COUNTDOWN TO 23 AUGUST
Zimbabwe deports activists and bars media ahead of Wednesday elections
Zimbabwean authorities on Thursday deported four regional democracy activists on arrival at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and barred hordes of journalists from several international media houses, including at least one Daily Maverick photojournalist, ahead of the country’s general elections slated for Wednesday.
Authorities at Zimbabwe’s major airport turned back Chris Maroleng, who is the executive director of Good Governance Africa in the Southern African Development Community region, and three of his colleagues from Good Governance Africa while several journalists from foreign media organisations were denied clearance to cover the upcoming elections.
Some Zimbabwean immigration officials who requested not to be named said they received instructions from security officials not to allow Maroleng, a former broadcaster with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and members of his delegation into the country.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe 2023 Elections
“We are under strict instructions not to allow certain people into the country and we have a list of such people from various organisations that should not be let in until after the elections. We do not have any reasons but we are just following security orders,” said an immigration source.
Prominent Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono posted on social media that Maroleng had met officials at the Zimbabwean embassy who had given him and his delegation the green light to travel.
South African former broadcaster, and Global Advisor and the SADC Executive Director of Good Governance Africa @ChrisMaroleng is being deported with his 3 colleagues by the Zimbabwean Government back to South Africa after arriving in the country on Tuesday.
Maroleng said he met… pic.twitter.com/xsFKlzADou
— Hopewell Chin’ono (@daddyhope) August 17, 2023
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently warned election observers not to interfere with Zimbabwe’s electoral process, but to stick to their mandate of observing the polls. Mnangagwa’s spokesperson recently warned that election observers who meddled in the country’s internal affairs would be deported from Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, several foreign media houses were reportedly denied clearance by Zimbabwean authorities to cover Wednesday’s general elections although no reasons were given. Some of the organisations include Voice of America, ARD of Germany and Daily Maverick.
The chief of the Zimbabwe service of Voice of America, Ray Choto, posted on a social media platform of journalists seeking accreditation to cover Zimbabwe’s elections that journalists from his organisation had been blocked from covering the polls.
“US-based Voice of America journalists’ application was not cleared by the ministry to cover general elections. No reason was given, so our team will not be travelling to Zimbabwe,” wrote Choto.
Jana Genth, the southern Africa correspondent of ARD, based in Johannesburg, also said her organisation had also been blocked.
“The same applies to South Africa-based ARD German Radio and TV. No reason was given either. Hence we also can’t travel to Zimbabwe next week,” said Genth.
Daily Maverick’s application for photo editor Felix Dlangamandla to be accredited to cover the elections was also rejected.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa could not be reached for comment. However, sources in her department said the Harare administration would not allow media houses that it deemed “hostile” into the country to cover the polls.
This comes shortly after President Mnangagwa’s government, in conjunction with mining giant African Chrome Fields, recently brought several journalists from South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, Eswatini, Namibia, Tanzania and Botswana, as well as Zimbabwean journalists working for media houses in the southern African region, to the country on what was dubbed the “True Zimbabwe Tour”.
The visit was seen by many as a ploy by the Harare administration to spruce up its battered image after Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party ran a violent election campaign that resulted in a member of the country’s main opposition Citizens for Coalition Change (CCC) party losing his life.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe’s opposition parties slam ‘uneven playing field’ ahead of 2023 general elections
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said barring foreign media houses from covering elections was a deliberate move by the Harare administration to save face from international ridicule over the manner in which the election process was being run.
“There is absolutely no interest on the part of Zanu-PF, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the security sector that is backing them to have a free and fair election and they are fully aware that allowing foreign media into Zimbabwe will expose not only the violence and intimidation that the opposition is going through, but also the shambolic manner in which this election has been organised.
“This is probably the worst electoral process that we have had in Zimbabwe with absolutely no intention to be transparent and accountable, but with every intention to rig and cheat those that they are competing with,” said Mukundu.
Foreign affairs ministry’s spokesperson Levit Mugejo said he was yet to be briefed on the barring of civil society members and journalists.
“Sorry, (I) was engaged with something urgent. May I find out and come back to you; possibly tomorrow. Apologies,” said Mugejo.
The run-up to Wednesday’s polls was characterised by numerous court applications that caused the electoral body to delay the printing of ballot papers. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Douglas Mwonzora, says it is boycotting elections, alleging several irregularities in the manner in which the ZEC was handling affairs ahead of the election.
Mwonzora accused the ZEC of drawing up new boundaries in the middle of an election in violation of the country’s laws, and also ignoring figures from a national census in delimiting constituency boundaries.
Mwonzora has called on other opposition parties to boycott the elections, arguing that the chaotic manner in which the ZEC ran its affairs was ensuring a predetermined outcome that would favour Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF party. However, Nelson Chamisa’s CCC is adamant that it will dislodge Zanu PF from power against all odds while Mnangagwa, for his part, is confident of a resounding victory. DM