UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE/ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE/ZIMBABWE
Edition #17 25 March 1998
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In this edition:
State uses media to intimidate and misinform the public
1. Judgment reserved in Banana's application for stay of prosecution
2. Society condemns threats by the government and Hunzvi
3. Twelve bank workers under investigation
4. Deputy Speaker summons ministers to Parliament
5. Minister urges state to introduce anti-corruption laws
6. Two army officers being investigated
7. Awarding of gratuities triggers chain reaction
8. Zimbabwean flower exports to Germany banned
9. Policeman caught in Mugabe's spare bedroom
10. Soldiers deployed in Gonarezhou to fight poachers
11. Army to be trimmed considerably
12. Workers urged to boycott newspaper
13. Broadcasting station cracks down on stayaway workers
State uses media to intimidate and misinform the public
The Government of Zimbabwe last week unashamedly used government-owned media to intimidate and misinform the public during the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions-organised recent two-day mass stayaway from work.
The stayaway in protest against a five percent development levy, a recent increase in sales tax from 15 to 17,5 percent and the spiralling cost of basic commodities was a major success but the government tried all it could to portray it as a flop through state owned newspapers and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. Not only did the government try to portray the stayaway as a failure, but also intimidated people not to join the stayaway, threatening both workers and employers who would take part with serious consequences.
Leading the intimidation campaign was the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Nathan Shamuyarira who warned that employees who failed to turn up for work would be fired while employers who would not open their businesses would have their licences cancelled and would face further unspecified punishment.
The government even used the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association whose members it recently awarded gratuities of Z$50 000 each to help it intimidate employers, particularly whites. The chairman of the association Chenjerai Hunzvi threatened that ex-combatants were going to march to the northern suburbs where most whites stay, to physically assault them if they allowed their employees to stayaway from work.
All sorts of threats from government ministers and Mugabe himself started flooding the government owned media on Sunday, March 2, a day after the ZCTU executive had met in Masvingo and announced that it had resolved that workers must stay away from work for two days following government's failure to drop the taxes by February 27, the deadline which the ZCTU had set for the government to act favourably or face the consequences.
Without any sense of shame Mugabe even said the ZCTU was no longer a labour movement but a political party. He said the duty of the labour movement was to pester employers to increase salaries for workers and not to ask the government to reduce taxes.
The surprising and even embarrassing thing in a country which preaches freedom of expression was that the government-owned daily, The Herald which happens to be the country's only national daily newspaper, did not even carry a story informing the nation that the ZCTU council had resolved that workers should stay away from work. The next thing the people read in The Herald was for them to ignore "the stayaway, "and people were asking "which stayaway?". Only ZTV carried a news item on ZCTU's resolution for a mass stayaway.
"Ignore work boycott: Shamuyarira" read a front page headline in the state-owned Sunday Mail. "Police to be deployed at all shopping centres", screamed another headline in The Herald on Monday a day before the beginning of the mass stayaway.
Come Tuesday the first day of the stayaway, and more than 80 percent of the workers in Harare did not go to work. According to reports in the independent press, most of those who went to work were civil servants who feared victimisation by the government. Some of those in the private sector who decided to go to work found their premises closed as some employers acted in solidarity with the ZCTU while others feared that their businesses may be looted if they opened.
In Masvingo, Gweru and Mutare the stayaway was 100 percent successful, while in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, 90 percent of workers did not turn up for work. Yet on Thursday The Herald's front page headlines read: More offices, shops ignore stayaway, Business almost normal in most parts of the country, Party pleased by workers' defiance of stayaway call.
With tongue in cheek, Florence Chitauro announced in The Herald that the stayaway had been a great failure and that it had not achieved anything.
On the contrary, a privately owned weekly, the Zimbabwe Independent's lead story was on ZCTU warning the government of more mass action unless it took urgent steps to scrap the controversial taxes. And in its comment, the paper said: "Despite warnings of dire consequences if it went ahead, the trade union movement this week ignored government intimidation and pulled off the most successful strike since independence, or for that matter since 1948."
"Successful because it was entirely peaceful and about as solid as it gets in a state where the booming voice of government drowns out everybody else," the comment went on. While the stayaway was certainly not good news for the country's ailing economy, it was step forward for democracy and has clearly shown the world that something is seriously wrong in this country where the government claims to enjoy mass support.
