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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Daily Election Report – Issue 22 (Final Issue)
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    August 05, 2013

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    Zuma’s endorsement divides the press

    After Zimbabwe’s election results were announced the international community, which had been observing the country’s elections, decided to express their opinion on the way the plebiscite was conducted. This stirred varying emotions in the newspapers.

    The endorsement of the poll by SADC facilitator, South African President, Jacob Zuma, excited The Herald; news of his approval was splashed on the paper’s front page and it became the backbone of the paper’s argument that the elections were credible. Zuma was affectionately referred to as “Comrade”, a title that does not come cheaply from the paper.

    Zuma was reported to have urged all the parties to respect the result “as observers said it was an expression of the will of the people”. The paper also praised the UN, AU, SADC and COMESA who endorsed the elections saying they were free and fair.

    However, not everyone accepted their opinion, and The Herald highlighted this by attacking the West after reports emerged that Australia, the United States and Britain all raised concerns about the legitimacy of the polls. Six reports were dedicated to denigrating the West. For example, in response to reports that Australia’s foreign affairs Minister, Bob Carr, had called for “a rerun of the elections based on a verified and agreed voters’ roll,” the paper said; “Former British colony Australia demonstrated how far removed the Anglo-Saxon world is from reality on the ground”.

    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), an independent civic election watchdog, also bore the brunt of The Herald’s attacks. The paper enlisted the help of Jonathan Moyo who accused the network of working in cahoots with the West to effect regime change in Zimbabwe: “ZESN is their mouthpiece they are not independent voices, they are just their masters’ voice”.

    The private press was disappointed by Zuma’s endorsement of the July 31 elections, and The Daily News’ editorial comment reflected this, “It is surprising and a bit strange that Zuma would rush to endorse Mugabe ignoring the serious issues raised against the outcome of the elections”. NewsDay also highlighted Zuma’s backing of the election result “jolts” MDC-T’s poll challenge, as the party had hoped the SADC facilitator would be more sympathetic to their plight.

    But neither paper clearly explained that Zuma’s endorsement followed an election that ignored many of SADC’s preconditions for holding the poll. Nor, of course, did The Herald.

    The private dailies echoed the international community’s unease over Zimbabwe’s election results. NewsDay reported that, ‘US, UK, EU condemn poll results’, while The Daily News, carried a report headlined, ‘Mugabe’s free but unfair win,’ these sentiments were recurrent in six stories in both The Daily News and NewsDay.

    Even though all the papers gave the impression that it was Africa against the West over Zimbabwe’s poll results, NewsDay reported that Botswana also noted “cases that fell short of the best practice regarding the conduct of credible elections”

    In other developments, the private press continued to reveal election-related irregularities that scarred the credibility of the poll. For example, The Daily News reported that a South African investigations company, Nasini Projects, claimed that a “delicate” ballot paper was used to rig Zimbabwe’s elections. It claimed, “the ballot paper had a water mark X against Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s name such that if any ink is placed on the paper, the substance on the paper will react and remove the ink and activate the watermarked X into print”. However, the report did not say whether the company had proof for this claim and how it was used in the election.

    With the MDC-T threatening to pull out from all government institutions if Zanu-PF’s victory was upheld, The Herald quoted Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma saying an “MDC-T pull-out won’t affect Parliament”. The paper also tried drive a wedge into the MDC-T by reporting that its executive council decision was likely to spark an “intra-party rebellion”.

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