Alarming descent into police state

By a Correspondent
HARARE - The state-run media did its best to ignore the first anniversary of Operation Murambatsvina, though they did carry some absurd claims, such as Manicaland governor Tinaye Chigudu saying that the victims of the assault on the urban poor now appreciated its benefits

because most had been allocated houses or stands.
The private media, however, carried some 30 reports on the anniversary, including the arrests and other harassment of civic organisations trying to hold protests.
“Of these, 13 exposed Zimbabwe’s alarming descent into a police state,” the media watchdog, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), said in its report covering May 15-21. “They reported on police intimidation, harassment and arrests of members of the public, civic activists and church leaders suspected of planning activities to remember victims of Murambatsvina.”
However, despite its careful monitoring of reports in the private media, and lack of them in the regime mouthpieces, MMPZ was unable to assess how many people had been arrested, harassed or had their right to protest interfered with. This, said MMPZ, “demonstrates how effectively government media are obscuring the truth and why the country desperately requires trustworthy alternative daily news sources.”
The Budiriro by-election received a bit more attention from the state media, generally stories saying or implying that opposition MDC activists were responsible for violence, or regurgitating statements from the electoral authorities about how they were all ready for the poll. When the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC won, The Herald attempted to downplay this. It also used the occasion to gloss over the general unfairness of elections in Zimbabwe by saying the result showed that elections did not produce “pre-determined results.”
Apart from The Daily Mirror, Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa, the private media scarcely bothered with the poll. The Financial Gazette ignored it altogether.
On the chaos in agriculture, the private media candidly blamed the bungled seizures of white-owned commercial farms. The monitors noted that the private media “also queried government’s attempts to mask the problems in the sector with its rosy forecasts on production.”
The Financial Gazette dismissed Agriculture Minister Joseph Made’s predictions of a 1.8 million tonne maize harvest, saying he could as well have “plucked figures from the air.” The minister was, the weekly added, trying to paint an unreal picture of production and counter claims that the “land reform programme was the seal of death for the once-vibrant agricultural sector.”
The Zimbabwe Independent quoted MDC secretary for agriculture, Renson Gasela, as saying at best the maize harvest would be 800 000 tonnes.
The Independent, said MMPZ, also revealed that the land seizures had paved the way for further corruption, with senior Zanu (PF) officials and other beneficiaries were “now leasing out farms to the few remaining white commercial farmers” and charging them “protection fees.”
The state media, naturally, carried on with unquestioning reports of the Made figures, with no attempt to question their veracity, or to recall that previous optimistic forecasts by the minister had proved false.

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