Mujuru wins despite media blackout

WHILE official spokesmen had been claiming on Saturday that reports of Joyce Mujuru assuming the vice-presidency were a “media construct”, reality appears to have intruded with her official nomination for the post

on Sunday.

President Mugabe’s confirmation that the politburo would back a woman candidate came on the same day as his media spokesmen were claiming Mujuru’s “robes” had been “stolen” by newspapers such as the Zimbabwe Independent which had reported on her likely elevation once a woman candidate had been given the nod by the ruling party’s decision-making body.

Mujuru had not even been consulted, it was haughtily suggested, as the names of rival candidates were aired.

ZTV interviewers had on Friday been clumsily rubbishing the Independent’s story. But by Sunday it had been confirmed and Mujuru emerged from the provincial executive councils as the preferred choice of party barons.

This of course, as we reported, has serious implications for Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambitions. Only Joseph Msika’s premature retirement will now open a door to the once powerful secretary for administration and Speaker of parliament who appears to have been ambushed by a faction centred in Mashonaland provinces but with powerful connections elsewhere. Indeed, he may have been the victim of an ABM movement — anybody but Mnangagwa — which explains the dramatic rise of a candidate not known for her political clout in a party where gender sensitivity does not usually extend much further than women bearing an impression of President Mugabe on their skirts.

If Msika were to step down, his most likely successor would not be Mnangagwa but John Nkomo who defeated the Midlands heavyweight and former security supremo in the battle for the national chairmanship in 1999. He is likely to attract many of the votes which Mnangagwa has been courting in the western provinces. Nkomo is also ultimately the candidate of the ABM crowd when the presidential chips are down.

Patrick Chinamasa’s candidacy for the chairmanship — his first election for anything — was clearly inspired by the opportunists around Information minister Jonathan Moyo who have been trying to block Mujuru. They saw Mnangagwa as their best chance of preferment with Thenjiwe Lesabe as the other vice-president and Chinamasa in the national chairman’s seat. Under this cosy arrangement, that fell apart in Sunday’s deliberations, Moyo would have assumed the influential post of secretary for administration left vacant by Mnangagwa.

Once again in this struggle we see the public media prostituted by one faction to head off a challenge from another. The complete absence of a report in the government press on last Thursday’s emergency politburo meeting which effectively paved the way for Mujuru tells us all we need to know about media manipulation. The Herald’s explanation yesterday that it was holding onto the story until it could be verified will be believed only by the very gullible.

How then does the Herald explain its failure to report on Sunday’s nomination results, which saw setbacks for Mnangagwa’s backers, in Monday’s edition? Only when party luminaries began to comment on the outcome did the Herald feel compelled to publish the results.

This comes at a time when the screws are being tightened on the independent media ostensibly to ensure balanced reporting. The public are evidently being denied their right to information when that information proves inconvenient to those controlling media levers. Exactly how Zimbabwe’s sovereignty is protected by partial and unprofessional reporting on matters which have a direct bearing on the country’s future is difficult to under-stand.

The South African Communist Party recently pointed out, in response to claims by the leader of the ANC Youth League that Zimbabwe had many independent publications, there was on the contrary “an abundance of information indicating a growing and targeted intimidation of independent journalists and non-governmental media”. The trend was “towards greater repression and less democratic tolerance”, the SACP said.

When the public media is so compromised it is unable to inform its readers of events taking place in the centres of political power, it leaves the independent press with a particularly onerous responsibility.

That we got it right on Mujuru’s promotion while interested parties in the state machinery were insisting we had got it wrong rests the case for a media free of official shackles. Meanwhile, Zanu PF MPs who voted for Aippa have been richly rewarded by those who have used it and abused it for their own ends.

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