Zimbabwe's state media is being criticized for biased coverage of national elections to be held Saturday, but party political advertisements in the public media are being seen and heard for the first time. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the latest ZANU-PF jingle on radio exhorts people to vote for the ruling party if they want a farm.
POLITICAL AD: "If you want a farm, vote ZANU-PF. If you want a tractor, Vote ZANU-PF. If you want a company, Vote ZANU-PF."
Those are the first phrases of a jingle that began playing Tuesday on all four of Zimbabwe's radio stations. The advertisement is playing throughout the day and night with several others from ZANU-PF.
The state controls all radio, the only television channel, and both daily newspapers.
The jingle tells people that President Robert Muabe will give them consistent and trusted leadership and that ZANU-PF is for black economic empowerment, although most businesses are already controlled by black Zimbabweans.
Mr. Mugabe handed out millions of dollars worth of tractors and other agricultural equipment as he launched his campaign for re-election. He also signed a law that forces all corporations to hand a majority sharehold to black Zimbabweans.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by founding MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai also has several jingles on radio.
These advertisements say Tsvangirai and the MDC will return Zimbabwe to the international community and will ensure jobs are created and that families divided by the political and economic crisis will be re-united under MDC rule.
If there are jingles for the other presidential candidate, former finance minister Simba Makoni, they have not played for significant periods.
The independent Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe says the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which by an act of parliament is supposed to be a public broadcaster, is biased in favor of ZANU-PF. The internationally funded project's daily election reports say ZANU-PF gets more than 80 percent of political coverage, all of it favorable, while reports on the opposition are nearly all negative.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation is also in a state of disrepair. The nightly news bulletin often starts late.
Last Sunday, the news began 25 minutes late and airtime was filled with Japanese promotional material advertising different hairstyles for men and women.
Mobile telephone networks are also in a state of disrepair. Many election observers who began entering Zimbabwe from African countries late last week are complaining they cannot receive or make calls on their mobile phones.
The few foreign journalists allowed in the country to cover the elections are having a similar problem.
State telecommunications company, Telone, was not available for comment, but insiders say it is short of foreign currency to import spare parts to keep the networks working.
Many landlines around the country have also stopped working. For many people in smaller rural areas in the former commercial farming districts, mobile phones are the only way they can keep in contact with their families. Access to the Internet has also been extremely difficult before the election.
Zimbabwe used to have a reasonably efficient landline telephone network, which was digitalized about 15 years ago. Zimbabwe owes several countries for foreign calls, and Telone has had to cut most calls made to foreign countries.