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coverage of news
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2007-38
Monday September 24th - Sunday September 30th 2007
October 04, 2007
media failed to adequately inform their audiences on important national
developments during the week. These included the passing in Parliament
of the Indigenisation
and Empowerment Bill, the continued economic slide and labour
unrest in the country. The government media's 38 reports on
the matter (ZBC  and government papers ) either censored
or downplayed the impact of these developments. Only the private
media tried to critically examine these issues in the 49 stories
they devoted to the subject: private electronic media (31) and private
and Empowerment Bill
The government media
carried six passive Parliamentary reports on the Bill's passage.
Notably, no effort was made to assess the impact of the proposed
law on the fundamental issue of property rights and investor confidence
in the country. For example, The Herald and Chronicle (27/9) simply
announced that the Bill had "sailed" through the House
without amendments. However, while The Herald and Chronicle (27/9)
captured some of the "heated exchanges" between ruling
and opposition MPs over contentious provisions of the Bill, such
as its definition of "indigenous people", they did not
seek alternative views on the matter.
The government dailies,
for example, simply reported Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister,
Paul Mangwana, dismissing opposition concerns that the definition
was "racist" as it excluded white Zimbabweans from benefiting
on the basis that the wording of the Bill "deliberately avoided
the use of the word 'black' and 'white'"
but "'indigenous Zimbabweans'". It was only
the private media that shed light on the implications of the Bill.
Apart from highlighting
its racist nature, these media reported analysts and businesses
expressing alarm at the Bill's provisions, which they argued
would scare away potential investors and force the few remaining
companies to leave the country. It was against this backdrop that
The Financial Gazette (27/9) reported SA Reserve Bank Governor Tito
Mboweni putting the matter into perspective by observing that "the
removal of property rights in Zimbabwe has been a source of the
country's problems". The paper revealed how government
had ignored advice from businesses to settle for a moderate Bill
that would, among others, reduce local ownership threshold to 30
percent from the proposed 51 percent. However, the paper and Zimbabwe
Independent (28/9) reported Mangwana saying those foreign-owned
businesses not happy with the proposed law "can simply go".
Zimdaily (27/9) claimed government had started compiling lists of
companies to be taken over but did not substantiate its allegations.
b) Labour unrest
The government media
blacked out labour unrest in the country, characterised by a go-slow
by teachers and health service workers. The closest they came to
reporting on the matter was when ZTV (25/9, 6pm) reported Health
Deputy Minister Edwin Muguti and Education Permanent Secretary Stephen
Mahere calling on government to "come up with attractive packages"
and improve "conditions of service to stem the brain drain".
Only the private media highlighted the extent of the labour discontent
and its negative effects. For example, Studio 7 (24/9), SW Radio
Africa and ZimOnline (27/9) and The Standard (30/9) reported on
the outbreak of a strike by teachers and non-academic staff over
poor working conditions at various council, mission and government
schools, which they claimed could be one of the most crippling strikes
in the education sector since independence.
There was little valuable
information in the government media on the country's economic
meltdown. This week The Herald even inexplicably removed its front-page
regular Price Watch Column, used to update its readers on government's
gazetted prices of goods and services since the authorities embarked
on a price freeze campaign last June.
The Herald's decision
coincided with government's relaxation of its price slash
campaign that has resulted in the spiralling of commodity prices
and the massive fall of the Zimbabwe dollar on the black market,
but which the paper turned a blind eye to.
Only The Sunday Mail
(30/9) took stock of this development in its lead story: "Price
madness back again". However, the paper merely reported the
increases in isolation of government's new price increase
The government also failed
to examine the causes of persistent water and electricity shortages
and their impact on industry and households. Instead, they passively
rehashed official assurances that the problems would be solved.
For instance, ZTV (25/9, 8pm) quoted Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi
and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono assuring residents in Harare
and its satellite towns that the water situation was going to improve.
They did not say how and when.
There was equally no
clarity as to the causes of the worsened power cuts, especially
as they came in the wake of government announcements that the shortages
would ease after Mozambique reportedly doubled electricity supplies
to Zimbabwe. The private media also failed to give informed coverage
on the new spate of price increases. However, they carried several
stories highlighting indicators of economic decline, which projected
government as having lost control of the economy. In one such story,
the Independent reported an unnamed "senior British diplomatic
source" as alleging that government's efforts to control
prices had "not only backfired" but "completely
fractured the supply and production chains behind the retail sector".
Earlier, Studio 7 (25/9)
and SW Radio Africa (26/9) attributed price increase to the drastic
drop in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar, which they said, "fell
ten times since May". The difference in the way the government
and private media reported on the issues is exemplified by the sourcing
patterns of the government papers and the private electronic media.
See Figs 5 and 6.
Fig 5: Voice
distribution in the official papers
Fig 6: Voice
distribution of the private electronic media
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