State-run press leads propaganda charge

There’s only one reason Robert Mugabe is going to win today’s presidential election if you believe the state-run press: the people have finally come to their senses.

They were duped by a massive British propaganda campaign into supporting the opposition in the first round three months ago. But now they have magically understood that the economy is collapsing and the supermarket shelves are empty as the result of British-led sanctions, that the redistribution of white-owned farms has been a great success even though there are shortages of food, and that Mugabe is hugely popular even though he lost the first round three months ago and has to beat people up to get them to vote for him this time.

There is an Alice in Wonderland quality to most of Zimbabwe’s press which is answerable to those around Mugabe. The pretence of balance in the first round of elections in March, when the state press made a stab at giving the opposition its say, has given way to a propaganda onslaught that the Zimbabwe Media Monitoring Project has called the “prostitution of even the most basic ethical journalistic conduct in the service of the ruling party”.

Presenters of the televised political discussion programme, Dzimbahwe, routinely describe Mugabe as the “perfect presidential candidate for Zimbabwe”.
A television interviewer the other day asked a ruling Zanu-PF official: “Would it be fair to say that to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai is the equivalent of selling your family into slavery?”

At their most perverse, the reports blame the bloodied victims of systematic assaults on the opposition of being responsible for the violence.

But much of the propaganda conjures up a world in which Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, is taking his orders directly from Downing Street with the sole aim of recolonising Zimbabwe. The voters might wonder if the Movement for Democratic Change’s leader could have found a better mentor given British Prime Minister’s Gordon Brown’s problems. It’s a theme picked up by the endlessly repeated television adverts showing Tony Blair morphing into George Bush and then into Brown and finally a particularly unattractive picture of Tsvangirai before declaring them all to be the “losers club”. No mention is made of the fact that it was Mugabe who lost the first round of presidential elections.

Still there are times when the propaganda looks self-defeating, not least midway through the hourly nightly news bulletin when the anchors move to the fifth or sixth report on a Mugabe rally with the president yet again warning that the gun is mightier than the ballot box. It’s hard to imagine that viewers haven’t gone to make a very long cup of tea. The state papers have also made much of Tsvangirai choosing to hide out in the Dutch embassy. “His [Tsvangirai’s] constituency is in Europe and he will be elected the best Euro-American puppet of the country while having tea and Dutch cheese in the Dutch Embassy in Harare,” said the Herald. -

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