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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles


  • Daily Election Report - Issue 2
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    July 16, 2013

    Electronic media report for Monday, July 15th, 2013

    Summary

    News of the day in all the electronic media were reports of the chaotic nature of the special early voting for the uniformed forces and civil servants who will be on duty on Election Day, as well as President Mugabe’s Marondera rally. But while ZBC reported Mugabe as “taking a swipe” at the MDC formations for “running off to the African Union”, none of the electronic media really cottoned onto the fact that the source of the President’s angry speech outside Rudhaka Stadium was his apparent reference to the possibility that the AU was likely to hold an emergency meeting this Friday (July 19th) over Zimbabwe’s electoral preparations.

    As brokers of the Government of National Unity, the AU and SADC are also acting as guarantors of a free and fair election, a condition the parties to the coalition government signed up to in an agreement after the discredited presidential run-off election of June 2008.

    However, this news was left to the print media to report the next day (see report below).

    The Stats

    • The electronic media carried 27 reports on harmonized national elections to be held on July 31st. Of these, 14 (52%) appeared on the national broadcaster, ZBC [ZTV (12) and Spot FM (2)].
    • Private radio stations (ZiFM, Star FM, Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa) aired the remaining 13.
    • Thirteen (48%) of the 27 reports were on party campaign activities. Eleven (41%) were on the administration of the elections.
    • The remaining three were on politically motivated violence.

    Campaign Activities

    ZBC bias continues to contaminate its bulletins

    The electronic media carried 13 reports on the campaign activities of Zimbabwe’s two main ruling parties, MDC-T and Zanu-PF.

    Of these, nine (69%) appeared on the national broadcaster, ZBC [ZTV (eight) and Spot FM (one)].
    Private radio stations broadcast the remaining four.

    Seven (78%) of the nine reports that appeared on ZBC were all overwhelmingly positive stories on the activities of President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
    Two reports covered campaign rallies of the MDC-T, both of them negative.

    In its six reports on Zanu-PF’s activities, ZTV reported on the party’s election campaigns in Marondera, Zvimba North, Chegutu and Binga, giving the party positive exposure lasting a total of 26 minutes in its 8pm bulletin. This compared to just 2 minutes 37 seconds given to covering the MDC-T in its two reports.

    Leading its main evening news bulletin with President Mugabe’s fiery speech to the “ululating multitudes of people gathered at Rudhaka Stadium”, ZTV’s senior news reporter Judith Makwanya reported Mugabe as saying the, “attempts to overturn the Constitutional Court ruling for elections to be held in two weeks’ time will not work as regional bodies have no jurisdiction over the country’s courts.”

    And Mugabe himself was quoted saying, “Now they have taken the case to AU after failing at SADC. The dishonest and absolutely deceitful British are supporting that.”

    But there was no explanation as to the cause of this outburst, or how the British were involved.

    The country’s sole television station also reported Mugabe as having had “no kind words for MDC-T councillors”, who were reportedly “repossessing houses of residents in Marondera town for defaulting despite earlier on promising the residents they would inherit the debt once voted into office”, while addressing “tens of thousands” of supporters at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera.

    The President called on Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo “to make sure that all residents’ properties are safe from such repossessions”.

    In one of its reports on the MDC-T, ZTV contrived to distort the meaning of the Prime Minister’s comments at a rally at Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo saying he had “castigated civil servants for failing to vote for his party in the 2008 elections”. However, the report only recorded Tsvangirai saying: “When you go and vote consider what will make your children have a better life.”

    How this constituted “castigating” civil servants remained unexplained.

    The other story was based on Tsvangirai’s “admission” that the party’s youth leader, Solomon Madzore, “was out of line” when he allegedly incited violence, while addressing party supporters at Rudhaka Stadium last week.

    In contrast, the private radio stations’ coverage of the activities of Zimbabwe’s main parties was wide-ranging and balanced, but they too, failed to pick up the point reported in the print media that Mugabe had alluded to an urgent meeting of the AU to discuss Zimbabwe’s election preparations.

    Political advertising

    ‘Mystery’ advertisements continue to tarnish ZBC’s conduct

    Zimbabwe’s sole national television station, ZTV, broadcast eight political advertisements during the three-hour prime-time period covering News hour.

