State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003
This however is a broader strategy by the government to harass and intimidate journalists and
media organizations in order to determine the content of their reportage and news and curtail the
work of media watchdog organisations.
The government’s handling of the case involving ANZ mirrors that of the The Guardian newspaper by authorities in Swaziland during 2001. Any decision by the courts that went against the
government came under intense fire, with the government immediately appealing against the
court’s ruling.
In the case of Zimbabwe, the effect of the appeals is that ANZ publications were forced off the
streets for four months. The Daily News was being read by nearly one million people a day or 59
percent of the market share at the time of its forced closure. As a result of the forced closure, more
than 300 workers and their families have been plunged into purgatory, their future uncertain.
The Daily News’ competitor, the state-run Herald enjoyed 44 percent of the market, while its
sister weekly, The Sunday Mail, had 792 439 readers, or 32 percent of the market. The Daily
News on Sunday was fast catching up with 25 percent or 600 505 readers.
The impetus in shutting down alternative voices deemed critical of the government seems to
have shifted a gear after the 30 and 31 August 2003 urban council elections during which the
ruling party lost control of six key towns - Gwanda, Gweru, Kariba, Mutare, Redcliff and Victoria Falls. Previously the government had seen the loss of the major cities of Bulawayo (the
second largest city), Chegutu, Chitungwiza (the third largest urban settlement), and Harare, the
capital, and Masvingo.
These defeats were unprecedented and the government has neither forgotten nor forgiven the
embarrassing losses. The opposition now controls 12 major cities in the country and 54 of the
120 contested constituencies in the country.
The government attributes its misfortunes to the private media. Attacks against the private media
need to be seen against this background and in the context of preparations for the 2005 parliamentary elections, during which the government hopes to reverse the trouncing it suffered in
2000, when 58 seats went to opposition parties.
Another threat to operations of the media and the free flow of information during the period
under review was the cost of newsprint. It became almost impossible to predict the cost of newspapers and magazines. Over the years, the pattern in Zimbabwe has been that with the introduction of a price increase in the cost of newspapers, causes demand to drop off by 10 percent.
Information/knowledge, therefore, became the immediate casualty. Undemocratic governments
thrive in circumstances where their citizens are deliberately kept uninformed.
The question is raised about the prospects that exist, in the long-term, for the papers in the ANZ
stable to be allowed back onto the streets. While a decision was pending in the courts early in
2004 and the company was benefiting in the interim, at the time of writing it was difficult to make
an informed forecast. Developments during the recent past confound attempts at guessing with
any degree of certainty.
The Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) has continued to affect electronic media plurality in that
despite assurances on at least three separate occasions by the Minister of State for Information
and Publicity, that there would be new radio stations by the end of 2003, no such development
has taken place. BSA has become the instrument through which the government exercises full
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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