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and Human rights Conspiracies
Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2004-41
Monday October 11th - Sunday October 17th
media’s role as propaganda tools of the ruling ZANU PF was reconfirmed
this week by the way they churned conspiracies to divert attention
from Africa’s criticism of government’s poor governance record.
The web of conspiracies,
premised on government’s anti-West rhetoric, followed fresh accusations
of bad governance against Harare contained in a United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa (UNECA) report tabled in Ethiopia recently
during the Fourth African Development Forum.
Instead of establishing
the veracity of the report, the public media sought to either discredit
those who compiled the report or the manner in which it was presented
in Ethiopia. As a result, none of the official media’s stories on
the matter gave information on the contents of the report and how
it was compiled.
This was exemplified
by reports carried by The Herald (13, 14 and 15/10), ZTV
(13/10, 6pm and 8pm), Radio Zimbabwe (13/10, 8pm) and Power FM (14/10,
6am), which were one-sided accounts of government officials or their
supporters criticising the manner in which the UNECA report was
(13/10) Anti-Zim report blasted, for instance, merely reported
the Zimbabwean delegation to the Fourth African Development Forum
led by Professor Jonathan Moyo as having launched a "scathing
attack" on the report’s claims that "there
was lack of good governance in Zimbabwe".
The paper claimed
that the Zimbabwe delegation was unhappy with the way it was "ambushed"
with the report as it only became aware of it in the meeting.
Moyo was cited as saying ideally the report should have been handed
to the delegates at registration "ahead of its oral presentation".
Instead of analysing
the contents of the report the story then degenerated into a profile
of Moyo’s heroics in which he was depicted as having humiliated
Professor Georges Nzongola, who chaired the session when the report
was tabled, and UNECA executive secretary Dr K. Y. Amaoko, over
the paper "the shaken Prof Nzongola and Dr Amaoko went
on to give unconvincing responses, limply adding on that there was
still time to have more contributions on the matter".
In order to
obfuscate the veracity of the allegations of bad governance, The
Herald carried two stories, Anti-Zim report: UN body admits
erring (14/10) and UN team admits bungling four other reports
(15/10). The stories sought to divert attention to the methodologies
used to compile the report and the procedure used in presenting
Herald quoted a UNECA official rightly emphasising on the contents
of the report and not mere procedures. The unnamed UNECA official
reportedly told The Herald (14/10) that he did not think
that taking the report to all stakeholders " would have
made any difference" while another unnamed UNECA official
told the next edition of the paper (15/10) that the commission had
treated Zimbabwe the same way it had treated four other countries.
media questioned the Zimbabwe delegation’s complaints.
Independent (15/10), for example, noted: "We did
not hear many complaints by other countries mentioned in bad light
in the report except Kenya, which argued that it was in fact doing
more than most African countries to fight corruption".
In fact, though
The Herald (14 15/10) maintained that government had no knowledge
of the report that was compiled by the Zimbabwe chapter of the Southern
African Political and Economic Series (SAPES), The Daily Mirror
(14/10) and its sister paper, the Sunday Mirror (17/10),
carried statements by SAPES rebutting these claims.
The Daily Mirror reported SAPES stating that contrary to
assertions in the state-controlled media, government was aware of
the report as the organisation had presented it to the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs prior to the Ethiopia meeting. SAPES also stated
that at least ten government ministries were consulted during its
Mirror concurred. Its Behind the Words column observed
that government claims that it not even seen the report smelt of
"a rotting fish" and was a familiar "albeit
media skirted this issue. Instead, The Herald (15/10) created
even more confusion on the matter when it quoted senior press secretary
in the Information Ministry Joseph Neusu seemingly backtracking
on government’s claims that SAPES was behind the compilation of
SAPES’ claims, Neusu argued that there were two reports: SAPES Trust’s
Monitoring Progress Towards Good Governance in Zimbabwe and
UNECA’s Striving for Good Governance in Africa, a narrative
summary of 28 African country reports.
He thus asserted
that the Mirror "had failed to understand the
fundamental differences between the two reports" because
when Moyo spoke about delegates being "ambushed"
he was referring to the tabling of the UNECA report.
paper conveniently ignored that it had not made the distinction
when it named SAPES as the author of the controversial report in
its previous issue (13/10). This prompted the Sunday Mirror to wonder
why government was making the "correction" if it had not
accused SAPES of compiling the report in the first place.
Just like the
Sunday Mirror, The Zimbabwe Independent was not convinced
by the authorities’ explanations of what transpired in Ethiopia
as reported in the government media. Its comment noted that government
had used "the same mantra" at the African
Union Summit in Addis Ababa three months ago when Foreign Affairs
Minister opposed the tabling of a report by the African Commission
on Human and People’s rights on the hollow grounds that the government
had not seen it prior to the meeting.
Said the paper:
"This now appears to be the official line to avoid embarrassing
truths", adding "but this will not cleanse
Zimbabwe of the bad boy image it has earned over the years courtesy
of poor governance and economic mismanagement."
In fact, the
paper further observed that despite the furore created in government
circles by the presentation of the report the nation still did not
know what Zimbabwe was "accused of or what Moyo and his
team were mad about".
rang true of the media’s coverage of the issue: both the private
and government media are yet to fully reveal the contents of the
report to their audiences. A glimpse of the findings were nonetheless
revealed in The Financial Gazette (14/10), which reported
Zimbabwe as having been chastised along with Chad, Kenya, Malawi
and Ethiopia of lack of commitment "to respect and implement
the rule of law" in their countries.
But the government
media gave a conspiracy twist to the report and used it as a springboard
to recite their predictable accusations against the West.
ZTV (13/10, 6pm) reported "analysts" Claude Maredza and
William Nhara as urging Zimbabweans "to remain united
at a time when Zimbabwe’s image is being tarnished by the West…trying
to effect regime change", a sentiment shared by Radio
Zimbabwe (13/10, 8pm), which also cited "experts" as alleging
that "the West is damning the country at several international
But while the
government media tried to divert attention from government’s shortcomings
by blaming the country’s crises on the West, events on the ground
pointed to the contrary.
SW Radio Africa and Studio 7 reported a total of nine reports of
human rights violations or harassment of government’s perceived
enemies in the country. Of the nine reports, state agents were implicated
in seven while the rest implicated ZANU PF militia.
government media ignored these stories choosing rather to carry
several stories that named Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube, NGOs,
the MDC, "certain sections of the apartheid Press",
Britain, the USA, eminent figures such as South Africa’s Desmond
Tutu, SA’s opposition leader Tony Leon and even the UN as central
characters in the alleged pursuit to effect regime change in the
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