Unfortunately only a few Zimbabweans can afford the weekly privately owned newspapers as, at Z$10 a copy,the cost is beyond what most people can afford. On the other hand The Herald costs only Z$3 a copy and comes out daily, making it that much easier for the government to continue to misinform the public.
Surprisingly, on the other hand, the Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency which is also government-owned, and has bureaus in cities and major towns throughout the country, gave a detailed account of what actually happened in different parts of the country during the strike. However, its reports never saw the light of the day in the state owned media, but only in the privately owned press.
Mugabe's government is serious about suppressing the truth as evidenced by recent changes in top editorial staff at The Herald and The Sunday Mail. Tommy Sithole who had been editor of The Herald over the past 15 years was last month removed from that post and replaced by a ruling party stalwart, James Chikerema, a man most newsmen love to call the spiker. Sithole had of late been writing some editorials critical of the government, hence his removal.
At the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation heads have started rolling and already Thomas Mandigora who has been director of programmes, news and current affairs has been demoted allegedly for having broadcast too many "negative things" during the riots in January. The contract of the current director-general of the ZBC, Edward Moyo which is normally renewed on a three-year basis was this time renewed for only one year, and it is understood the government wants to appoint someone who is more pro-government to oversee the operations of the ZBC.
Meanwhile, Mugabe, at a rally, described party and government officials advocating for his departure from the helm as misguided elements bent on derailing the country's unity, peace and economic prosperity. He is showing even greater resolve to remain in power, and with the people wanting him out, one of the methods he is going to use to try and remain in power is to have a stranglehold on the media.
It seems the only thing which can save Zimbabweans from disaster is independent and affordable press of which there is none at present in the country.
1.Judgment reserved in Banana's application for stay of prosecution
The Supreme Court on Friday 6 March reserved judgment in the application by former President Canaan Banana for a permanent stay of criminal prosecution.
Banana, a Methodist Church minister and first president of Zimbabwe is facing 11 counts of sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault. Through his lawyer, Banana told the court that there was real and substantial risk that he would not receive a fair trial because of adverse pre-trial publicity which was a violation of section 18 of the Constitution, which provides for a right for persons accused of criminal conduct to a fair hearing.
Banana also alleged that the summary of the state outline contained objectionable and prejudicial material which tended to suggest that he has a propensity towards homosexual tendencies. His lawyer Advocate Chris Andersen complained that the numerous leaks to the media by the police and the prosecution went beyond what is generally recognised as fair comment.
"This pre-trial publicity might influence even the most charitable human being and make it difficult to reach a verdict in a fair minded way," the advocate told the court.
Making reference to publications in two local weeklies, the advocate said the pre-trial statements were so widespread as to lead a reasonable man into concluding that the allegations were probably true as they tended to suggest the inevitability of a conviction. To that extent he said there was a real risk that Banana would not get a fair trial.
On the other hand the prosecution has argued that as a former head of state, Banana's case generated a lot of interest both at home and abroad, and the press had a legitimate duty to quench the public's curiosity by informing and that the public also had a right to know.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Augustine Chikumira said: "This is provided for in section 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and speech without undue hindrance." After the arguments of the two sides, the Supreme Court which set as full bench reserved judgment.
2.Society condemns threats by the government and Hunzvi
Human rights and civic organisations have strongly condemned threats made against the ZCTU and whites by the government and Chenjerai Hunzvi the chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association, respectively.
Hunzvi threatened that ex-combatants would attack whites in Harare's northern suburbs claiming they supported the ZCTU in organising work boycotts. The secretary general of the ZCTU, Morgan Tsvangirayi has described Hunzvi's statement as lunacy, and asked on which platform he was making such a statement as he was neither in government nor an employer.
Tsvangirayi who was in an uncompromising mood when he addressed a press conference on 11 March said: "Since when do labour issues concern him. He must just shut up."
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights) unreservedly condemned what it termed calculated attacks by government and individuals on the ZCTU leadership and other groups. "Government's irritability at the prospect of civil demonstrations on matters of public interest reflects the volume and extent of the government's sense of political insecurity," Zimrights director David Chimhini said in a press statement.
He said there was no sense in government trying to force civil society on matters which demand urgent policy revisits and reforms. "The government should pose before the biblical mirror for self-examination and self-correction to avert a human rights disaster in the country," Chimhini said.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has also strongly condemned Hunzvi's outbursts, saying they violated Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Chapter 44 of the Law and Order Maintenance Act.
