Statement from MMPZ on media coverage of Zanu(PF) factional wars
The Media Monitoring Project-Zimbabwe (MMPZ) expresses its profound concern over
the increasingly hysterical “news coverage”
in the state-owned media regarding developments surrounding the feuding factions
within ZANU PF in recent weeks, ahead of its elective congress next month.
While these media are notorious for their denigrating propaganda against ZANU PF’s
political opposition, especially during election periods, the intensity with which these
ruling-party controlled news outlets have turned on a section of ZANU PF itself in recent
weeks is unprecedented and shockingly unprofessional.
Apart from the publicly owned media having a constitutional obligation to “be impartial”
and “afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting
opinions,” the state-owned media have resorted to persecuting Vice-President Joice
Mujuru and those who allegedly support her, by accusing her of committing
unsubstantiated criminal offences and attacking her personality based on
unsubstantiated allegations initially made by the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, during her
recent so-called “Meet the People” rallies.
While these events in themselves have made unsavoury reading for their own crude
and offensive assaults on Vice-President Mujuru, the state media have been willing
recruits in amplifying the hatred and intolerance expressed by Amai Mugabe’s tirades
against Mujuru and the members of an alleged faction she is accused of leading within
ZANU PF for “plotting” to “overthrow” President Mugabe and undermine the First Lady’s
own dramatic entry into the political arena.
It cannot be disputed that Amai Mugabe has very publicly accused Mujuru of being
corrupt, an extortionist, a “sell-out”, lazy, devious and deceitful, among other grave
allegations, but it appears that the state-owned media have been carefully
“choreographed” to prepare for Mugabe’s vitriolic attacks on the Vice-President and to
convince the public of the “truth” of the allegations once made.
For weeks before the most recent allegations, the state media have been promoting
Amai Mugabe as a hard-working, motherly businesswoman who has been championing
the welfare of the country’s orphans through her charitable work.
Then came her entry onto the political stage as the candidate to take over from Oppah
Muchinguri at the head of ZANU PF’s Women’s League, a development widely
publicized and endorsed by the state media.
On September 19th, The Herald then published an unsubstantiated “conspiracy” story
about a “Dirty Dozen” ZANU PF legislators “implicated in secret meetings with
United States Embassy officials briefing them on classified internal discussions
related to the party’s succession…” and receiving money for their constituency work
in return. All the MPs named in that report denied receiving money from the Americans
in a later Herald report, and the Americans themselves were reported demanding a
correction to the “erroneous assertion” portrayed in the original story.
A month later, immediately following Amai Mugabe’s concluding rally, The Sunday Mail
(26/10) ran a lead story headlined, US, VP Mujuru plot to oust President, in which it
claimed that American Embassy officials were trying to convince MPs to pass a vote of
‘no confidence’ in President Mugabe. This unsubstantiated and convoluted conspiracy
story masquerading as fact, tried to link Mujuru to an alleged plot within ZANU PF to
remove Mugabe either in Parliament or at its Congress, but only managed to claim that
the paper’s “investigations” show “this ties in with revelations…by Grace Mugabe
that Vice-President Mujuru, working with other party officials and their private
sector financiers, were pushing for President Mugabe’s ouster…” But nowhere in
the story was this serious allegation ever proven.
In another story on the front page of the same paper reporting on Mujuru’s graduation
celebration in her Dotito district of Mount Darwin, The Sunday Mail resorted to the
grossly unprofessional business of heavily editorializing a news report in an effort to
suggest Mujuru posed a threat to President Mugabe and his wife. The unnamed
“reporters” claimed: “The event – more than celebrating her academic
achievements – seemed to suggest that the VP can muster massive support,
making her an alternative centre of power that could rival the president and Amai
The following Tuesday (28/10), The Herald’s front page lead, Jabu Confesses to VP
Mujuru Deals – Confirms Extortion Allegations, claimed that the comments of national
war veterans’ association leader, Jabulani Sibanda, reported in NewsDay the previous
day, “has all but sensationally confirmed that corruption and extortion allegations
being levelled against Vice-President Joice Mujuru (by Amai Mugabe) are true…”
according to “legal analysts”.
Sibanda was reported as saying it was wrong to blame Mujuru for any alleged offences
her husband might have committed.
But The Herald story used the opinions of a ZANU PF lawyer and a “political analyst”
with similar political sympathies to distort Sibanda’s comments to mean these amounted
to a “confession” that the “Vice-President’s hands were not clean” and used this as
further evidence to support Grace Mugabe’s accusations that the Vice-President was
The same story also insinuated there was some connection between these specious
allegations and a stake in a diamond mining company owned by Joice Mujuru’s
husband, former army commander, Solomon Mujuru, who died in a mysterious fire at
the family’s Beatrice home in 2011. Referring to a 2007 interview broadcast by the state
broadcaster, ZBC, The Herald reported President Mugabe as saying senior ZANU PF
members involved in the diamond trade “were the same figures behind
machinations to nudge him from power”.
By Thursday (30/10) The Herald published a front page lead story entitled, ‘VP Mujuru
in $1m Scandal’, detailing how the Vice-President allegedly received “illegal cash
payments” and “elbowed out and exiled” two Kenyan and Indian financiers who had
invested in “the Mujuru family-owned” duty-free shop business at Harare International
Relying on “documents in possession of The Herald” the paper provided details of
the alleged illegal payments and some idea of an agreement between Mujuru’s
International Travel Shops Africa and Susan General Trading, the financiers’ Dubai
registered company. However, the paper was careful not to explain what the
“documents” in its possession were and left this essential information up to the reader to
decide. While they appeared to be documents recording a dispute between the two
companies, this was not made clear, and the allegations of criminal dealings and that
Mujuru had used her “political muscle” to drive out the investors were entirely
speculative and circumstantial.
Above all, in none of these stories was the Vice-President given the opportunity to
respond to the allegations.
Clearly, the state-owned papers are being used to support and amplify Grace Mugabe’s
crude vilification of the Vice-President in order to degrade and destroy her reputation
ahead of ZANU PF’s so-called “elective” Congress.
News of other senior party members believed to be part of the so-called Mujuru faction
also encountering problems, supports evidence that the feud between the ZANU PF
factions vying to succeed President Mugabe has become venomous and damaging to
the extent that the state media have been forced to abandon all professional standards
of journalism in order to destroy the Vice-President’s political reputation and those that
allegedly support her in favour of her potential rivals, reportedly led by Justice Minister
Such partisan and unprofessional conduct not only exacerbates the feuding with ZANU
PF, but has poisoned the media environment and society generally by promoting the
culture of hatred and political intolerance that has so damaged Zimbabweans’ ability to
interact with each other and has, once again, destroyed the credibility of the nation’s
public media in the name of narrow political interests.
The fact that the Constitution has been ignored by this campaign of vilification
masterminded by senior members of the government speaks volumes to the fact that
the public media need to be removed from the control of government influence with the
utmost urgency if Zimbabwe is ever to stand a chance of understanding that democracy
is a contest of ideas – and not a bloody war.