November 30, 2001

ZIMBABWE: SA’s president Mbeki warnes of potential civil conflict

South African President Thabo Mbeki on November 29 said regional countries and the Commonwealth should „act urgently" to encourage free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next year. He said committees set up by the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should work on ensuring democratic conditions in Zimbabwe's presidential poll. Zimbabwe's government has been widely criticised for clamping down on the press and judiciary, and for pursuing controversial land reforms that have led to violence and lawlessness on white-owned farms.

The president also said a joint committee comprising Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) should be formed to ensure satisfaction with the election results. "Our view is that if elections in Zimbabwe are not seen as legitimate, you'll probably end up with a situation worse than now," Mbeki said. During a meeting with the World Association of Newspapers on Nov 27, Mbeki warned of potential civil conflict in Zimbabwe if the vote were not fair.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwe government has approved a new bill that will effectively bar foreign journalists from operating in the country, the state-run daily, The Herald, reported. Only Zimbabwe's citizens will be allowed to operate as correspondents for foreign media, if the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill is passed by parliament. But the setting up of foreign media organisations will only be done with the permission of the minister of information, according to the daily. It was impossible to obtain confirmation of the report in the state-owned paper from the government. „This means all foreign journalists will need to be Zimbabwean citizens," the Herald said. Under the new law a media and information commission which will register and accredit all journalists, will be set up.

The commission will have powers to discipline journalists for misconduct. Journalists will be issued with registration certificates. "The commission may delete a journalist's name from the register, order his suspension for a specified period and impose conditions it deems fit subject to which he shall be allowed to practise," the state paper said. (THE NAMIBIAN / MAIL & GUARDIAN)

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