By Sij Ncube
HARARE, September 13, 2015 – DESPITE repeated claims President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF) are not losing any sleep over former vice President Joice Mujuru’s mooted political party – People First – the state media are fixated with her in what analysts say puts the country in an election mode at the expense of the economy ahead of the crunch 2018 polls.
The state media has in the past week been on a propaganda overdrive after Mujuru and her sympathisers last Monday unveiled their political manifesto ahead of the official launch of People First, a development analysts say, to all intents and purposes, have rattled Mugabe and his sycophants.
The analysts note that Mugabe and his spin doctors cannot afford to admit in public that Mujuru poses a serious threat to their octopus-grip on power but have unleashed their lapdogs in the Zanu (PF) controlled state media to do hatchet job on her.
For the past week since the unveiling of her manifesto the state media has caused to be cobbled various vitriolic pieces casting aspersions about Mujuru’s leadership qualities to the extent of claiming she is one of the most corrupt leaders to come out of Mugabe’s party.
For instance The Sunday Mail had more than four articles ridiculing Mujuru in addition to a demeaning cartoon. The paper intimate Mujuru, who rose through the ranks in Zanu (PF) courtesy of Mugabe, needed firm hand-handling, the editor of the paper wrote in one of his editorials, equating her alleged lack of leaderships acumen and skills, rightly or wrongly to those of MDC-T leader Morn Tsvangirai, who the state media roundly dismiss as a failed politician.
Two Sunday Mail columnists dedicated acres of space in trying to convince readers Mujuru was a poor leader who has little chance to challenge 91-year old Mugabe let alone fit in his shoes despite deputising Mugabe for about a decade, forgetting it was the same paper which wrote flatteringly when she was appointed deputy president in 2004.
As if not enough, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation carried weekend bulletins in which Zanu (PF) spin-doctors ridiculed Mujuru and other former Zanu (PF) big-wigs fired with her last December for allegedly plotting to kill Mugabe.
But analysts are agreed the obsession with Mujuru by the state media largely reflects the position of their masters as is normally the case.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, the director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa said while Zanu (PF) mandarins pretended Mujuru is not a factor to their stranglehold on power, they are clearly giving her some serious consideration as a political opponent.
“Coverage of Mujuru in the private media has made the state media even angrier, slamming the private press. You just have to see the Sunday Mail cartoon and Bishop Lazarus’ column,” he said in reference to the paper’s latest content.
“Look, the very same week Tendai Biti launched his party and he was not given much attention in the state media. The reason being that they know Mujuru brings in some new dimension to our political landscape. She will be given the same treatment the MDC was given in its prime. This is only the beginning,” he said.
Gladys Hlatyawo, a Harare-based political analyst, believes the state media is always in an election mode, pointing out that whatever they report on is to aid Zanu PF’s chances at the polls.
“The state media is a mouthpiece of Zanu(PF) and any opposition politician worth his or her salt will be subjected to all kind of unfounded insults and trumped up accusations. Sadly, the brief of state media in Zimbabwe is to bark at anyone who poses a serious political threat to Zanu (PF) hegemony. Mujuru has entered the opposition scene and pose a considerable threat to ZANU PF hence the spirited effort to attack her,” she said.
Vivid Gwede, a Harare-based political analyst, chipped in: “It is inevitable when you have a government that has reached half-way its term with no tangible achievements. This is the reason why there is competition to produce programs, or alternatives to the failed ruling party. What therefore makes it an election mode is that it is all geared at 2018, towards which new jostling for recognition by parties will escalate now.”
Ngwenya added that those that thought Zimbabwe have ever been out of the elections mode are being reminded this is Zimbabwe, where the contestation for power takes precedence over all other matters.
But Maxwell Saungweme, a developmental analyst based in Afghanistan closely following Zimbabwe’s politics, said what is happening is “just a heat of the moment” and not necessarily a sign the country is already in an election mode.
“We have had these political events from time to time and what they tend to do is divert people’s attention from the real issues of a dying economy and grinding poverty. People are not necessarily in an election mode,” he said.
“No one is in the mood of voting should an election come tomorrow. What we having are people stunned by a clueless ruling party and government and multiple clueless opposition parties plus a civil society failing to give direction to the masses. People are at best in a state of confusion and disillusionment than election mode country is already in an election mood.”