Zimbabwe Election: Too Good to Be True; This Year's Election Campaign Has Gone against All the Dire Predictions, So Much So That the Western Media Has Taken Refuge in Silence-Almost. Tandai Nyamukapa in Harare and Tom Mbakwe in London Report
Nyamukapa, Tandai, Mbakwe, Tom, New African
By the time this issue of New African was going to press, Zimbabwe has had six intensive weeks of election campaign (election date: 31 March), but scanning the Western media one got the impression that Zimbabwe did not either exist or had moved to another planet.
"Two years is a long time in politics indeed," said Ruth Sampa an African journalist doing her Masters of Art programme in London and who has been studying the near total blackout of coverage on Zimbabwe's election in the British media. "Comparing the hyper coverage of Zimbabwe in the run-up to the 2002 presidential elections with the near silence in 2005," Sampa said, "you get the feeling that Zimbabwe has now moved to another planet. I just cannot believe it."
On 16 March, a newspaper reviewer invited by the UK's Sky News TV to its breakfast show offered the incredible explanation that the poor Zimbabwe coverage was due to "lack of interest because of Mugabe's longevity which has put people off".
"The truth which the reviewer didn't want to tell," explained Sampa, "is that the election campaign has gone swimmingly for six weeks--with minimal violence! With two more weeks to go, that was bad news for the Western media. Remember the West had already pre-judged the elections months before the campaign even started as not going to be free and fair." It appears a free and fair election in Zimbabwe is one that is won by the MDC. "Anything short of that, cannot be free and fair," said Sampa.
Zimbabwe's compliance with the SADC guidelines on elections has also confounded its critics. Last December, the country's bipartisan parliament passed the Electoral Commission Act and the Electoral Act, both of which came into force on 21 January this year. In fact, in some senses, as noted recently by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Zimbabwe is a step ahead of the other SADC countries in terms of codifying the SADC standards.
For example, in order to realise the objective of equal access to the media, Zimbabwe this year promulgated a regulation (access to radio and TV during election), which allocates equal airtime of 91 minutes to all the political parties for their "official broadcasts". The regulation also makes it mandatory for each channel to allocate 240 minutes of available purchasable time to party candidates (for campaign adverts) in all the country's 120 constituencies. …