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2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
Media Update 56
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
June 30, 2008
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.
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
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.
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.
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
1: Voice distribution in the Herald and Chronicle
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