Back to Index
on civic and religious bodies
Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2004-28
Monday July 5th – Sunday July 11th 2004
This week the
government media intensified their onslaught on civic bodies and
the church in a bid to justify government plans to introduce a controversial
law that would enable the authorities to exert their stranglehold
on the operations of non-governmental and religious organisations
ahead of the March 2005 elections.
law, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) Bill, would empower
the authorities to police the activities of these institutions,
which they have accused since the 2000 general election, of advancing
foreign interests and supporting the opposition MDC at the expense
of their spiritual and humanitarian roles.
laws such as AIPPA and POSA have been enacted under the guise of
safeguarding the country’s sovereignty. These have been selectively
applied to severely curtail basic rights of those perceived as enemies
of the State, including the private media and the opposition MDC.
of viewing the impending law as yet another attempt to further erode
the country’s shrinking democratic space, the official media merely
colluded with the authorities in justifying government’s stance
against NGOs and the church. This was demonstrated by the way the
government media unnecessarily politicised church and humanitarian
aid issues or shielded government from relevant criticism over its
alleged human rights excesses by the clergy. Sadly, there was no
counter coverage to their reports, as the private media largely
remained noncommittal on the matters.
In fact, the
distribution of allegedly ‘poisonous’ sorghum seeds to farmers in
Masvingo by private companies contracted by the international humanitarian
organisation, CARE International, provided ZBC with a platform to
propagate anti-civic organisations sentiments. For example, ZTV
(12/07, 6pm) conveniently ignored facts surrounding the story in
an effort to malign CARE and use the issue to vindicate government’s
claims that NGOs were bent on sabotaging the country’s programmes.
Radio Zimbabwe and ZTV (13/7, 6pm) even tried to build a conspiracy
theory on the issue alleging that the fact that the seed came from
Botswana has "raised speculation…of interference on the part
of the Americans and the British, who have made it clear that they
were working with neighbouring countries to effect a regime change
acknowledging the role CARE played in providing food assistance
in the past, ZTV claimed that the organisation, and indeed other
relief agencies, were deliberately inducing food shortages in the
country to "undermine the agrarian reforms and justify their
stay in the country". No evidence was provided to support
individuals and farmers’ organisations representatives were quoted
calling for "drastic actions against NGOs", adding
that a "law to closely monitor the operations of NGOs" should
be put in place. Similarly, Radio Zimbabwe (13/7, 8pm) quoted unnamed
individuals saying, "the granting of wrong seeds resembles
an attempt to poison all Zimbabweans". The Sunday Mail
(18/7) echoed similar views despite the fact that CARE published
a Press statement in the same issue of the paper explaining the
The church was
not spared either. The government media lambasted the local Catholic
Church and its Bulawayo archbishop, Pius Ncube, for allegedly causing
chaos in the country by misrepresenting the human rights situation
in Zimbabwe to the international community. As a result, the Chronicle
(12/7) ran an emotionally-charged comment calling on the "Pope (to)
discipline Archbishop Ncube" for having allegedly stopped "preaching
repentance to the people" but taking "every opportunity
afforded him to lie about his own country and President Mugabe".
The paper’s comment followed a Sunday News (11/7) report, which
reported Ncube as having criticised Mugabe’s leadership qualities
and expressing doubts about the fairness of next year’s general
elections. The Herald (13/7) followed suit. It quoted ZANU PF’s
secretary for information in South Africa, Gadzira Chirumanzu attacking
Ncube saying he was agitating for " chaos and insurrection". Said
Chirumanzu: "The archbishop has abandoned his flock and seems to
have decided to become a full time politician. Surely that is his
right, but he must not weep when he is treated as such by other
Church in South Africa was also targeted. The Chronicle (14/7) castigated
it for having joined the crusade to lobby its government to impose
sanctions on Zimbabwe at the "spirited" instigation
of Ncube. So incensed by the activities of the church was government
that it reportedly urged the Roman Catholic church to "rein in one
of its arms, the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP)"
which, the authorities claimed, had been calling on the Australian
government to tighten screws on the country, The Daily Mirror (13/7).
The paper said the call came in the wake of the resumption of communication
between the CCJP and Brisbane’s Justice and Peace Commission, which
resulted in the Australians writing a letter to their government
on behalf of the CCJP, asking for its continued opposition to Zimbabwe.
quoted Department of Information secretary George Charamba describing
the CCJP’s actions as electioneering and as a fundraising activity
ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. But the CCJP national
director, Alouis Munyaradzi Chaumba, defended his organisation’s
activities saying, "Government is intolerant to other views and
that is destroying our country." He said that the recent African
Commission on Human and People’s Rights report, which accused government
of excessive human rights abuses, reflected a true "observation
that there was harassment of journalists, lawyers and civil society".
Reminding readers of the CCJP’s role during the liberation struggle
and the Matebeleland and Midlands disturbances in the mid-1980s,
the Mirror cited the Catholic Church insisting that contrary
to government’s claims, its role as champions of civic liberties
had not changed.
Herald and Chronicle (12/7) tried to politicise last
month’s appointment by Pope John Paul II of the Roman Catholic Bishop
of Hwange, Robert Ndlovu, as the archbishop for Harare. In their
reports, which bordered on tribalism, the papers cited unnamed sources
as contesting the appointment, which they described as irregular
and "a slap in the face", saying it had created "a
rift" in the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe because church
members were questioning the "rationale of appointing someone from
Matebeleland to head the Harare archdiocese" ahead of "suitable"
candidates from Mashonaland. The appointment, highlighted the papers,
would mean that Zimbabwe’s archbishops would both come from Matebeleland
since archbishop Pius Ncube of the Bulawayo Diocese also hails from
the same region.
The papers did
not, however, detail how the touted Mashonaland candidates were
better suited for the job than Ndlovu. Instead, they merely cited
"concerned church members" as being "particularly
incensed" by the approval given to Ndlovu’s appointment
by vocal government critics such as Mike Auret, the former director
of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and Father Nigel
Johnson, a cleric based in Bulawayo. Based on the presumption of
political machinations in the appointment of Ndlovu, the papers
then quoted part of a petition that the "concerned church
members" intended to send to the Pope "so that he
would rescind his decision". They argued that Ndlovu’s appointment
"should have put aside the politics of the day, racism, regionalism,
In fact, the
extent to which the government media politicised the issue was further
illustrated by the way The Herald (13/7) reluctantly accepted
clarification on Ndlovu’s appointment by the Pope’s representative
in Zimbabwe, Apostolic Nuncio Father Edward Adam. Though the paper
quoted Father Adam as saying the appointment was non-political and
was done "through the regular process required by Roman Catholic
Church" it still maintained that there were suspicions by some church
members that the selection was "unprocedural".
ZBC and the
private media ignored the story.
Visit the MMPZ
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.