    These comprised five MDC-T adverts, which on occasions, were immediately followed by unidentified “adverts” aimed at discrediting Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party for being responsible for inviting sanctions that ruined the country’s economy, defending homosexuality as a human right, and condemning the Prime Minister’s sexual morality.

    MMPZ’s report yesterday pointed out that these adverts are violating the Electoral Law because they are not clearly identified as advertising material and that those responsible for airing them are not identified either. As they stand, they appear to be editorial material attacking the personality of the Prime Minister inserted by ZBC into their own programming. This constitutes a flagrant violation of the public broadcaster’s national mandate - and the Electoral Law – that demands the broadcaster provides fair and balanced coverage of all political contestants. Our report yesterday (July 15th, 2013) has more detail on this. MMPZ again calls upon the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure these advertisements masquerading as editorial comment are clearly identified as advertisements and that the advertisers themselves are also clearly identified.

    Current affairs

    The electronic media broadcast four current affairs programmes, two of which appeared on ZTV. ZiFM aired the other two.
    One of ZTV’s programmes, Media Watch, might have been used to provide the electorate with useful information. But it missed this opportunity due to the fact that the presenter, Justin Mahlahla, restricted himself to the vaguest of questions for his guests, ZRP spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, and “political analyst” Tafataona Mahoso.

    Here are excerpts:

    Mahlahla’s opening remarks: “It is exactly 16 days before the nation goes for the harmonized elections…How prepared are the police?

    Charamba: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police is actually fully prepared and we have the capacity to successfully police these harmonized elections. As an organization we actually have a very rich experience in ensuring that events of this magnitude and importance are conducted in a peaceful environment.”

    Mahlahla: What do you expect the media to be focusing on? Mahoso: “I expect the media to focus on the interest of the people. The level playing field can only materialize provided we are talking about a level playing field for the people of Zimbabwe.”

    However, ZTV’s other current affairs programme, The Manifesto, and ZiFM’s two programmes (The Ballot Box and 16/35 with Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa), were generally informative.

    The programmes hosted various guests such as Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa and the party’s secretary-general, Ralph Muguni; People’s Democratic Union leader Chris Sibindi; and Shaleen Nyamutswa, and an ordinary woman from Mutare, to discuss the background and goals of their parties; and the need for peace before, during and after elections.

    Print media report for Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

    Summary

    Of all the media, only NewsDay interpreted President Mugabe’s comments at the Zanu-PF rally in Marondera on Monday as a reference to the possibility that the African Union was planning a meeting on Friday over Zimbabwe’s election preparations.

    The newspaper quoted the President as saying; “they (the MDCs) have taken the matter to the AU…so we have sent (Justice Minister Patrick) Chinamasa to be prepared on the 19th of July. “They want to postpone the elections but that will never happen, with the absolute deceitful British who are supporting that.”

    While The Herald and the Daily News also carried the same quotes in the original Shona, they attributed his belligerent comments as just a warning to Western nations that the election could not be postponed. This was exemplified by The Herald’s headline, ‘Leave us Alone, West Told’.

    This story, together with the chaotic nature of the special early voting exercise for the police and civil servants who will be on duty on Election Day, were the highlights of the news in the Press, although all three newspapers also reported the launch of the SADC observer mission.

    The Stats

    • The print media carried 28 reports on the harmonized elections, scheduled for July 31st.
      Of these, 15 (54%) were contained in the state-owned daily, The Herald. The remaining 13 appeared in the private newspapers, NewsDay and The Daily News.
    • Sixteen (57%) were on the administration of the elections, while the remaining 12 were on party political campaigns.
    • In addition, the papers carried two adverts on voter awareness. The adverts, which were sponsored by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and a civic organization, Women’s Trust, appeared in The Herald and Daily News respectively.
    • The ZEC advert was an update on the special voting process, while the one by the Women’s Trust publicized some female candidates from Zimbabwe’s coalition parties, as well as their manifestoes.

    Campaign Activities

    State Press favours Zanu-PF

    The Press carried 12 reports on the campaign activities of all the parties, seven (58%) of which appeared in The Herald.