Most people interviewed before and after the riots said blaming any minority group for the actions of the majority did not make any sense at all and was in fact contemptuous of the majority as it suggested that the majority cannot think and organise on their own.
3.Twelve bank workers under investigation
The government-owned Post Office Savings Bank is probing 11 of its clerks and a sub-accountant for allegedly duplicating customers' passbooks, forging signatures and withdrawing more than Z$500 000 from the customers' accounts.
The clerks and the sub-accountant, who were based at Harare and Causeway Post Offices, have been suspended to facilitate investigations. The accused are believed to have acted together in executing the fraud which was discovered when one of them went on leave and the clerk relieving him noticed some gross irregularities which he then reported to management.
Meanwhile Police in Zimbabwe have warned companies and members of the public against white collar crime which they said was on the increase in the country. In an interview, the minister in charge of police, Dumiso Dabengwa said criminals were becoming so sophisticated that traditional investigation methods were failing to cope, and there was need for the setting up of a specialised agency to curb crime.
He said corporate fraud was causing the economy to seriously 'bleed'. One of the worst hit areas was that of recently introduced cellular phones where fraudsters were registering them under false identities and addresses.
4.Deputy Speaker summons ministers to Parliament
The Deputy speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Edna Madzongwe said on Wednesday 4 March that she will summon all government ministers who have not been coming to Parliament to answer questions from backbenchers.
Several legislators complained that their questions were not being answered and continued to be deferred from one sitting to another because of the absence of the responsible ministers.
"The chair is going to write to all ministers, especially those who do not show up, because we are concerned that Wednesday is the day when MPs have a chance to bring issues of concern in their constituencies to the executive," she said, adding that the House expected the executive to come and respond.
The issue of ministers failing to turn up to answer questions from backbenchers has been contentious for a long time, prompting some backbenchers to say the ministers have become arrogant because they have stayed in power for too long. One parliamentarian even once said that Zimbabwe is the only country in the world where being a minister means a permanent job because several of Mugabe's confidantes have been ministers since independence in 1980.
5.Minister urges state to introduce anti-corruption laws
Mhondoro Member of Parliament, Mavis Chidzonga has urged the government to introduce anti-corruption laws in order to clean the state of corrupt elements.
Contributing to debate on a parliamentary report on the 8th International Anti-Corruption Conference held in Peru last year, Chidzonga said corruption was becoming a cancer in Zimbabwe, with almost all Government and public departments being manned by some corrupt elements.
She said senior people were misusing public funds and power for private gain. She said the current economic crisis Zimbabwe finds itself in was a result of rampant corruption which went unchecked despite the fact that investigations were being carried out and parliamentary reports written.
"This is all because these people who are investigated and found guilty are well connected, and this affects our economic activities, hence the crisis," she said, adding that corruption was mushrooming everywhere in all institutions, resultingin the behaviour of politicians and public servants deteriorating.
6.Two army officers being investigated
The Zimbabwe National Army's Special Investigations Branch is investigating two army instructors who are alleged to have exerted undue force on a 19-year-old recruit when meting out punishment, resulting in the death of the teenager.
Speaking at the funeral of the teenager, Munyaradzi Musara, the Minister of Defence, Moven Mahachi said preliminary findings indicate that the two instructors used undue force in carrying out collective punishment on a group of recruits. Other recruits who survived the ordeal said part of the punishment included being forced to eat to excess, resulting in all of them suffering stomach problems and having to be receive medical treatment.
Consoling the Musara family, Mahachi said the Ministry of Defence would ensure that this kind of overzealousness on the part of instructors will never be allowed to creep into the Zimbabwe National Army.
7.Awarding of gratuities triggers chain reaction
Following the awarding of gratuities of Z$50 000 to each ex-combatant and a monthly pension of Z$2 000, liberation war collaborators and soldiers who fought for the Rhodesian Army against the guerrillas are now also claiming compensation.
The liberation war collaborators recently staged a sit-in at the ruling party's headquarters demanding to be paid the same gratuities as the excombatants, arguing that without them the liberation would not have succeeded. They demanded to see President Mugabe and threatened to tell all people in the rural areas that the government had now abandoned them if the president did not meet them.
