United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won the 29 march 2008 elections. She said she based this on a wealth of post-election tallies by independent observers.
Frazer said this in Zambia where she called on the international community and the Southern African Development Community to take a tougher stance against President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s party had won one seat more than President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front in the lower house while Mugabe’s party had won more seats in the Senate but the presidential election results had not yet been released.
Frazer said Zimbabwe’s election results should reflect the will of the people.
Viewing cable 08LUSAKA465, MEDIA COVERAGE OF A/S FRAZER VISIT TO ZAMBIA
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLS #0465 1191128
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281128Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LUSAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5744
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS LUSAKA 000465
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: MEDIA COVERAGE OF A/S FRAZER VISIT TO ZAMBIA
REF: LUSAKA 463
¶1. Summary. In interviews with Zambian national and international
TV, local reporters and major news wire services during a brief
visit to Lusaka, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Jendayi Frazer broadcasted U.S. concerns about the recent Zimbabwean
election and spoke out forcefully against violence in post election
Zimbabwe. A/S Frazer used her press opportunities to clarify, but
not back off from, remarks she had made days before in South Africa
that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai had won the March 29 election,
stating clearly that she had based her comments on a wealth of
post-election tallies by independent observers. Her visit – and her
call for a tougher international community stance against President
Robert Mugabe – featured prominently in local and international
media. End Summary.
¶2. During a brief April 26-27 visit to Lusaka that included meetings
with President Levy Mwanawasa and former President Kenneth Kaunda,
A/S Frazer sat down for interviews with Associated Press (AP),
Reuters, the BBC World Service, Radio France International, and
several local Zambian media outlets. In each interview she spoke
out forcefully against post-election violence in Zimbabwe and called
on the international community, and specifically on SADC, to take a
tougher stance against reports of gross human rights abuse. She
also continued to emphasize that Zimbabwe’s election results should
reflect the will of the people. A/S Frazer’s statements were picked
up and placed prominently on Zambian and international television,
radio, print, and internet sites.
¶3. Local media outlets concentrated on Frazer’s meeting with
President Mwanawasa, and on his role as SADC Chairman. Zambia’s
most-read newspaper, “The Post” (circulation: 30,000), got an
exclusive interview (“US rep, Levy hold talks over Zim crisis”) and
led with Frazer’s concerns about post-election violence. Though the
paper has previously criticized Western involvement in the
Zimbabwean crisis, their coverage of the A/S visit was accurate and
highlighted the A/S’ main points. The government-run “Daily Mail”
(circulation: 20,000) and “Times of Zambia” (circulation: 25,000)
both took their front-page reports from a Zambia News and
Information Services (ZANIS) reporter who sat in on the AP
interview. Both articles mirrored each other (The Times: “America
exerts pressure on Zim.” The Daily Mail: “Levy urged to pressurise
[sic] Mugabe”) and both led with A/S talking points about U.S.
concern over Zimbabwe violence.
¶4. Zambia National Broadcasting Company television (viewership: 4
million) and radio (listenership: 8 million) broadcasts took
advantage of an exclusive interview, and lead by saying “the United
States of America has expressed concern over the deteriorating
security environment in Zimbabwe.” (The TV bulletin also ran a
separate clip, featuring A/S comments highlighting the Zambian
government’s anti-corruption efforts.) A number of popular,
privately-owned radio stations mentioned the A/S visit, basing their
reports on the ZANIS report.
¶5. Almost as if anticipating A/S Frazer’s visit, the Post –
Zambia’s largest circulation and only independent newspaper ran an
editorial calling on Mugabe to hand over power peacefully. This was
an unexpected shift in message for The Post, which has traditionally
been a liberation movement stalwart. In fact, the Post’s publisher
used the opportunity of the PAO’s last visit to the newsroom to
lambaste the West for its imperial/colonial interference in
Zimbabwean politics. The subsequent editorial (“Let the imperialists
choke on their frustration”) was straight out of Mugabe’s past
talking points. However, given that they are bordering countries,
the lack of original and/or insightful reporting on Zimbabwe from
Zambia is a notable disappointment. With the exception of the local
angle – President Mwanawasa’s role as SADC chairman – most Zimbabwe
coverage comes from international wire services. With the visit of
the A/S, and given the chance to report directly on the situation,
the Zambian media was by and large positive, and accurate, reporting
back the A/S’ talking points just as she presented them.