Editor says Jonathan Moyo acting on Mugabe’s instructions


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The former editor of the Daily News Francis Mdlongwa said the closure of the paper was the result of orders coming straight from Information Minister Jonathan Moyo but Moyo could not act without consulting President Robert Mugabe.

Mdlongwa who had just resigned from the paper because of differences with chief executive officer Sam Sipepa Nkomo said the government was going to get more repressive every day and every hour.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1887, GOZ UPS THE ANTE ON CLOSURE OF ONLY INDEPENDENT

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1887

2003-09-17 12:33

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001887

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF FOR A/S KANSTEINER AND PDAS SNYDER; AF/S FOR

DELISI AND RAYNOR; AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

GUATEMALA CITY FOR DCM WHARTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2013

TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO KMDR ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ UPS THE ANTE ON CLOSURE OF ONLY INDEPENDENT

DAILY NEWSPAPER

 

Classified By: JPolacheck for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY In the span of six days, from September 11 to

16, the GOZ has gone from declaring The Daily News (TDN)

illegal (9/11; ref a), to occupying and shutting down TDN

operations (9/12; ref b), to accepting TDN registration under

the onerous Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act

(AIPPA) (9/15), to finally raiding the offices and seizing

tangible assets of the company (9/16; ref c). After the

September 11 Supreme Court ruling, all GOZ actions occurred

without warrants, courts orders, etc. Simultaneously,

President Mugabe reportedly told the South African

Vice-President that he was unaware these police actions and

implied that the situation would be rectified. Executives

with TDN are divided as to what course of action to take.

END SUMMARY

 

Hope springs eternal

—————————–

 

2. (SBU) Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) CEO Sam

Nkomo told mission personnel on September 15 that TDN would

be back on the streets by the next day as they felt they had

complied with the Supreme Court ruling. Earlier that

morning, Gugulethu Moyo, legal counsel for ANZ, went to the

Media and Information Commission (MIC) to attempt to register

ANZ as a media company as required under section 66 of AIPPA.

Public comments were made by the MIC chairman stating that

there was no point in ANZ “approaching MIC with dirty hands,”

a reference to the earlier court case during which ANZ had

not registered with the MIC while challenging AIPPA on

constitutional grounds. Despite this, Moyo was treated

professionally at the MIC while successfully filing a

preliminary request for registration. AIPPA stipulates that

once a request for registration is submitted, the media house

is legally entitled to operate while the request was pending.

TDN thus expected to be allowed back into their premises,

which were occupied by armed police, and to recommence

publication immediately.

 

3. (C) Criminal charges against Nkomo for running an illegal

company were not filed on the 15th as expected, which Moyo

said gave hope for a negotiated settlement. Another reason

for hope was that Nkomo heard from the ANZ owner, based in

SA, that Vice-President Jacob Zuma of South Africa called

Mugabe regarding the actions against TDN and that Mugabe

reportedly claimed not to have known about the impending

action and assured the GOSA that TDN will be allowed to

operate again.

 

You can’t get a flock of chickens to run straight

——————————

 

4. (SBU) Editor-in-Chief of ANZ, Francis Mdlongwa told

emboffs on September 15 that he resigned earlier that day

over a long-standing dispute with Nkomo over chain of command

issues. He revealed that in an emergency executive meeting

of the ANZ held September 10 to discuss the Supreme Court

ruling declaring their operations illegal, Nkomo was the lone

voice in favor of immediately registering with the MIC.

Mdlongwa voiced unrelenting opposition to registration,

arguing it would force TDN journalists to register as well.

Individual registration is especially oppressive in this

environment because it requires a declaration of one’s

political affiliation. Regardless, he claimed the parting

with Nkomo was cordial and that he would continue to consult

with ANZ as needed, but not in a capacity which required him

to register. This contradicted the account of his

resignation which played on the front page of the government

controlled “The Herald” on September 16.

 

Hope takes a cold shower

———————–

 

5. (SBU) Mdlongwa then talked of the closure of TDN as a

result of “orders coming straight from Jonathan (note,

Jonathan Moyo, Minister for Information and day-to-day

controller of GOZ-owned media outlets, end note)…but Moyo

can’t act without consulting with Mugabe.” He then said that

the GOZ was “going to the wire…testing public opinion in

Zimbabwe and the world.” He then claimed the GOZ would only

get “more repressive everyday and every hour.”

 

Listen to the pessimists

————————

 

6. (C) A routine phone call to Gugu Moyo the morning of

September 16, revealed that the police were at the offices of

TDN and were in the process of packing and removing all the

assets of ANZ that weren’t nailed down. Under the guise of

negotiation, the police invited Nkomo and Moyo to TDN

offices. On arrival, it was clear to Moyo that negotiations

were not taking place that day, as the police arrived with

the special weapons Law and Order Maintenance unit and with

riot police. Moyo reports the police said they were to take

all the assets of the illegal company. Upon asking for a

warrant, court order, etc., she was told “if you want a

warrant, we’ll just arrest you for resisting our operation.”

At that point, Nkomo left to see counsel to initiate an

urgent injunction preventing the police from proceeding.

Evening consultations with Moyo indicated that the injunction

was filed and yet the police were continuing to cart off big

ticket items such as computers. According to TDN technical

staff, as long as the police do not begin tearing up the

wiring, TDN could be back on the streets using laptops.

 

Who’s next?

————–

 

7. (SBU) While attempting to document the events of the

16th, two photographers, for AFP and Reuters, fully

accredited with the MIC, were detained and their cameras

reportedly confiscated. The September 16-edition of the

government-controlled “The Herald,” in the article covering

on TDN crisis said “It also emerged yesterday that the Media

Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter (an NGO

concerned with press freedom and professionalism, end note)

which was making the most noise was also not registered and

was operating illegally.” MISA officials expressed concern

that they were next.

 

8. (C) COMMENT: What began as a small government victory in

the running court battles between GOZ and the rest of society

quickly exploded into a full scale attack on the government’s

most consistent critic. There is no doubt that Min. J. Moyo

would have liked to have done this months ago, and was

waiting for the slimmest legal pretext. The Herald swipe at

MISA appears to indicate that Min. Moyo may use AIPPA to

launch his long-awaited pogrom against the independent print

media and its supporters. We find it difficult to envision

that Moyo has kept Mugabe in the dark about these matters.

More likely, the GOZ is measuring the international reaction

and whether it can get away with keeping TDN shut down with

or without legal pretext. We urge the Department to the

maintain strong public position and to interact with other

governments and media watchdog institutes to build pressure

against repressive GOZ actions.

SULLIVAN

(40 VIEWS)

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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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