to be the unbridled conduits of
hate speech and willing tools of incitement, the private media condemned
such threats and analyzed their underlying implications.
When the week
opened, ZBC (09/6, 8pm) quoted Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
defending Tsvangirai’s arrest and misrepresenting the MDC’s democratic
right to demonstrate peacefully by claiming that the opposition
wanted to topple the government "through incitement to
violence and lawlessness".
No effort was
made to clarify this deliberate distortion of the MDC’s agenda,
which also rubbed off on the government-controlled Press. For example,
The Herald (9/6), which openly mocked and celebrated Tsvangirai’s
detention, castigated him for thinking that he was "above
the law" by "instigating the overthrow of a legitimately
elected Government". It observed that his arrest "will
reassure Zimbabweans that the justice system is alive and well in
the country". This was hardly surprising as the paper led
the campaign for Tsvangirai’s arrest before and during the MDC organized
In fact, Tsvangirai’s
lawyer George Bizos referred to this media coverage during Tsvangirai’s
bail application when he noted that the State had based its case
against the MDC leader on "editorialized allegations from
newspaper cuttings", The Daily News (12/6).
Herald (12/6) quoted Bizos as having told the High Court that
the paper "purported to give directions to the judiciary
as to how it should deal with Tsvangirai".
It was only
the private media that viewed the arrest as vindictive and a violation
of the opposition’s democratic right to peaceful protest. The
Standard (15/6) for example, described the arrest as "callous
and cruel" adding that Tsvangirai did not call for "
the unconstitutional removal of President Mugabe" as the
government and the media it controls claimed.
that Tsvangirai had not called for the violent ouster of government,
The Daily News on Sunday carried a transcript of Tsvangirai’s
speech upon which the State based their case. Nowhere in the transcript
did he call for the "unconstitutional" removal
of President Mugabe. Earlier, its sister paper, The Daily News
(13/6) reported that Tsvangirai’s lawyers also produced in court
video evidence of him calling on his supporters to shun violence
during the proposed demonstrations. The Herald of the same
day also revealed this, but still continued to give the impression
that he was guilty.
In fact, President
Mugabe made it abundantly clear while addressing a rally in Nyanga
on June 12 that Tsvangirai’s arrest was indeed a fulfillment of
his government’s threat, that it would teach the MDC a "lesson".
ZBC (12/6, 8pm) quoted Mugabe as saying "…We hope they
have learnt their lesson. If they haven’t they will learn it the
harder way. Harder than it has been so far". He
mockingly equated remand prison where Tsvangirai is being detained
to State House. Mugabe made similar threats while addressing another
rally in Nyamandlovu, ZBC (13/6, 8pm) and The Herald
During the Nyanga
rally Mugabe also declared that government would crack down on the
MDC and its perceived sympathizers, corroborating The Daily News
story (9/6), Mugabe cracks whip. ZTV (12/06, 8pm) quoted
him accusing British High Commissioner, Sir Brian Donnelly, of supporting
the MDC and threatened to "kick him out of this
country" if he continued to do so.
As has become
the norm in the public media, Mugabe’s accusations against Britain
and its High Commissioner were simply taken as fact as illustrated
by editorials in The Herald (14/6) and The Sunday
News (15/6). The Herald, Writing on the wall for Donnelly,
passively agreed with Mugabe, saying the British government believed
that "in Donnelly, they have found a man of equal stamina
to plot and topple President Mugabe and his government".
was provided to support these serious allegations and no comment
was sought from the High Commission. Its response was only accessed
by The Daily News (14/6) and The Standard (15/6).
ZBC (12/6, 8pm)
also quoted Mugabe threatening to seize farms still owned by white
commercial farmers, whom he accused of supporting the MDC. He singled
out MDC MP Roy Bennet as one of the targets: "The likes
of Bennett, De Klerk are not deserving cases in regard
to allocation of land because they are destabilizing our society,
they are for illegality, they are supporting a party in its programme
of pursuing an illegal course to power… If they have that land,
that land will be taken from them and given to more loyal citizens…
They must go from here"
and racist outbursts belied Mugabe’s claims at international fora
that his land reforms were merely a correction of colonial injustice
and that political affiliation had no place in the process. However,
this escaped ZBC’s analytical capacity.Neither did the government-controlled
Press highlight this contradiction of policy. The Herald
and the Chronicle (13/6) simply recorded Mugabe’s speech
without any scrutiny.
Standard (15/6) deplored Mugabe’s remarks saying they were tantamount
to "gross abuse of power". The paper also observed
that such statements vindicate those who "attach a racist"
label to Mugabe’s name.
News on Sunday noted that Mugabe’s remarks would trigger fresh
farm invasions and quoted MDC shadow Agriculture Minister Renson
Gasela as saying they would further "cripple the agriculture
against white farmers, diplomats and the MDC, ZBC (ZTV, 9/6,8pm)
also revealed that "six companies risk losing their operating
licences for not opening business last week as government takes
stern measures against companies that defied a directive to trade".
According to Trade and Industry Minister, Samuel Mumbengegwi,
government had identified 14 companies that closed during the stayaway
and that of these six were "totally uncooperative"
in providing reasons why they had done so, while the remaining "eight
were very conciliatory".
the companies, Mumbengegwi said the six businesses would "be
taken over either by indigenous entrepreneurs" or by
"government through its arm, the Industrial Development
did not elaborate about how such takeovers would take place. ZBC
did not seek any legal opinion on the issue, or the implications
of taking such measures.
broadcaster called for punitive measures against teachers and transport
operators. For example, ZTV (11/6,7am) claimed: "Most
people said the punitive action should also be applied to schools,
transport operators and other essential service providers who supported
illegal demonstrations by withdrawing service… Some transport operators
were allegedly paid a week’s earnings by the opposition to withdraw
their vehicles from service resulting in many workers failing to
report for duty…" Not a shred of evidence was provided
to support these claims.
The next day,
The Daily News (12/6) reported that teachers, who were suspected
of supporting the mass action, were already facing the brunt of
ZANU PF intolerance. The Daily News, its Sunday sister and
the Weekend Tribune carried 12 incidents of physical assaults
and intimidation of perceived MDC activists by alleged ZANU-PF supporters.
None appeared in the government-controlled media.
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