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Election Watch Issue 1- 2011
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Thursday December 1st - Wednesday December 14th 2011
December 16, 2011

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Intolerant language characterize ZANU PF conference

The ZANU PF annual national conference in Bulawayo was the highlight of the campaign activities of Zimbabwe's main political parties in the media as the year drew to a close.

The state media devoted 142 (85%) of the 167 reports they carried on the activities of the parties in the inclusive government to the event. Of these, 132 were positive portrayal of President Mugabe and his party, while the remaining 10 were neutral.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC received attention in 23 stories, 14 of which focussed on Tsvangirai's "marriage" to businesswoman Locadia Karimatsenga Tembo. None of the 23 reports on the MDC-T were positive: four were neutral and the rest (19) negative. The activities of the smaller MDC faction, led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, were covered in two reports, (one neutral and the other negative).

But it was the belligerent remarks by President Mugabe and other senior ZANU PF officials at the conference, which exposed the political intolerance and continued poisonous political atmosphere in the country despite the formation of the inclusive government in 2009. There were 19 such utterances recorded in the media in the period under review.

While Article 19.1 (e) of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) discourages the media from "using abusive language that may incite hostility or unfairly undermine political parties and organizations", none of these media analysed the implications of these remarks on the country's volatile political situation.

In one case, the media passively reported President Mugabe telling his party supporters at the congress to prepare for the burial of the inclusive government and those "condemned" by the people, saying it was high time Zimbabweans terminated this political arrangement through elections as the MDC arm of government was "frustrating" the implementation of Cabinet decisions (The Sunday Mail and The Standard, 11/12).

The two papers quoted Mugabe: "Let us now start preparing for elections and as we do that, we are digging the grave of this monster (the inclusive government). The grave must not always be the usual six feet: it must be six feet times 10 deeper and deeper and deeper and never again to come out. Those who have ridden it without the ticket from the people; those who just asked for a lift and were given a free lift will sink with it six feet, six feet, six feet and six feet times 10."

He added: "As to where they will go that is not our concern. Are you ready to dig the grave? Have you (got) the picks and shovels ready? And have you identified where the graves will be? Are you sure you have pastors and priests to pray for them? What is left now is for us to decide on the day when those who have been condemned are put to death."

These comments came at a time Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been under a month-long attack from the state media and their "columnists" such as Jonathan Moyo and Nathaniel Manheru for his alleged traditional marriage to Locadia in November, a month in which such cultural practices are considered taboo in Zimbabwe.

In fact, The Sunday Times (11/12) reported The MDC-T as having lodged a complaint with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) over Moyo's "abusive language" and "hate speech" in one of his weekly installment in The Sunday Mail (4/12) headlined: Morgan's open-zip and shut-mind approaches. In it, the former Information Minister mocked Tsvangirai over his alleged bed hopping.

Reportedly, the MDC-T viewed Moyo's article as not only "defamatory" and "malicious", but also as violating Article 19.1 (e) of the GPA.

The private media's coverage of the three coalition parties was generally balanced.

They accessed the performance of each of the three parties, exposing their ideological shortcomings and the blunders of their leaders. This was reflected in the 98 reports the private media carried: [ZANU PF (72), MDC-T (21) and MDC-N (five)].

THIS week the state broadcaster, ZBC, gave lavish coverage to the recent three-day ZANU PF annual congress. For example, ZTV alone devoted nearly 11 hours of airtime to the event in the four days that MMPZ monitored the station's coverage of the proceedings. This consisted live coverage, prime time viewing and news bulletins (8pm).

  • Live coverage - ZTV beamed live the ZANU PF conference for three days. However, due to power outages, MMPZ was only able to monitor the first two days (8 and 9/12), which chewed off a total of seven hours 49 minutes of normal programming of the country's sole TV station. The first day of the congress (8/12) was broadcast live for nearly six hours in the afternoon while the second day received nearly two hours.
  • Prime time viewing - On the first day of the congress (8/12) ZTV also ran a "special edition" of the conference at 6pm, a slot reserved for its early evening news bulletin. The programme ran for 2 hours 40 minutes and replaced the prime time programming leading to the main
    8pm news bulletin.
  • News bulletins (8pm) - The congress dominated news programming on ZTV. It consumed a quarter (one hour) of the four hours of the station's main News Hour bulletins (6-9/12) that MMPZ monitored (including sport, foreign news, business and the entertainment segments).

Such prominence given to the ZANU PF congress constitutes grossly inequitable, unfair and partisan publicity to one political party and makes nonsense of Article 19d of the Global Political Agreement advocating "balanced and fair coverage" of the coalition parties' "legitimate political activities".

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