However, the ruling party's supreme policy making body, the Politburo has ruled out a meeting between the president and the collaborators, saying they had used the wrong channels in trying to put across their grievances.
On a rather mischievous note, former enemies of the liberation movements - the soldiers who fought on the side of the oppressors - are also demanding compensation, arguing that they deserve it just because they fought for the government of the day.
Already ex-detainees have also made their compensation claim, and according to one political analyst very soon it might be the rural peasants who supplied food to the combatants and later it could be the working class who provided clothing.
8.Local flower exports banned
Millions of dollars worth of Zimbabwean flower exports to Germany are said to have been banned because of non-compliance with German packaging legislation.
According to a report carried by The Sunday Mail, this might be because the European market is undergoing a transformation phase likely to discriminate products on environmental grounds.
The banned flowers were returned because the packaging was said to have been unfriendly to the environment. A strong echo-packaging movement is said to have been lobbying the whole of the European market to insist on packaging with recyclable materials.
Although a spokesman for the Export Flowers Growers Association of Zimbabwe said none of their members had complained about flowers being returned because of a packaging problem, a Zimtrade source confirmed that some flowers had been returned.
9.Policeman caught in Mugabe's spare bedroom
A Police security guard at President Robert Mugabe's rural residence in Zvimba communal lands was last month caught using one of the residence's bedrooms for a secret affair with one of the maids.
According to a report carried in a local weekly paper, the policeman was arrested after having regularly entered the bedroom through an affair with the maid who happens to be a close relative of Mugabe.
A search at the policeman's residence revealed a number of items stolen from the president's mansion. Also discovered, much to the surprise of the police, was an AK-47 assault rifle and a hand grenade.
The weapons could not immediately be linked to the security breach but investigations are continuing. Mugabe is said to have been so enraged by the fact that a security detail had been using one of his bedrooms that he ordered the bed burnt.
The director of information in President's Office, George Charamba declined to comment on the issue and referred all questions to the police.
10.Soldiers deployed in Gonarezhou to fight poachers
Members of the Zimbabwe National Army have been deployed in Zimbabwe's second largest game park, Gonarezhou, to fight armed poachers who have intensified their poaching activities there.
Most of the poachers are believed to be from neighbouring Mozambique that borders Gonarezhou National Park. There is a proliferation of guns in Mozambique as a result of nearly 20 years of civil war.
The poachers are mostly after elephant and rhino whose horns have a lucrative market in Asia where the rhino horn is believed to have medicinal value.
11.Army to be trimmed considerably
The Zimbabwe government, currently reeling under financial problems, has decided to reduce the size of the army by about 40 percent.
Reliable sources within the army have said the army, which currently stands at 40 000 members, will be reduced to 25 000 soldiers as the government tries to win back the sympathy of the donor community which has abandoned it mainly as a result of its financial indiscipline.
Targeted for retirement are those above the age of 45, the disabled, those with a history of ill health and those who have been with the army for more than 20 years.
The reduction in the size of the army is expected to significantly lower the budget deficit which currently stands at above 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
12.Workers urged to boycott newspaper
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) which organised the successful stayaway from work this month, has urged workers to boycott the country's national and government owned daily newspaper, The Herald in retaliation for its misinformation campaign during the two-day stayaway.
In a story published in the Financial Gazette on 11 March, ZCTU secretary general Morgan Tsvangirayi said his organisation's general council had met and decided to call for a countrywide consumer boycott of goods and services still to be announced, but starting with The Herald every Thursday and Friday. The council chose to boycott the paper on Thursdays and Friday as there are alternative papers published on these days.
"We urge all workers to boycott The Herald every Thursday and Friday until further notice. This newspaper embarked on a misinformation campaign during the two-day mass job stayaway," Tsvangirayi said.
13.Broadcasting station cracks down on stayaway workers
The state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) currently under pressure from the government to toe the line in its coverage of news events, has embarked on a witch-hunt to flush out and punish all its employees who did not turn up for work during the two-day stayaway organised by the labour movement.
According to a reliable source within the corporation, ZBC director-general Edward Moyo has written to the human resources director, instructing him to identify all workers who had not turned up for duty during the stayaway, and deduct the equivalent of two days pay from their salaries. Moyo also instructed the human resources director to write letters of warning to these employees.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:58:33 +0100 Subject: ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE #17 Message-ID: <email@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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