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Weekly Media Review 2011-17
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Monday April 25th - Sunday May 1st 2011
May 06, 2011

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State media abuse Workers' Day to vilify ZCTU, MDC-T

As Zimbabwean workers gathered at several venues across the country to commemorate International Workers' Day last Sunday, their activities received low-key publicity as the media appeared preoccupied with the MDCT national congress, held on the same weekend.

The official media devoted their 12 stories on the occasion to blaming the MDC-T and its allies for workers' plight, while presenting ZANU PF as the only party interested in the workers' welfare.

They reported workers as having "snubbed" celebrations organized by the country's main labour body and a key ally of the MDC-T, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) but provided no information on the activities of the smaller Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), affiliated to ZANU PF (ZBC 1 & 2/5, 8pm). In the past, the ZFTU used to receive widespread favourable publicity in the state media, including live coverage of its May Day celebrations on national television.

No attendance figures were given to support assertions by the government media that the ZCTU's functions were poorly attended.

In one of the reports, ZTV (1/5, 8pm) reported Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as having "surprised" a "small crowd" gathered at White City Stadium by attributing Zimbabwe's current economic problems to ZANU PF's indigenization programme. Instead of providing detail and context of Tsvangirai's speech, the station reported "analysts" dismissing his remarks as public posturing meant to please donors.

The station quoted ZANU PF Senator for Chimanimani, Monica Mutsvangwa, accusing the ZCTU of "ditching its mandate of representing workers" in favour of "pursuing (the West's) illegal regime change agenda".

The ZTV report then editorialised: "The ZCTU gave birth to the MDC political movement that has worked in collaboration with external elements to destabilize Zimbabwe's economy through the imposition of illegal sanctions. The ordinary worker in Zimbabwe has suffered immensely with hundreds of thousands rendered jobless due to illegal sanctions. This year's May Day marks yet another moment that reminds Zimbabweans that their livelihoods have been destroyed by organizations like the ZCTU and the MDC".

ZTV (1/5, 8pm) also selectively quoted workers "blasting" MDC-T arm of government for its alleged reluctance to increase civil servants' salaries and campaign for the removal of Western sanctions, which they blamed for workers' suffering. The workers "advocated for the acceleration of the indigenization programme for the empowerment of the black majority" (ZTV, 1/5, 8pm).

The Sunday Mail (1/5)'s editorial comment marketed ZANU PF's controversial indigenization policy as the panacea to workers' woes.

The government media did not widely report on labour leaders' messages to workers during the celebrations.

They only found space in the private media.

Although these media also subordinated the Workers' Day celebrations to the MDC-T congress, the six stories they carried reported on labour leaders' calls for pay rises for workers that match the poverty datum line, noting the "serious salary disparities" between executives and general employees, and urging both groups to "share the burden of economic recovery" (Daily News, 2/5).

NewsDay (2/5) reported workers and civil society groups warning against police brutality during a "well-attended" rally at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare. They were reported threatening to mobilize Zimbabweans to engage in Egypt-style uprisings if government continued to suppress their rights.

Like the government media, the private media did not say whether the ZFTU had celebrated Workers' Day.

Earlier, the private media reported the police as having attempted to ban some ZCTU meetings and public marches to commemorate the day (ZimOnline, 27/4).

Reportedly, the ban was overturned by the High Court following an application by the ZCTU (SW Radio Africa, 29/4).

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