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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 16:57 GMT
African media criticises Mugabe
Africa Media Watch
Africa Media Watch this week concentrates on the tense situation between Zimbabwe and the UK.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, meeting in London, has rejected British-led moves to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth over political violence and a media clampdown ahead of March's presidential polls.

"Bid to isolate Zim flops," declares the pro-government The Herald.

"The rejection dealt a major blow to spirited diplomatic efforts by Britain and its friends in the Commonwealth," it adds.

The paper's editorial is no less triumphant.

"While it is not a mistake to make a mistake, someone needs to tell the British that repeating a mistake is a sign of being retarded,"

The Herald

"The British have relentlessly failed to learn anything in their misguided assault of this country because of our gallant effort to correct past injustices."

"It is always a difficult thing for a master to ever regard their former subject as an equal and this prejudice has confined the British diplomats to international embarrassment," it goes on.

"While it is not a mistake to make a mistake, someone needs to tell the British that repeating a mistake is a sign of being retarded," the editor charges.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw gives a press conference after the EU general affairs council meeting in Brussels, 28 January 2002. EU foreign ministers on Monday threatened the Zimbabwe governme
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is critical of Mugabe
"The British nation was once drunk with illusionary power and they have never sobered up since their might waned and they were relegated to being one of the smaller nations of Europe," the tirade against the "obnoxious island" continues.

Britain's "only claim to fame these days is basking in the shadow of the United States," The Herald remarks.

Zimbabwe's presidential elections

The independent The Financial Gazette sounds the alarm over the elections.

"The sheer magnitude of the unfolding fraud is frightening,"

The Financial Gazette
"All the gloves are finally off modern history's unprecedented sham which the government is desperately trying to sell to the world as a valid presidential ballot." Zimbabwe's election campaign has been marred by political violence and a clampdown on the independent media.

"The sheer magnitude of the unfolding fraud is frightening," the paper says.

The paper charges that the chief election officer, Douglas Nyikayaramba, "turns out to have been a brigadier in the army and a well-known ally of President Robert Mugabe". It also claims that the head of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, is a "former military intelligence chief in Mugabe's Office".

Earlier in the week EU foreign ministers threatened targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his inner circle unless he agrees by 3 February to allow EU observers at the March election. Mr Mugabe specifically excluded Britain from an invitation addressed to several countries and organisations to send in observers.

"Will long-suffering Zimbabweans, plus the international community, allow this gigantic sham to stand?," The Financial Gazette wonders.

Love him or loathe him

Nigeria's Weekly Trust is at a loss over what to make of Mr Mugabe.

"Mugabe's deliberate choice of land reform as an emotive issue to prolong his rule and obliterate his political opponents has put many Africans in a great dilemma." The paper points out that not "everybody who is opposing Mugabe today is a traitor, agent of settlers, a front for British neo-colonialism or enemy of African liberation". "It is so sad that a leader who started so promisingly and so loved has now become the problem for his own people," it laments.

"Who is he fooling about another liberation war?," the Weekly Trust wonders.

South Africa's The Sowetan says that the call by prominent southern African church leaders on Zimbabwe's president to step down "might be a signal to Mugabe that his respectability may not only have waned inside his country, but that it might be running out outside Zimbabwe".

The paper urges the Southern African Development Community leaders to "take bold steps to give assurances to the people of the region that the chaos will not spill over that country's borders".

"That assurance will also contribute to improving the likelihood of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe," The Sowetan concludes.

Kenya's East African Standard is also critical. Mr Mugabe's "reforms" in the run up to the poll "smack of dictatorship".

An independent Zimbabwean journalist holds up the Zimbabwean flag during a demonstration outside parliament in central Harare to protest the governments proposed Access to Information and Protection o
Zimbabwean journalists are restricted by a new media bill
"If the myriad allegations of campaign impropriety suggest election rigging, then the stringent conditionalities set by Mugabe are a clear testimony to the intent to cling on to power," The East African Standard concludes. "Mugabe is finally under pressure and it shows," South Africa's Business Day exclaims.

Botswana's The Reporter tries to be optimistic believing that "principled level-headedness and political order will prevail in Zimbabwe as the elections draw near". "Should Mugabe allow his country to conflagrate into civil war, not only will he go down with the flames, Botswana and other Zimbabwean neighbours will also catch fire and go down burning in a fire that we should have helped to prevent," it cautions.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Key stories





See also:

01 Feb 02 | Africa
30 Jan 02 | Africa
08 Jan 02 | Africa
03 Dec 01 | Africa
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