This week’s arrest of two senior Zimbabwean journalists has underlined just how far the unity government has to go before it can restore confidence.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gave a sunny-side-up assessment of the state of the new government as he launched a new 100-day plan on Wednesday. It is a plan laden with lofty targets. Within the next three months the government aims to end all farm violence, revive schools and hospitals, reform the judiciary and raise enough cash to fund the next farming season, among other pledges.
But Monday’s arrest of Zimbabwe Independent editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure has underlined the resistance of what Tsvangirai has described as ”residual elements of the old regime”.
At the launch of the plan on Wednesday the focus was on positives. Support from the African Development Bank and the Africa Export-Import Bank last week took Zimbabwe above its $1-billion target for credit lines and an International Monetary Fund delegation is expected to begin a programme of technical assistance next week.
Zimbabwe remains far from the total $8.3-billion it needs to stabilise the economy. Only $35-million in direct aid has been secured.
Kahiya and Chimakure were arrested over a story naming security agents they said had played a role in the abductions of activists last year.
The article was based on court documents in which police and security agents are named. Police have charged the journalists with publishing material ”wholly or materially false with the intention of lowering public confidence in law enforcement agencies”.
Journalists view the arrests as an attempt to gag the media ahead of the activists’ trial, which could reveal further details of the abductions and alleged torture when it opens in June.
The arrests add to a growing list of violations Tsvangirai is under pressure to be seen to act against. ”There have been several tests of who holds real power in the new government and Tsvangirai has come short each time,” one of his MPs said on Wednesday.