Mudede gags media
HARARE – Registrar General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede has deliberately set in motion a media gag by isolating the independent media from national processes which affect the forthcoming referendum and general election.
A Daily News reporter was thrown out of Mudede’s boardroom while attending a press conference on the voters’ roll. Mudede said invitations to cover the event had not been extended to the independent media.
“As a national process we have our people we invite to cover, the Daily News was not asked to cover so you must understand our position,” he said.
“When things misfire we can easily track a selected few, we will appreciate it if you left,” said Mudede.
Mudede, who has been RG since Zimbabwe’s first post-independence election in 1985, made it clear independent media was not welcome at the briefing.
Present at the press conference was the state-controlled ZBC TV, Herald and New Ziana. The independent media was not represented, despite much talk in the country concerning freedom of the press.
Mudede’s stance comes in the wake of an upcoming referendum and general elections.
Last year in June a report by the South African Institute for Race Relations said there were 42 000 people over the age of 100 on the voters’ roll and that this was an “impossible” number.
Some on the roll appeared to be 120 years old, in a country with a life expectancy of 43, according to the World Health Organisation.
Press conference material issued out at the briefing condemned independent media for presenting the voters roll as being in “shambles”.
It also went on to condemn a freelance journalist who had done a survey on the voters’ roll as being “misinformed”.
The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) also noted that nearly a third of registered voters are dead and described the voters roll as a “shambles” that needs to be overhauled before fresh elections are held.
Zesn also wants the voters’ roll in electronic form, rather than the current paper version.
Mudede has been accused by civil society activists of playing a key role in rigging elections for Mugabe in the over 27 years he has been in charge of the voters’ roll.
Before presidential elections in 2002 Mudede told a meeting at the International School in Harare that, “he could imagine no circumstances in which he would declare anyone other than Mugabe the winner.”
It was only after four court orders that pressure groups were able to see a copy of the “shambolic” voters’ roll he used.
An independent media agency, SW Radio Africa last year reported that its sources alleged that Zanu PF is secretly removing known MDC supporters from the voters’ roll.
The sources, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, have claimed that chiefs in the rural areas are being coerced into supplying the names of known opposition supporters, according to SW Radio Africa.
After this incident, it is not surprising that Mudede gained a reputation from foreign journalists as a key player in press censorship and a culpable member of the Mugabe regime for human rights violations.