Zimbabwe's Independent Media Tell It Like It Is

As the government of Zimbabwe grows more authoritarian,the country's independent media organizations are not backing down.

The southern African nation held senatorial elections yesterday marked by low turnout and a strong showing by the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe. As one pro-government news site proclaims a "stupendous victory" for Mugabe, two other leading news sites defy the government with a different message -- the country is corrupt and collapsing.

The Independent's Bill Saidi says the government's anti-corruption office must delve deep into the Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to root out officials who consume "sumptuous dinners whose total cost would probably have built an entire school in one rural area." Saidi is a former editor at the Daily News on Sunday, an independent newspaper that was shut down by the Zimbabwe government in 2003.

Another Independent columnist, noting that the national airline ran out of fuel last week and had to cancel flights, says the decline of Air Zimbabwe is an "emblematic failure" of the Mugabe government.

"When a system crumbles," say the editors of the Financial Gazette, "the least anyone remembers are the rights of the common people even though it is the attitude towards these people that should be the criterion used to judge how moral or immoral a policy is.

"And so it has come to pass in Harare . . . Things have fallen apart in the capital city ... [w]hat with rivers of raw sewage spilling from antiquated drainage and sewerage facilities, biting shortages of piped water and mountains of uncollected refuse! . . .  Already, people are reportedly dropping like flies from diseases such as dysentery and cholera, an issue over which the city fathers wanted the veil drawn. The city has indeed been plunged into unprecedented crisis mainly due to ZANU PF's brutal lust for control, lack of forward planning and upside-down priorities."

But the editors of the pro-government Herald see progress, saying Mugabe's party "has regenerated itself."

"No one can deny Zanu-PF its stupendous victory," they say. Those who seek to replace Mugabe's government, they suggest, are merely the tools of Western imperialism. "The dream of some foreign countries that they can manipulate 'regime change" is just that: a dream."

Vincent Kahiya, the editor of the Independent, has another view: "We have a professional obligation to tell the story of Zimbabwe from differing viewpoints and this does not include fawning treatment of any individual or grouping."

washingtonpost.com's Kevin Dumouchelle provided research for this post.

By Jefferson Morley |  November 29, 2005; 12:55 PM ET  | Category:  Africa
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Congrats Jeff on covering a real story. I consider myself better informed after reading this. Any word on how Mandela comes out on the Mugabe ZANU PF? Is he still too busy labeling GW a racist for not kow-towing to Kofi ?

Posted by: c2tbf | November 29, 2005 05:10 PM

Good old Bobby Mugabe, the Major Lance of right and wrong, who did nearly as much to prevent genocide in Rwanda as Bill Clinton, the Major Tom of no controlling interest.

Posted by: Winston | November 29, 2005 07:31 PM

Only two comments? I'm confused. I've been repeatedly assured that Americans are deeply concerned about democracy and human rights in other countries, and that that's why Americans keep invading them.

Your only comments so far seem to come from Republicans relieved to see a story that isn't about them.

The Zimbabweans' plight seems of minimal concern to the Freedom crusaders. What factor is missing in Zimbabwe yet present in Iraq, I wonder?

Actually, I thought this column was all about foreigners' opinions of America, but I'm pleased to see you touch on Zimbabwe, if not for the same reason as the two characters above.

Mugabe has been bad news for a long time, but has recently gone completely round the bend. What kind of politician destroys the homes of hundreds of thousands of citizens under a program called "Clearing out the trash"? Clearly not one who faces real elections.

It's good that you tell the story of these brave journalists. Just repeating their names in a major foreign newspaper can help to make them a bit safer, a bit harder to 'disappear'.

Posted by: Caroline UK | November 29, 2005 08:48 PM

My goodness, Caroline UK. I'm surprised you can even read the print from atop your high horse. Obviously, the brave journalists are the story here. Why ruin it with simplistic anti-American rants that echo Mugabe himself ? You and he seem to represent the same low-point in this story and thread.

God save the brave souls in Zimbabwe.

Posted by: c2tbf | November 29, 2005 09:46 PM

The slow collapse of Zimbabwe has been on British newspapers quite a few times. Recently it's mainly been about the takeover of the farms from mainly white Zimbabweans. Of course, every time we complain about this abuses and others Mugagbe labels us as racists and Britain trying to flex its old imperial muscles.

I think Mugabe doesn't care about how the country is failing, like many dictators he's just interested in clinging to power.

Mind you, now I think about it Mugabe also seems to get in the papers by deviously shaking hands with people from the British establishment. The handshake with Prince Charles caused some grumbling, but it was Jack Straw's handshake previously that really caused embarrasment. Apparently Straw, the Foreign Secretary, didn't recognise Mugabe and said "It was quite dark in the corner"!

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 30, 2005 04:09 AM

Sadly Mugabe and ZANU-PF continue their assault on the freedom seeking people of Zimbabwe. I lived in Harare in 1991 and have visited three times since then and have many friends still there. What a tragedy! However, the real villain is Thabo Mbeki. As long as Comrade Bob continues to successfully play the race card/anti imperialist charade-he will continue to be supported by Mbeki and the ANC. South Africa is rapidly becoming another one party state just like Zimbabwe! What a disgrace!

Posted by: Johnny Creel-Birmingham, Alabama USA | November 30, 2005 03:58 PM

The problem is greedy politicians everywhere who couldn't care less about people. Poverty is rife in the USA, UK and pretty much every other country on the planet. Why? No political will.
South Africa is a travesty with a black government who still does nothing about the malnutrition of it's children. Mugabe is a monster but as Caroline UK says, not one that "crusader" Bush wants to do anything about! Ditto Tibet and so on...

Posted by: Lou UK | February 17, 2006 07:28 AM

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