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Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
from Weekly Media Update 2004-46
Monday November 15th – Sunday November 21st
MOST of the
media failed to explain to their audiences how the self-serving
interests of the ruling party appear to have assumed predominance
over Parliament’s mandate to enact laws that do not violate the
constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of Zimbabweans.
This was clearly
demonstrated by their failure to fully expose ZANU PF’s continued
abuse of its majority in Parliament to subvert parliamentary procedures
and ram through controversial laws such as the NGO Bill and the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill, despite findings by the Parliamentary
Legal Committee (PLC) that both the proposed laws contained provisions
that violate the Constitution, the country’s supreme law.
except for The Financial Gazette (18/11), none of the media
attempted to fully discuss the controversies surrounding government’s
determination to promulgate the two Bills. Neither did they give
full details of the PLC’s strong criticism of the proposed laws,
let alone, reconcile the committee’s objections with ZANU PF’s justifications
for disregarding them.
government media avoided these issues by dwelling more on the trivial
aspects of the matter as exemplified by Power FM (17/11, 6am) ZTV
(17/11, 8pm), The Herald and Chronicle (18/11). Instead
of adequately informing their audiences of the MPs’ debate during
the unprecedented all-night sitting of Parliament, which resulted
in ZANU PF’s legislators throwing out the PLC’s adverse reports,
these media were content with magnifying the fact that the legislators
had sat for a record 16 hours "without recess breaking
its 2002 record of 13 hours".
(19/11) even went on to claim that the 16-hour marathon debate was
"a celebration of the vibrancy of our parliamentary democracy
and a sense of selfless duty by MPs" from both ZANU
PF and the opposition MDC. None of the government media questioned
why government was in such a hurry to fast-track the enactment of
the laws to the extent of suspending parliamentary standing orders.
Herald (19/11) drummed up a vague and feeble defence of the
conduct of the ruling party’s legislators, saying the suspension
of parliamentary standing orders was necessary because "detractors"
have always alleged that there was "insufficient time
for the implementation of electoral reforms and called for the postponement
of next year’s general election". Moreover, it contended
that Parliament’s all-night debate reflected "meaningful
engagement between ZANU PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe",
which, it claimed, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has always "trashed".
while the paper was giving the impression that there was meaningful
dialogue in Parliament on the proposed laws, its previous issue
(18/11) and ZTV (18/11, 8pm) quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa
attacking MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, during parliamentary debate,
as "unpatriotic" and "State enemy
number one" for allegedly lobbying Europe to impose
sanctions on Zimbabwe.
There was no
attempt to analyse the underlying implications of such potentially
harmful remarks, which the Speaker, Emmerson Mnangagwa, defended
when the opposition sought a retraction.
Only SW Radio
Africa (18/11) condemned Chinamasa’s remarks and quoted MDC spokesman
Paul Themba Nyathi saying it was within Tsvangirai’s "rights
to suggest ways and means of exerting pressure on the government
of Mugabe so that it does what the people of Zimbabwe expect".
Mirror (21/11) also quoted MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube
expressing similar sentiments.
two organisations remained largely reticent about explaining the
effects of the proposed laws and failed to give details of the PLC’s
Independent (19/11) also failed in this regard. The paper briefly
mentioned the parliamentary proceedings on the NGO Bill within the
context of a demonstration by the National Constitutional Assembly
in its story, NCA protest foiled.
It was only
The Financial Gazette which highlighted that the PLC
had declared 12 provisions of the NGO Bill as "inconsistent
with the Constitution of Zimbabwe" and had thus described
the Bill as constituting "a determined and pervasive
attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms"
story, compiled while Parliament was still conducting its night
deliberations, warned that the PLC’s findings notwithstanding, ZANU
PF would use its parliamentary majority "to rubber stamp"
the two pieces of legislation.
government media reports were evasive, severely biased and misinformed
their audiences over the gravity of the PLC’s condemnation of the
The Herald (17/11) drowned the PLC’s critical report of the
ZEC Bill with the purported virtues of the proposed law, which Chinamasa
maintained dovetailed with the SADC principles and guidelines on
Power FM (17/11,
6am) also suffocated the PLC’s findings and cynically seemed to
celebrate the fact that ZANU PF had abused its majority to reject
the committee’s reports, saying the passage of the Bills to the
committee stage demonstrated that "the power
of numbers (has) started to work for the ruling ZANU PF".
emerged through The Daily Mirror (16/11) and the Financial
Gazette that ZANU PF had to whip its MPs into line to ensure
that the party outvoted the opposition to enact the Bills. The papers
reported that during caucus held a day before the debate on the
Bills, ZANU PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo had threatened ruling party
MPs with unspecified action from President Mugabe if they skipped
parliamentary sittings ahead of the debates on the Bills.
(15/11, 8pm) and The Herald (16/11) carried similar reports,
they failed to view the issue as ZANU PF’s attempts to force its
MPs to support the promulgation of unconstitutional legislation
regardless of their own independent convictions on the issue.
Zimbabwe Independent reported corporate law experts expressing
concern over government plans to fast-track into law before year-end
the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies (RSIIC)
Bill following its recent amendment to cover banks as well. The
paper quoted lawyers criticising the law, which they viewed as plans
by the authorities to nationalise certain private companies "in
the wake of similar actions in agriculture".
Moyo told the paper that the "mischief" that RSIIC
was meant to address was well catered for under the Banking and
Companies Acts, so there was no need for the "drastic measures
proposed in the Bill". He also observed that "the
potential for abuse of the new powers is very high".
media ignored this matter, with The Herald (19/11) choosing
instead, to gloss over the full provisions of the Criminal Law (Codification
and Reform) Bill. The paper only dealt exclusively with that section
of the Bill repealing the Witchcraft Suppression Act while remaining
silent on the changes it would bring to other affected laws such
as the Marriage, Sexual Offences, and the Criminal Procedure and
briefly referring to the fact that Parliament had thrown out the
PLC’s adverse report on that Bill as well, the paper once again
failed to state categorically what the committee’s objections were.
A glimpse into some of the secretive provisions of the Bill only
emerged after the paper cited acting chairperson of the PLC, Innocent
Gonese, as claiming that "some sections of the Bill that
included Clause 33 criminalising statements denigrating the person
of the President or Acting President were unconstitutional"
because to "ring-fence his office amounted to a derogation
from fundamental freedoms" of the citizenry.
the private media completely ignored reporting on this proposed
piece of legislation.
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