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Zimbabwe deports activists and bars media ahead of Wednesday elections

Zimbabwe deports activists and bars media ahead of Wednesday elections
A supporter of Zimbabwean President and Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mmangagwa (unseen) waves a flag during an election campaign rally in Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 August 2023. Zimbabweans will be heading for elections on 23 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

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.

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

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  • Dennis Bailey says:

    No surprises here but illustrative of continental push towards anarchy that benefits power/ elite and increases vulnerability of most vulnerable. Will SA learn from its neighbours? Doubt.

  • Gerard Currin says:

    Well, now we know that the poll will not be free and fair.

  • Soil Merchant says:

    Free and Fair is just Hot Air…

  • Henry Henry says:

    TIA.
    Nothing to see here… Just move on….

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Rigged and Rubbish!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    And our spineless President will keep schtumm as usual and still tell us that he believes in freedom of speech.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Will the ANC Youth League be allowed to observe Wednesday’s elections?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Oh yes….lessons learnt from both China and Russia – I sincerely hope this is not a stance soon to be adopted by SA!
    Competition – verboten!
    Press freedom – verboten!
    Fair and free elections – verboten!
    Anything to reduce the country to tinpot status so the politically elite can rob the country blind and retire in Dubai ( used to be Switzerland until they developed a conscience!) Been there…seen that….so “sh**hole African country!

  • elmadutoit says:

    They’ve learnt well from their communist partners in crime. Political elite stealing the country blind, rest of population treated like mushrooms: Keep them in the dark and feed them sh&*!

  • Luan Nel says:

    Zimbabweans are surely the most longsuffering nation with the governments they have had, from the Brits to the despots, their suffering continues unabated. Greed and the neverending lust for power rob this beautiful country and its gentle people of any hope for a prosperous future. They are a country wealthy with resources and have land aplenty for farming, wealth should be dripping off these people but instead, we see only suffering, threats of hunger, poverty everywhere, a currency that is a joke, and people living in fear of the arms of the government, like the military and the police, both of whom, ironically, are supposed to protect and be in service of their citizenry. Orwell could not have designed this better.

    • Mario de Abreu says:

      What suffering did they have under the Brits? at least they had food, water, jobs, security. I laugh every time I hear Stevie Wonders song “”Peace has come to Zimbabwe” first sung by him in 1980. Wonder why he’s not singing now?

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