Media Repression Deepens in Zimbabwe

By JOHN CHIMUNHU

Now Daily Analysis

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  • See no evil: Robert Mugabe and wife Grace

The High Court case against Now Daily and I should be viewed in the context of ongoing severe media repression in Zimbabwe.

Defamation or insult laws are tools that state officials in Zimbabwe use frequently to silence the probing media. University of Zimbabwe law professor, Geoff Feltoe wrote: “Investigative reporting can be a very hazardous business under the present Zimbabwean law.”

Journalists facing such charges are often put under a wave of intrusive surveillance and intimidation. In my case, this has meant regular visits from Senator Lilian Timveos Mpofu’s henchmen and women, threatening me with death, deprivation and prison. Sometimes, the messengers urge me to ‘talk’ to the senator. However, from experience as an editor dealing with corrupt officials like herself, I know that such meetings are usually turned into a stage for violent attacks against the journalist or are used to tag him/her so that they can be followed and attacked. Such meetings are often characterized by offers of bribes, which always degenerate into false charges of blackmail against the journalist. The best is to talk in public, in court.

BANNED

Truly independent broadcasting and publishing are banned in Zimbabwe, except for those with strong ties to the dictatorial regime of Robert Mugabe. People rely on a growing number of foreign-based radio and TV stations, websites and online publications run by Zimbabweans and others for news about what is going on in the country. This is a very volatile time for the media. Arbitrary arrests are common. So are violent attacks on journalists by both Mugabe’s governing Zanu PF party and the main opposition MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai. Journalists cannot go about their work without being harassed, monitored, disrupted or maligned.

Zimbabwe is a brutal dictatorship. President Mugabe has been described by the United States-based Foreign Policy think tank as the second most brutal dictator in the world after the late Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Former US president George W. Bush described Zimbabwe under Mugabe as an “outpost of tyranny”. Political murder and repression are entrenched in the state system. Corruption, seizure of businesses and properties by the ruling oligarchs is a daily business, but without a free media, all these heinous crimes are often swept under the carpet. This is the context in which we operate.

Journalists are watched constantly by the regime’s extensive and brutal security apparatus. They keep tabs on me for the time when I say or do something ‘wrong’. The surveillance is intrusive and sometimes overt. They use my news sources, opposition officials, diplomats, business associates and even family members to gather information on me and interfere with my legitimate media work and generally to hurt me. A lot of my colleagues are dead, exiled or out of practice. I have only survived by taking extreme precautions and constant training by experts.

INTERNET REVOLUTION

Blogging, online video and rapid text messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are technologies that have become widely used in Zimbabwe. Media censorship has been official government policy since ex-guerilla leader Mugabe came to power at independence from Britain in 1980. The government centralized broadcasting in official hands. Efforts to liberalize and democratize the Zimbabwean media in the 1990s, under pressure from IMF and the World Bank, were quickly abandoned when the independent media started exposing the regime’s corruption.

With the arrival of the internet and easy availability of text, audio and video distribution channels that are almost free, government’s hold on the media came to be challenged. For $50 – the cost of a smartphone – practically everyone can blog. Services such as Facebook Live have made digital defiance not only possible but safe and affordable to many activists. Many of the images of repression and resistance published and broadcast are amateurish, done by ordinary citizens using cheap phones, but clear enough to shock audiences into open revulsion.

When I set out to publish Now Daily in 2012, I had every intention to assert my United Nations-guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and freedom to transmit and receive information, rights that I had been denied since I was born. Blogging and website hosting opened a new avenue for oppressed journalists like myself to expose dishonesty, corruption and the gross human rights violations that Zimbabweans experience every day. I founded Now Daily with the hope of helping audiences to assert their rights as well. The absence of credible, unfettered data from all angles has been a great impediment to the struggle for democracy and a better life for all Zimbabweans. People’s choices are limited by the quality of information they have. In a situation where there are tensions and regular open warfare, it is usually only the well-informed who survive.

With regard to the outrageous $2.5 million lawsuit from the MDC-T senator who was sensationally caught selling Parliament fuel coupons on the black market, we were entirely justified to publish that story. Our duty is to inform the public. As Professor Feltoe said, “access to information is of pivotal importance to the proper working of a participatory democracy”. We took reasonable steps to verify the extent of this corruption and the evidence is there. I saw it with my own eyes!

