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Election Watch Issue 15 - 2013
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
March 10, 2013

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Media fails to resolve ‘mystery’ of Maisiri’s death

The death of 12-year old Christpowers Maisiri on February 23rd in a suspected case of political violence in Headlands reignited debate in the media about Zimbabwe’s ability to hold free and fair elections later this year. It also triggered a war of words between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and ZANU PF about whether the incident was politically motivated; with both parties claiming that the Maisiri family belonged to them (Daily News,
25/2).

The private media, particularly the Daily News (25/2), rushed to conclude that ZANU PF was responsible, mostly on the strength of accounts by the MDC-T and the Maisiri family.

On the other hand, ZBC (26/2, 8pm) and The Herald (27 & 28/2) reported Maisiri’s death after three days, in the context of President Mugabe expressing concern over the boy’s death but dismissing accusations that his party was responsible, saying they were “baseless, offensive and malicious”. These media also gave prominence to “preliminary police investigations” “ruling out foul play” (The Herald, 28/2 and ZBC, 28/2, 8pm). Subsequently, none of the media independently investigated what exactly transpired.

The Herald (27/2) reported Mugabe’s statement, delivered through his spokesman George Charamba, expressing concern over the “emergence of violence is some parts of the country” and “ordering” the police to “arrest all perpetrators of political violence regardless of their social standing”.

The official daily appeared to trivialize the prevalence and implications of the current wave of political violence and harassment by describing these as “reports of isolated cases of political skirmishes” in Mashonaland West and Headlands.

The Daily News (25/2) was the first to report a bizarre claim by ZANU PF’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, saying that it was “impossible” for his party’s activists to kill Christpowers, because his father was a ZANU PF supporter (Daily News, 25/2). “Yes, I know Maisiri. But there’s no way he can contest against me when he is a member of my party. Yes, he comes from Chief Makoni’s area…but he is not an MDC supporter.”

The paper had contacted Mutasa as the current MP for the district after Maisiri and the MDC-T had accused ZANU PF of being linked to Christpowers’ death. But the daily also reported the Maisiri family claiming they had been the victim of several previous incidents of political violence, which they blamed on ZANU PF.

Two days later, The Herald (27/2) appeared to reinforce Mutasa’s claims by quoting ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo saying his party could not have attacked the Maisiri family because of “the existence of a cordial relationship” between the two. Gumbo said his party believed the incident, like others before it, “was staged to try to put Zimbabwe on the international spotlight with a view to discrediting what is now an imminent and inevitable ZANU PF victory in the coming elections”.

Earlier, The Herald (26/2) downplayed an incident of ZANU PF intra-party violence in Hurungwe West and failed to disclose the political affiliation of two senior ZANU PF officials involved. The daily simply reported “businessman” Temba Mliswa as having been arrested “following skirmishes” where Hurungwe East legislator Sarah Mahoka “was injured in an attack by youths, while trying to address a meeting” at Zimoja Business Centre.

In another case, The Herald (28/2) reported a court appearance of five MDCT youths from Chitungwiza who allegedly “tore posters” of Mugabe and late nationalist Solomon Mujuru before “beating up” ZANU PF youths “in politically-inspired violence”. The Herald did not explain why the MDC-T activists were only charged with “disorderly conduct” when the paper had claimed they assaulted ZANU PF supporters.

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