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Zimbabwe Media Reforms Unlikely, Says Analyst

A Zimbabwean political analyst says, despite repeated promises, embattled President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party is unlikely to implement the much-anticipated wide-ranging media reforms.

Rejoice Ngwenya described the latest promise to overhaul the government media policies as “pandering and pontificating for the sake of it.”

“When it comes to independent institutions of governance and democracy, ZANU-PF is going to pontificate and issue propaganda statements that look credible on paper, but they don’t follow them up. So, we are kind of used to this idea. This things needs political will, but ZANU-PF cannot deliver that,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s information minister, Webster Shamu, said Monday that the administration will soon implement wide-ranging media reforms that could result in independent media outlets breaking the government's hold on the flow of information.

But, Zimbabwe’s last independent newspaper was shut down in 2003 after being accused of criticizing President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Analyst Ngwenya said ZANU-PF is only interested in furthering its interest.

“I don’t think that this time is going to be different. Regulations and laws that have to do with self-enrichment and self-empowerment like indigenisation (law that forces white-owned companies to sell a majority stake to local blacks) are going to be cobbled overnight with a string of propaganda and paranoia around these things by the state media…I agree with those who say that this is not any different,” Ngwenya said.

Recently, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai came up with what has been described as an ambitious plan that might see the government relax draconian media and security laws by the end of the year. But, some analysts express skepticism saying hardliners from President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF will undermine Tsvangirai’s efforts to maintain the status quo.

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) - a coalition of groups that includes the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), and others - have often said that the country’s media laws were being used selectively to muzzle the independent media - a charge supporters of the ZANU-PF deny.

Ngwenya said ZANU-PF propaganda will suffer if the party embarks on media reforms.

“What that means basically is that ZANU-PF has signed its death warrant. There is no way ZANU-PF can survive politically when the citizens of this country have access to information and are free to get independent political opinion, and are free to chose,” Ngwenya said.