Honesty for a public officer is of critical importance, particularly an elected one. It is wholly justified and in the public interest for people to know that their elected representatives are abusing public office for private profit. Anywhere else in the world, a scandal of this magnitude would force MPs to resign. Not in graft-ridden Zimbabwe, where corrupt officials add insult to injury to the public trust by dragging us to the courts on frivolous charges, using dubious processes.

I am the founder and administrator of the African Media Bloggers Association, a platform for mostly Zimbabwean bloggers to market their work and deal with their issues. To date, more than 2 000 bloggers have joined this forum. Hundreds of active new blogs have been established in the past year, much to the annoyance of state authorities and corrupt opposition leaders.

CENSORSHIP

In December 2014, the ruling party Zanu PF, led by the dictator Robert Mugabe resolved to ban the use of the internet by Zimbabweans to prevent them accessing accurate information about what was going on in the country. The deepening political and economic crisis in the country has made people desperate for life-saving information about safety, health and other crucial issues. But internet shops are ordered to slow down users. This was partially achieved by ordering mobile communications companies to slow down internet speeds, according to a recent report by Freedom House. The same report condemns the opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai for declaring a ban on party members expressing themselves on the internet. All these measures by politicians have failed to stem the tide of Zimbabweans asserting their rights by engaging on social media and other online platforms. The government has announced that it will ‘regulate’ online media, which can only mean censorship. The opposition party has gone further by launching lawsuits against journalists and mounting violent attacks to prevent them recording and reporting evidence of corruption and abuse of office.

Having failed to stop people from accessing digital media, the authorities and corrupt opposition politicians have now taken to attacking journalists and digital media content providers such as myself.

The government and corrupt opposition politicians are out to crush me personally and I know why. I am the agitator who has mobilized thousands of Zimbabweans to take their freedom to communicate by setting up independent websites to express their views. Thousands of people are now members of AMBA, representing hundreds of new blogs. This has rattled the authorities. First, they tried to coopt us by making us part of a discredited journalists’ trade union whose leader regularly sings Mugabe’s praises. When that failed, they went on the attack, targeting individual bloggers like myself. They have used smear campaigns online and off in an attempt to take away my audience. They have threatened members of my family and media associates with death and other punishments if they continue supporting me. I have suffered other attacks, including being poisoned, followed and monitored. Having failed to stop my work, they have turned to another trusted tool: judicial harassment accompanied by potent threats of imprisonment and heavy financial penalties if I do not toe the line.

(c) Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Tortured Tajamuka Leader in Hospital

Now Daily

  • Mudzvova (in bed) with MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai

Tortured activist group Tajamuka’s spokesman Silvanos ‘Banditi’ Mudzvova remained in hospital Friday after being tortured by suspected state agents this week.

Mudzvova was abducted by six armed men at midnight on September 13 and brutally tortured.

Tajamuka has rattled the regime of dictator Robert Mugabe by mounting public protests that have sometimes turned violent.

The group is seen as being more militant than the MDC-T although state security agents have stated that it is connected to the opposition party.

Another confrontational activist group, Occupy Africa Unity Square has lost its leader Itai Dzamara, who was abducted in March 2015 and has not been seen ever since.

(c) Now Daily 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tsvangirai Barred

Now Daily

Movement for Democratic-Tsvangirai leader Morgan Tsvangirai (in cap, above) was on Friday barred from visiting inmates at Chikurubi maximum security prison. The ban however gave dictator Robert Mugabe’s strongest rival an unexpected boost as it sparked a flood of sympathetic comments on social media. Several pro-democracy activists are detained at the prison following a series of anti-government demonstrations.

Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka confirmed the incident.

“When he insisted on using his ID as ordinary visitor to Chikurubi Maximum prison early this morning, the prison officers insisted President Morgan Tsvangirai was ‘not an ordinary citizen’. They said he had to get clearance from head office,” Tamborinyoka said.

(c) Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Mujuru Seizes Black Man’s Farm

Now Daily

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  • Joice Mujuru

Former vice president and leader of the upstart Zimbabwe People First party Joice Mujuru is under pressure to surrender a farm she seized from a black man without compensation, it emerged.

Mujuru seized the farm belonging to Dr Masuku in Beatrice in 2014, just before she was sacked by president Robert Mugabe for allegedly plotting a military coup and using ‘juju’ against him.

