By Gift Phiri
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has come to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s defence, directing Information minister Webster Shamu to ensure the premier and his wife Elizabeth are shielded from adverse state media intrusion.
Ministers were shocked by the President’s stance at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, when he warned Shamu against using the media to vilify Tsvangirai and his wife.
Until the Tuesday talks, there was a perception that the State media had been given a nod by the President’s administration to pour scorn and insults on the Prime Minister and his wife.
On that basis, the State media crusade had hit high gear with a media hatchet job insinuating that Elizabeth had left Harare for a shopping spree in South Africa and India using taxpayers’ funds. The report, filled with distortion of facts, claimed the PM’s wife had left the country to buy jewellery and other ancilliary accessories for their upcoming wedding.
But it turned out to be a false report when Elizabeth pitched up at a government function with her husband in Harare, the day the state-run press had claimed she had flown out to India. The Daily News heard that Tsvangirai officially protested against the state media over biased reporting and selective coverage in his Monday principals’ meeting with Mugabe.
Sources said Tsvangirai told Mugabe that the state media, even during its days under the Rhodesian Printing and Publishing, has always supported the government of the day. The following day an incensed Mugabe surprisingly made remarks calling for a stop to the press reports forthwith, largely because he was aware of the issue and did not want his name involved in what could end up a messy affair.
Sources said Shamu got a tongue-lashing by Mugabe for over an hour, before the President expressed his exasperation at the undue negative publicity on his coalition partner and his spouse in the high-level Tuesday government meeting. Yesterday Shamu summoned all editors to Munhumutapa Building to convey the president’s message.
“During yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, the head of State and government and commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, His Excellency, the President, Cde R.G. Mugabe expressed concern over the press reports on the travel arrangements of the wife of the Prime Minister, honourable Morgan Tsvangirai,” Shamu told editors yesterday.
“His Excellency expressed concern on the level of negative and intrusion into the private life of the Prime Minister and his wife, emphasising that the couple’s right to lead their private lives should be respected. He noted that it is unAfrican to show such levels of disrespect to the wife of the national leader.”
Mugabe said local media should not import the “negative portrayal of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa in that country’s media.” Zuma, a polygamist who has been married six times and reported to have over 20 children, has courted widespread adverse publicity in his country.
The president’s decision to throw his weight behind Tsvangirai after months of mixed signals appears designed to reassure his coalition partner.
Article19 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the inclusive government says steps should be taken to ensure that the public media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities.
It states in part “that the public and private media shall refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations.” Daily News
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.