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  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles

  • Daily Media Update 56
    Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
    June 30, 2008

    Election results summary
    Two questions taxed the minds of the Zimbabwean nation today; how come the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's "meticulous" verification and collation of the vote that took weeks to complete in March was conducted so efficiently following the closure of the polls in last Friday's presidential run-off election; and why was the inauguration ceremony of Robert Mugabe as president conducted with such unseemly haste? In fact, for those who had access to DSTV, it appeared that Sunday's ceremony was conducted so hastily that it might even have been staged before the final results of the election had been announced. Why had it been necessary to reinstall Mugabe so hurriedly? But answers to these important questions were missing in all the government-controlled media. Ironically, on Sunday even the BBC and Al Jazeera were showing clips of the inauguration of Mugabe as president before ZTV, which begged the question, why did the public broadcaster not provide its audiences with live coverage of such an important event? There were no answers to that either. Instead, ZBC announced the final results late on Sunday afternoon, staged a propaganda panel show marveling at Mugabe's amazing victory and then screened the president's inauguration. And today (Monday) all that was left for the newspapers to do was to confirm yesterday's extraordinary events in print.

    Daily Print Media Report - Monday, June 30, 2008
    Exploiting their newspaper market monopoly today, The Herald and Chronicle swamped their readers with news that the 84-year-old Mugabe had "romped to a landslide victory" in the presidential election run-off in which he was the only candidate. But the papers didn't see it that way. They continued to promote the official view that he had won against the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the contest five days before citing widespread state-sponsored violence against his party's officials and supporters.

    The government-controlled dailies insisted Mugabe had won 2,150,269 votes (nearly double his March figures) "against Tsvangirai's paltry 233,000 votes, earning himself another mandate to lead the nation for the next five years," thus giving credibility to the discredited election process itself and to Mugabe's claim to be a legitimate winner. None of the two papers' 14 stories on election matters explained the purpose of Mugabe's hurried installation ceremony so soon after the announcement of the final results. And they suffocated all news of the SADC and Pan-African Parliamentary observer missions' statements condemning the election as having been so badly compromised that it did not reflect the will of Zimbabweans.

    The papers also continued to stifle the growing tide of international criticism of the corrupted electoral process, including the nationwide campaign of violence against the MDC and the electorate at large, as well as Mugabe's determination to press on with the election despite Tsvangirai's decision to withdraw.
    The state dailies reported four incidents of political violence in two stories, which they attributed to the opposition party.

    Election administration
    Regardless of the fact that the presidential run-off was a one-man race, the government papers viewed the outcome of the poll as a "massive" victory for Mugabe who "emerged the undisputed winner". They avoided mentioning that Tsvangirai had withdrawn from the contest and tried to portray the turnout as normal by quoting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) deputy chief elections Officer Utloile Silaigwana saying "we realized that almost the same number of voters who cast their votes in March voted in this election."

    While The Herald and Chronicle reported Mugabe appealing to "the nation to look . . . to the future with a sense of unity" and for "comprehensive inter-party dialogue", during his installation speech, they misleadingly reported "well placed sources" saying that: " . . . opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday trying to seek audience with President Mugabe before the latter left for an African Union summit in Egypt," in an attempt to forge unity with the ZANU PF. But they made no attempt to ask the MDC itself if these claims were true. In this way they dishonestly implied that Tsvangirai was ready to accept any terms set by Mugabe.

    The papers failed to carry any independent analysis of the election result, and remained silent about the unprecedented number of spoilt ballots (131,481). Tsvangirai himself was not on their list of commentators.
    They did report Mugabe's departure for an African Union summit in Egypt, but remained silent about several countries' plans to criticize Zimbabwe for its failure to stage a credible election.

    It only emerged in the private online agency reports that African observers had denounced Zimbabwe's elections. For instance the Zimdaily and Zim Online (30/6) quoted the Pan African Parliamentary observer mission saying many of the voters who turned out to vote did so out of fear of retribution from ZANU PF militia groups. The online agencies also said the observer mission dismissed the vote as having been neither free nor fair and called for the holding fresh elections as soon as possible.

    Political violence
    All cases of political violence in the government-controlled papers continued to be attributed to the MDC.
    For example, the Chronicle reported that MDC members in Nkayi had attacked ZANU PF youths on the eve of the run-off. The paper quoted a ZANU PF youth claiming they had been attacked after visiting the home of an MDC supporter at 4pm. However, the paper did not explain what provoked the MDC youths to attack ZANU PF members, nor did they seek comment from eye-witnesses to substantiate the origin of the violence. It only relied on the story from a ZANU PF youth, Marko Ngwenya, who claimed that he had been attacked by the MDC.

    Both dailies repeated a report about the arrest of 18 MDC officials in Matabeleland North on Thursday. This appeared in the government's Saturday papers.

    Fig 1: Voice distribution in the Herald and Chronicle

    ZANU PF MDC ZEC Govt Police Foreign Diplomats Lawyers

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