Masuku, who bought the farm from its white owner before the fast-track land reform programme, was evicted and moved to a resettlement village where he is living in abject poverty, sources said. Mujuru then took over the farm adjacent to another one her former army commander husband General Solomon Mujuru seized violently from a white farmer.

“Joice Mujuru is a disgrace. How can she seize a farm belonging to a fellow black when the land reform programme was targeting the whites? She should just return the farm to its owner or stop lying that she is an opposition leader who respects human rights,” said a war veteran in the area.

Mujuru and her late husband went on a rampage at the height of the farm seizures that were launched by Zanu PF in 2000, grabbing dozens of choice properties around Zimbabwe. The militant couple also seized several mines and demanded shares in private businesses. Mujuru was one of the looters of the disputed Marange diamonds and still illegally occupies a lucrative concession area known as “munda wa Mai Mujuru”.

Comment was not immediately available from Mujuru.

© Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Adultery Costs Grace Mugabe Politburo Support

Now Daily Exclusive!

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One of the front-runners to take over from ailing 92 year-old Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, wife Grace Mugabe, has been rejected by key members of the ruling Zanu PF party’s powerful governing council, the ‘politburo’, who accuse her of adultery.

Leading members of the party’s Women’s League told Now Daily that Grace Mugabe would not be a suitable leader because she carries the deadweight of highly publicized adultery scandals.

The Women’s League members are now calling on Mugabe to readmit into Zanu PF former party vice president Joice Mujuru, who was sacked in 2014 after Grace Mugabe accused her of plotting to assassinate the president.

“Grace Mugabe is not respected by women because of the adultery allegations made against her. She is using money, threats and intimidation to maintain control but that doesn’t work in Zanu PF. Mai Mujuru was a much better leader and efforts are being made to bring her back into Zanu PF before the next elections,” said a politburo member.

Apparently, powerful members of Mujuru’s party, led by former state security minister and Central Intelligence Organization overseer Didymus Mutasa have compiled a massive digital dossier detailing Grace Mugabe’s sexual escapades after she married Mugabe in 1996.

“The dossier is going to be published close to the 2018 elections or as soon as Grace Mugabe declares her intention to run for president,” said a source close to Mujuru. Superspy Mutasa was responsible for busting former prime minister and Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai over sex scandals which cost him the 2013 election.

“Angavhotera hure Grace Mugabe ndiani? (Who would vote for the adulteress Grace Mugabe?)  She will cause us to lose the election. Mujuru may have her weaknesses but there is no evidence of sex scandals. We want Mujuru back in Zanu PF,” a politburo member told Now Daily.

Mujuru has turned her back on the ruling party by forming her own Zimbabwe People First movement. Some believe however that she may be using that platform to galvanize thousands of former Zanu PF leaders who have been booted out of the party at the behest of Grace Mugabe.

Mugabe himself has said publicly that he trusts Mujuru more than his number two and heir-apparent Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Grace Mugabe has been linked sexually to several famous personalities, including former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, murdered businessman Peter Pamire, Harare tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa and the president’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao. The United Kingdom’s influential Times newspaper published a story detailing how Gono had sex with Mugabe’s wife on numerous occasions. The president’s former top banker violated state security procedures by going to have sex with Grace Mugabe at 12 state residences around Zimbabwe, at her Mazowe farm and hotels in South Africa and Asia, leaving crumpled sheets in their wake.

Gono’s former top aide Munyaradzi Kereke has been thrown into jail for 10 years for rape, but many believe he is being punished allegedly for leaking the sex story to the Times. Kereke has also leaked the former governor’s other secrets, including how he faked a doctorate from the non-existent ‘Washington university of Nigeria’ and stole millions from the central bank.

Grace Mugabe is despised by conservative and religious Zimbabwean women because she started having sex with Mugabe while she was married to air force officer Stanley Goreraza and his wife Sally was alive. Grace Mugabe was employed at State House as a switchboard operator and pool typist before she was elevated to the president’s private secretary after having sex with the dictator.

The new dossier, compiled with the help of South Africa-based research and intelligence firm N4, also sheds new light on what happened to Pamire, who died mysteriously in a freak car accident.

“Mugabe was well aware that his wife was having sex with Pamire. He made Pamire an offer to leave Zimbabwe and live wherever he wished, with all his needs being taken care of. Arrangements were being made for ‘Boss Pams’, as he was known, to go and live in Greece for the rest of his life. Pamire rejected the offer and decided to take his chances in Zimbabwe. That is when he was killed. He could have survived if, like Goreraza or James Makamba, he had agreed to go and live abroad,” the dossier reads.

© Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Machete Wars Hit Zimbabwe Goldfields

Now Daily Investigation

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“I wish I could leave this business,” says Dzikamai*, a dangerous-looking hood with a fresh wound on his face, just above the left eye, rolling a ‘twist’ of marijuana and staring me in the eye, trying to figure out if I’m not a cop.

“I was hit by a machete. Bothy’s crew didn’t want to kill me. They just ‘slapped’ me with a machete as a warning and told me to leave the mine,” he says.

A ‘slap’, he explains, is when a machete is applied at an angle so as to cut the skin but avoid hitting the bone and making a fatal blow. And he tells me that Bothy is a gangster who recently held the police to a two-week siege of the defunct state-owned Sabi Gold Mine, which has been taken over by hundreds of illegal gold hunters from as far afield as Mozambique.

Dzikamai has become an inadvertent machete warrior. He was one of hundreds of gwejas – illegal gold hunters – who recently spent two weeks underground at Sabi mine, unable to leave, with armed riot police milling outside. The cops were trying to retrieve the body of a man who had been cut to pieces by machetes by other gwejas and buried in the mine. During the recent siege, the gwejas cooked sadza and drank musombodia, a banned, toxic alcoholic drink that tends to make one violent.

Said Dzikamai: “If you don’t fight the other gwejas will just take your gold or prevent you from mining. There is always a long queue to mine in the gold-rich areas but I never wait in the queue. I know how to fight using my machete. I tie it around my hand so that it doesn’t fall off, then I attack the enemy, aiming for the face.”

A large number of illegal gold hunters have been killed in the fighting, pitting various groups, mainly the so-called Kadoma, Mazvihwa and Four Miles gangs. The fights in the goldfields often spill into bars and nearby homes as the gwejas fight for prostitutes and continue with disputes over the precious mineral beyond the mines.

So vicious is the fighting that the police on Monday went around the gold-rich town of Zvishavane imploring the gwejas to stop fighting and warning the public to stay out of their vicious feuds. But the police are seen as part of the problem by both civilians and combatants. Corrupt officers are responsible for the chaos that now dominates the goldfields as they take bribes and allow illegal mining to continue, say sources. Some cops are now in syndicates with the gold hunters.

Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s name has been mentioned among buyers and sponsors of illegal mining and smuggling of gold to South Africa. President Robert Mugabe recently accused South African whites of using small planes to smuggle gold out of Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa is accused of using white businessmen like Billy Rautenbach to disguise his alleged illegal dealings.

Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya last week addressed a conference of small-scale gold miners, imploring them to obey the law. However, the machete-wielding gwejas like Bothy are all too ready to defy the law.

The situation is compounded by the presence of hardened illegal miners who fled army killings in the Marange diamond fields in Manicaland. ‘Taliban’ is one such man. Having fled the army violence in the Marange/Chiadzwa, he says he has seen the worst and will not hesitate to use his machete against anyone who tries to stop him here.

As for Dzikamai, the fighting continues.

“I will only stop illegal mining when I have filled two buckets with gold,” he says.

*Some names have been changed to protect the identities of victims.

© Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Doctors Demand Bribes from Dying Patients

Now Daily Investigation

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Doctors in Bulawayo are demanding bribes of thousands of dollars from chronically ill patients if they want to go into surgery, Now Daily investigations have confirmed.

Nurses at United Bulawayo Hospitals confirmed the scandal. One of the nurses, whom we cannot name, travelled 500 kilometres to give Now Daily the story, saying she feared for her life if she ever was found to be our source.

“If you don’t have money they just let you die,” the nurse said.

She said there was an official list and a ‘queue’ for people lined up for surgery.

“Many times you find that people who are not on the list are already in the operating theatre. These people would have paid the doctors,” said the source.

The sources said the doctors targeted rich people or those with well-to-do relatives.

“Middle-aged males requiring surgery for prostate cancer are a favourite of the bribery doctors. The doctors demand bribes of up to $4 000 for such cases. Those who cannot pay cash are asked to surrender cattle,” said the nurse.

Sources in Bulawayo said many government doctors were also running private surgeries where they met the clients but used state facilities to carry out the surgical operations. The doctors also regularly instigated strikes in order to attract business to their private practices. Doctors who worked during strikes also demanded bribes from patients, the sources said.

© Now Media 2016. All Rights Reserved.