January 14, 2005

Moyo barred from polls / Press regulations tightened

Zimbabwe's controversial Information Minister Jonathan Moyo has "now been officially barred" from contesting the March legislative elections as a candidate of the ruling party. State newspaper reported that Moyo "will not stand on a Zanu-PF ticket in the forthcoming parliamentary elections after the seat was reserved for women candidates to punish those who took part" in an unsanctioned secret succession meeting last year. The decision was reached after a marathon meeting between the party's national chairperson John Nkomo and other senior regional officials. The secret meeting was allegedly aimed at pushing a rival candidate to President Robert Mugabe's choice for the post of vice president. The job was given to Joyce Mujuru, a cabinet minister and wife of a former army commander. Hence, Moyo was told that the position will be reserved for a woman, in a move he describes as "unfair to me and to women". "If Tsholotsho had indeed been reserved for women candidates only, this should have been announced publicly and in advance to give all potential qualified women in the party an equal opportunity to participate and give men due notice that they were excluded from participation," Moyo wrote in a letter to the ruling party.
According to some political analysts, the unprecedented infighting among Zanu PF members may also work in favour of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at the polls. "The fears are real. A divided Zanu PF will struggle to put up a strong campaign against the MDC... and for the MDC the longer these quarrels run the better," said political analyst Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei of the University of Zimbabwe. The private Sunday Mirror newspaper reported that Mugabe's key war veteran supporters have warned the party to handle the selection of the candidates carefully, saying the drive against so-called rebels could help the opposition. (The South African Star / South Africa, The Cape Times)

In the meantime, changes to media laws that will see unlicensed journalists jailed for up to two years have been enacted. The amendment to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act which was passed by parliament early November, after weeks of intense debate and resistance from opposition lawmakers, is now effective, according to a notice posted by Mugabe's chief secretary. In the government gazette notice, the secretary Misheck Sibanda said the law "which has been assented to by... the president, is published." Under the new regulations journalists who work without a government licence now face a two-year jail sentence or a fine or both. A state-approved media commission has powers to accredit journalists. Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo last year defended the amendments as intended to "protect the state from attacks by enemies of the country". The new provisions tighten a law originally passed in 2002, just days after Mugabe's victory in presidential polls. Two independent newspaper groups have been shut down and scores of journalists arrested under the 2002 media law. The media law also bars foreign journalists from working permanently in the southern African country. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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