    The private Press published the remaining five: NewsDay (three) and Daily News (two)

    All seven stories in The Herald were positive reports on Zanu-PF’s campaigns.

    The activities of other parties, including Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC, were ignored.

    The only time The Herald made reference to Zanu-PF’s rivals was when it reported Mugabe “blasting” the MDC formations for petitioning the African Union to push for poll delay after their unsuccessful attempt to have SADC call for the postponement. Mugabe is also reported attacking Finance Minister Tendai Biti for allegedly misappropriating the US$500 million Zimbabwe got from the International Monetary Fund.

    Mugabe made the accusations at a “star rally” at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera, where his wife, Grace, and senior party officials such as Sydney Sekeramayi and Ray Kaukonde also addressed the party’s supporters.

    The Herald reported Mugabe using the Rudhaka rally to attack the West, especially the British, for their “preparations to manage transition in Zimbabwe”. Said Mugabe: “Hazvichinje.” (Nothing will change). There will never be that nonsensical British transition. Keep it to yourselves, filthy aggressors. Hatidi izvozvo! (We do not tolerate that!). Leave us alone. Takuzvitonga. (We are sovereign).” An English translation of these comments also appeared in NewsDay.

    Kaukonde was reported reminding “the people of the empty promises that MDC-T had made in 2008” and urging them to “vote wisely” (The Herald).

    The Herald’s inequitable coverage of the political parties’ campaign activities constitutes a violation of regional principles and protocols on providing fair and balanced coverage of all contesting parties during an election period and section 160J of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, which guides the media’s conduct in covering elections.
    In contrast, the private media were inclusive, reporting senior officials from both Zanu-PF and the MDC-T expressing their policies, including giving platforms to smaller parties such as the MDC formation led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, and the opposition Zapu, to articulate their positions.

    In one such case, the Daily News reported Ncube as having defended his alliance with Zapu and the United Movement for Democracy, and why he had spurned a ‘grand’ coalition with the MDC-T. Ncube was recorded speaking at the launch of his party’s election campaign in Chikomba on July 13th.

    Further, NewsDay and The Daily News used analysts and their columns and editorials to analyse the candidates manifestos and campaign messages.

    Election Administration

    Chaos persists in special voting

    The print media carried 16 reports on the administration of the July 31st election, eight of which appeared in The Herald. The other eight were featured in the private Press (NewsDay and The Daily News).

    All the media paid particular attention to reports on the persistent problems dogging ZEC’s special voting exercise, which began on July 14th.

    The problems were summed up by The Herald’s front-page report that anti-riot police were called in to control uniformed forces who attempted to force their way into a polling station at Town House in Harare on July 15th following day long delays in the distribution of ballot papers.

    The state-controlled daily reported that while voting started on time at most polling stations in Harare, interruptions in the delivery of additional ballot material in the afternoon resulted in voters leaving the polling stations before casting their votes.

    At voting centres visited by The Herald in Masvingo, voting proceeded slowly with most voters being turned away because of a shortage of ballot papers. The paper reported the situation as having been the same in the Midlands and Mashonaland Provinces where hundreds of officers were yet to cast their vote by evening.

    The report was basically a follow-up to the chaos reported the previous day, mostly in the private media.

    However, the paper – like in its previous edition – still didn’t view these problems as raising serious questions about ZEC’s ability to conduct a smooth and credible vote on July 31st.

    Only the private dailies continued to pursue this line of concern.

    NewsDay, for instance, dedicated an editorial comment blaming ZEC for the problem, including the commission’s failure to “ensure that thousands of Zimbabweans register as voters”. It observed: “So far ZEC has failed the electorate. Our confidence in ZEC is waning and something must be done now to arrest the chaos.”

    The problems characterising ZEC’s special voting exercise constituted six (38%) of the 16 reports the print media carried on the administration of the July 31st elections.

    The remaining nine were on other administrative issues, such as the appointment of 24 magistrates from the country’s 10 provinces to preside over cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation at special courts set up ahead of the elections; calls by media experts for journalists to observe the law governing the conduct of elections; and news that SADC had officially launched its election observer mission to Zimbabwe.

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