The Avusa-owned publication which publishes the Zimbabwe edition of the Sunday Times hit the streets on Sunday despite the government’s threat, leading with the story on the proposed ban.
There are fears that following announcement of the threat, there would be a police swoop on vendors selling the paper and other foreign papers not registered with the ZMC.
There is speculation from critics that President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) is wary of foreign papers which are thought to be hard-hitting on his unilateralism in the coalition government ahead of the next polls this year or 2013.
Sources also fear that the ban of foreign papers, among them the Mail and Guardian, could be followed by the arrested of journalists moonlighting for the targeted foreign papers. Other foreign papers that are circulating in Zimbabwe include a number from the United Kingdom.
In a statement ZMC chairman, Godfrey Majonga, said the statutory body had informed the Zimbabwe Republic Police to bar the newspapers from entering the country’s borders.
He said the ZMC had written to all foreign papers circulating in the country advising them to register with his commission but the order fell on deaf eyes. The ban is likely to affect South Africa’s Sunday Times, the Mail and Guardian and plethora of other foreign papers from the United Kingdom circulating in Zimbabwe. But it was business as usual on Sunday and Monday as newspaper vendors brandished the papers in the streets.
Majonga claimed that persons affected by the newsgathering and the stories appearing in the said papers had been coming to the commission seeking redress or information but neither the publications nor their journalists appeared in their registers.
Webster Shamu, the minister of Media, Information and Publicity, has been in the fore-front of threatening to bar the Sunday Times and other South African papers from circulating in Zimbabwe.
The foreign papers are understood to have been giving the state-controlled papers especially The Sunday Mail, a run for their money.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe and the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe have roundly condemned the ban on foreign papers.