A news reporting crew from the Daily News was barred from covering a function presided over by First Lady Grace Mugabe at her Mazowe business hub on Wednesday, in yet another glaring example of official intolerance of the independent media in the country.
While the Daily News was ejected from the function, reporters from State media were welcomed warmly and allowed to freely cover the event, where Grace donated part of the proceeds she got from her birthday dinner to various charities.
Grace, whose dislike of the private media, and Daily News in particular, is no secret, is said to have raised up to $3 million during her birthday celebrations at the weekend, which were covered live, and for free, by the ZBC.
Although the Daily News reporter initially managed to get into the Mazowe estate, albeit after being searched thoroughly by security, she was later told to get out after panicky officials were told that they had made a mistake in granting her entry.
The newspaper’s chief photographer, Annie Mpalume, was never even afforded temporary entry into the estate, as security personnel told her that they were waiting for sniffer dogs to search her camera.
The crew was later told by a woman, who claimed to be from the ministry of Information, that they were not welcome and could thus not cover the event. This is not the first time that the Daily News has suffered harassment at the hands of the country’s authorities and that of the First Lady.
Grace made false claims late last year that former Vice President Joice Mujuru owned a 10 percent stake in the newspaper. Police subsequently obtained a court order, signed by Harare provincial magistrate Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe, authorising them to search and seize key documents pertaining to the ownership of the newspaper’s parent company Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ).
Two police officers from the CID law and order section stormed the company’s Harare offices six months ago, armed with the warrant of seizure. Grace first made the outrageous claim that Mujuru had bought a 10 percent shareholding in the country’s leading newspaper, the Daily News, while addressing one of her controversial “Meet the People” rallies at her vast Mazowe business hub in October last year.
Addressing mainly war collaborators and youths, she accused Zimbabwe’s top-selling daily — that was violently and unjustly shut down by her husband’s government in September 2003, and which only returned to the news stalls in late March 2011 — of publishing negative stories about her in the alleged service of Mujuru.
“Don’t be surprised to see negative stories of me every day. She (Mujuru) bought 10 percent of Daily News. Daily News yakatengwa ndosaka muchiona vachingonyora nezvangu (She bought the Daily News that’s why they criticise me),” she said falsely, without batting an eyelid.
A week before that, the quarrelsome and increasingly influential First Lady brazenly incited Zanu PF supporters against journalists from the newspaper at a rally held in Marondera, alleging that the country’s number one media brand was being used by factional leaders to wage a war against her.