ZANU PF Plans To Burn Foreign-based Newspapers

Premature celebration? Mr Mbanga, whose paper has grown immensely in quality since it was criticised a few years back by The Sunday Times of South Africa for being an opposition equivalent of the notorious Herald (It was Andrew Donaldson at the SA paper who made the review), should give serious thought to how he protects his consignment of newspapers coming into Zimbabwe in light of the moves being made to deny foreign-based papers the freedom granted them by Biti's Mid-Term Fiscal Policy. Read on...

A day after Tendai Biti made it known in Cabinet that he would be scrapping duty completely on foreign owned and foreign-based newspapers, The Solution and his cronies hatched a plot to frustrate what they clearly see as a threat to their supremacy in terms of information dissemination and propaganda in Zimbabwe.

A "Task Force" has already been put in place, led by two of the people who nearly killed Nelson Chamisa at Harare International Airport a couple of years back. Chamisa was hit so hard over the head with an iron bar that at first doctors feared he would lose an eye or suffer brain damage.

(By the way, The Solution apparently commented after that incident, saying it appeared that one qualification to be a member of the opposition is to have a "hard head" ("musoro wakaoma").

He pointed to Tsvangirai's beating by police during that abortive "prayer meeting" in Highfields, when Tendai Biti and others who witnessed the beating said, "It was not a beating, it was attempted murder." Tsvangirai was also savagely beaten over the head by policemen who have never been charged.

Mugabe publicly commented on the story, saying, "I told the SADC leaders that, yes, he was thoroughly beaten up. Don't mess with the police. When the police move, you move!"

But I digress, as I am wont to do.

"Whether they come by air or by road, those newspapers will make such a massive loss in Zimbabwe that their owners will realise it is not worth it. It will be The Zimbabwean, Act Two," was a comment allegedly made by one of the two gang-leaders.

I have both their names.

You will recall that a consignment of The Zimbabwean, a paper run by Wilf Mbanga, was burned and destroyed at Beitbridge border post. The comment by this "Task Force leader" betrays the fact that the intention is the same, burn, tear up, drown and in whatever way destroy the papers as they come in to Zimbabwe.

Naturally, The Solution will plead ignorance. He may even agree to another press conference at which he will condemn the move and state that he "will not tolerate any more nonsense."

Mugabe, as you all know, fought to retain the Ministry of Information and Publicity in this Inclusive Misgovernment. And he did so for a reason. He and his cohorts are apparently incensed that Tendai Biti dared to introduce media reform through the back door, by scrapping duty on foreign-based newspapers sold in Zimbabwe.

Because he has control of this ministry, Mugabe, aka The Solution, has been able to play politics with it under the guise of "rule of law". He has refused to disband the Media Commission of Tafataona Mahoso, instead saying the new body he and Tsvangirai agreed on in the GPA is, in fact, Mahoso's old Commission at law.

Foreign-based Zimbabwean radio stations, newspapers and the like, see this and are rightly afraid of what would befall them if they accepted Tsvangirai's call to come back home.

Naturally, the normal, reading public is happy about this from Biti. It is now years since I myself managed to get hold of a copy of my favourite magazine, The Economist which, the last time I came across it, was selling at Kensington Shopping Centre for a cool Z$12 million! Inflation (hyper) played a part, but duty was also a big player in that price.

The last thing Mugabe wants is an avalanche of hostile papers like The Zimbabwean. It is surprising really, because we thought only Nazis and Fascists burn books and the like, not intellectuals with ELEVEN degrees, and who speak fifteen languages,like "The Solution".

The unfortunate thing is that these people will probably get away with it, Mugabe professing ignorance, Tsvangirai not wanting to push home the point and so on....

The publishers had better start making plans to safeguard their papers now, is all I can say.


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