ZIMBABWE’S three political parties in Parliament, Zanu PF, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and MDC Alliance (MDC-A) have called for a truce ahead of the 2023 general elections.
In a rare occasion organised by the Zimbabwe Institute (ZI), the country’s main political parties, the public and private media editors, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and government through the Information and Publicity ministry met yesterday in Kadoma for a two-day indaba ending today, to dialogue and chart the 2023 information dissemination roadmap.
The political leaders and government prayed for tolerance, a violence-free 2023 plebiscite and implored the media to be fair and balanced in its reportage.
“We are here to primarily build a nation... through our words we can build our country,” said ZI executive director Isaac Maposa.
In her keynote address, Information and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “As the country now gearsup for the 2023 general elections, we are going to have a hive of political activities, some that are positive, and others that might turn out to be negative. Politicians have a duty to establish a peaceful environment and in the same vein the media has to promote peace as well. In any election period, the media is expected to carry various messages for various political parties which differ in form and content. In so doing, we expect all the messages to be driven by the dominant ideology of one nation one people, that is putting Zimbabwe first. For political parties to mobilise their supporters in peace, there is need for the media to embrace the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media which is enshrined in section 61 of our Constitution.
“I encourage all political actors to find each other with the media in order to produce healthy elections. I call upon all editors to ensure that their media platforms carry messages of various political parties in a fair, transparent and balanced way, she said.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa preached democracy and tolerance saying: “This is a good thing for Zimbabwe to bring all the political voices together so that we can sharpen our minds and focus our minds on that which unites us and minimise on that which divides us and prepare for the most important event in our five-year calendar which is the elections coming in 2023. We want to make a watershed out of that election, We want them to become a bridge which brings Zimbabwe back to the international community as the epitomy of one of the most democratic countries in Africa... So when things which matter come to the fore, all Zimbabweans come together... let’s not always highlight that which divide us.”
MDC-A secretary-general Paulina Mpariwa weighed in praying for a new chapter in the way Zimbabwe conducts its elections.
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“Increasingly we have seen that our agenda is one and our hope for a better Zimbabwe is one, all the three political parties... just three weeks ago we agreed that we have only one thing in common, that is Zimbabwe. As we approach 2023, we need the Fourth Estate, that is the media which operates professionally, freely, and protected as well... Let’s do it differently this time so that everyone will see, that everyone will read, everyone will agree,” she said.
CCC secretatry-general Chalton Hwende sang the same tune saying: “We have had elections since 1980, but for first time we think if we started early, if the government listens to some of the issues that we are proposing we hope that for the first time we will have an election that is not contested, an election where the winner can be congratulated by the loser”
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Mary Mlswa said: “The power of the media in shaping Zimbabwe’s political and economic development is underpinned by... duty to inform, critique and facilitate debate.
“In today’s world, one cannot talk about economic development without political stability. In the run-up to the 2023 harmonised elections, the media has an enormous task of ensuring that Zimbabwe is not torn apart by these elections, but emerges united and stronger.”
University of Zimbabwe dean for the Law faculty, Innocent Maja, however, pointed out that the media still faces many challenges in properly executing its watchdog role.
Among the challenges are: “Partisan nature of reporting by public and private media; inaccurate, unbalanced and biased reporting by media; unbalanced political advertising that disadvantages political players who have limited financial resources; State media bias in the representation of political players; unequal representation of the opposition and lesser known political parties and social groups like women and youths; unprofessional conduct by media personnel, includinginvolvement as candidates in elections, while still employed by newsrooms and capture by political parties and candidates; propaganda, disinformation and hate speech in the media; and weak regulatory mechanisms that fail to ensure compliance with the law.”