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Zimbabwe's Media Minister Falls From Grace with Ruling Party

  • Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe's controversial information minister, Jonathan Moyo, will not be allowed to stand in the next general election, scheduled to take place in March. The ruling ZANU-PF says that the district Mr. Moyo wanted to represent will now have a woman candidate.

ZANU-PF has made much of its desire to see more women in parliament. It says about 30 percent of its 120 candidates in the next general election will be women.

Significantly, one of the districts it has chosen for a women candidate, in southern Zimbabwe, is Mr. Moyo's home district.

Mr. Moyo has been increasingly criticized by the top leadership in ZANU-PF. He is accused of secretly supporting a faction within the party against another favored by President Robert Mugabe.

Several leading ZANU-PF politicians, associated with him have been disciplined by the party and have lost seniority. Several more were detained earlier this month and are now awaiting trial.

Political analyst Brian Kagoro who is also co-chair of the group, the Crisis Coalition, says much of the squabbling within the party is not of great political significance.

However, he does believe the possibility that Mr. Moyo's political career may be ending is significant because of the role he played in curbing media freedoms.

Mr. Moyo joined the ruling party five years ago and was appointed by Mr. Mugabe as information minister. After his appointment, he succeeded in bringing in new media laws that have been described by local and international watchdogs as among the most oppressive in the world.

He was at the head of a campaign to close down Zimbabwe's most popular daily newspaper, The Daily News, which gained a large following because of its strong anti-corruption and anti-ZANU-PF stance. The paper began publication in late 1999, the same year as the launch of Zimbabwe's first mass based opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, which has become a strong rival to ZANU-PF.

Though Mr. Moyo played a key role in enacting the media law, and has also defended what many human rights organizations say were excesses by President Robert Mugabe and his security forces.

Analyst Brian Kagoro says ZANU-PF will probably not discipline him in any formal way, but may send him out of the country as a diplomat, or may allow him to leave the country.

Mr. Moyo has not been seen in public since late last month and his whereabouts are not known.

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