|April 18, 2002
Police charge more journalists War veterans demand top cabinet and police jobs
Police in Harare summoned on
April 17 Zimbabwe Independent editor Iden Wetherell and Daily News chief
reporter Pedzisai Ruhanya for questioning over allegations that they have
violated the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The
summons follow the laying of charges two days earlier against Daily News
editor-in-chief Geoff Nyarota and Independent chief reporter Dumisani Muleya
under the same Act for allegedly publishing "false" stories.
was arrested on Monday, April 15, over an article questioning the difference
between the final election results given on national television and subsequent
published figures which allegedly contained 700,000 more voters. He was charged
with abuse of journalistic privilege and falsifying information in terms of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act passed in March.
Muleya was arrested over a story relating to a labour dispute in which the
brother of the first lady, Grace Mugabe, was reportedly asked to intervene. He
was charged with criminal defamation after his arrest on Monday. Both men have
been released. Wetherell said that he has been charged with the same offence
that Dumisani Muleya was charged with. Ruhanya confirmed that he had also been
called by police, although he did not give details on the matter.
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was enacted on 15 March and
says that newspapers deemed to have abused journalistic privilege by falsifying
or fabricating stories are liable to two years in jail.
chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) joined international
bodies in condemning the action taken against journalists under the new media
law, saying this would seriously affect the free flow of information.
"MISA-Zimbabwe and other media organisations maintain that the Access to
Information Act is meant to target certain journalists," the organisation said.
"Without doubt, the recent events are bringing out the real intentions behind
the media law."
Meanwhile it is told that President Robert Mugabe is
facing new pressure from his militant war veterans as the former fighters,
whose campaign of violence helped win Mugabes disputed re-election in
March, demand that he appoints them as Cabinet ministers, provincial governors
and as Zimbabwes ambassadors abroad. Zimbabwe National Liberation War
Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary for projects Andrew Ndlovu said
on April 17 that the grouping of former guerrillas of Zimbabwes 1970s
liberation war had proposed to Mugabe that he also appoints their members as
district administrators and gives them top jobs in the police force. "We are
saying that war veterans should be included at all levels of government. The
war veterans should be appointed as ministers or deputy ministers, governors,
high commissioners, district administrators and senior police officers," Ndlovu
told the Financial Gazette.
ZNLWVA secretary-general Andy Mhlanga told
this newspaper separately that a document detailing the proposals was sent to
Mugabe in March. But Mhlanga said there had been no response yet from the
78-year-old leader, who in recent years has increasingly relied on the
50.000-strong former fighters to suppress rising opposition to his 22-year
rule. Presidential spokesman George Charamba could not be reached for comment
on the matter.
The war veterans are also demanding an immediate 150
percent increase in their monthly pension from $7 890 to $20 000, a hike in the
school fees allowance from $20 000 per child a term to $35 000 and that the
government launches a special state-subsidised medical aid scheme which covers
them and their dependants.
Sources close to the ZNLWVA said the
ex-combatants were disgruntled that while Mugabe had appeared content to use
them to ensure he remained in power, the veterans felt that they had been
unable to share in the spoils of that power. Most of the ex-fighters except
those who were absorbed into the army and civil service soon after
Zimbabwes independence from Britain in 1980 remain out of the government.
The veterans now want Mugabe to ditch some of his Cabinet ministers
they allege deserted the 1970s armed struggle and who they say are anti-war
veteran. The sources said the veterans want Mugabe to also dismiss several
senior civil servants inherited from the white colonial Rhodesian regime and
the vacancies created in the Cabinet and civil service to be filled by the
The militant former fighters, who have spearheaded the
governments controversial plan to seize land from white farmers, in 1997
forced Mugabe to pay them more than $4 billion in unbudgeted expenditure after
staging a series of protests against the government.
Ndlovu said: "The
government has been infiltrated through the civil service. We, the war
veterans, have the most to lose if the ZANU PF government was to be removed
from power and therefore we are saying we should get the key posts to ensure
that the government is strengthened. (FINANCIAL GAZETTE, IRIN)