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Mugabe Fires Information Minister Jonathan Moyo

  • Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who has been President Robert Mugabe's most effective public voice, was removed from parliament and his cabinet position on Saturday. His dismissal was announced one day after he became an independent candidate for next month's elections.

The only surprising aspect of Jonathan Moyo's exit from the ruling ZANU-PF party is that it took so long, according to many analysts. He was dropped from the ZANU-PF politburo three months ago, but was kept on as information minister.

Mr. Moyo wrote the ZANU-PF election manifesto that Mr. Mugabe presented to the public two weeks ago.

Mr. Moyo is credited with playing a large role in continued African support for Mr. Mugabe, whose ZANU-PF party defeated the young opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, in the past two national elections, which international observers declared were neither free nor fair.

The thrust of Mr. Moyo's campaign that found favor in much of Africa was that Zimbabwe was under threat of being colonized again by Britain, led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Until late 1999, Mr. Moyo, a university professor, had been an outspoken critic of ZANU-PF. Then, he was brought into the ruling-party hierarchy, and appointed a legislator and minister of information.

Mr. Moyo wrote new media legislation, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which led to the only privately owned daily newspaper being banned. Scores of journalists were arrested, beaten up, detained or deported under laws he wrote.

Mr. Moyo is not the first information minister to clamp down on the press. Shortly after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mr. Mugabe's new government began deporting and arresting journalists.

In parliament, Mr. Moyo's legislation and political statements were applauded by ZANU-PF. But last year, he began clashing with some senior ZANU-PF leaders, and finally, in December, he was accused of interfering in plans for Mr. Mugabe's succession when he eventually retires.

Mr. Mugabe said Mr. Moyo would lose all his positions and benefits with immediate effect.

Opposition legal spokesman David Coltart says, while he detested Mr. Moyo's laws and his public record, the Movement for Democratic Change feels he is brave to defy ZANU-PF. Mr. Coltart says ZANU-PF has a long history of persecuting those who fall out of favor.

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