Zim State Media Forced To Take Sides In Zanu(PF) Factional Wars

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

Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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.