As the Zanu-PF succession battle spill into Zimbabwe’s state media,
Vice President Joyce Mujuru has launched a website to counter an
apparent blackout aimed at her in the state media, writes Gugu
Ziyaphapha.


Mujuru, the wife of rich and powerful former army commander, General Solomon Mujuru, is also planning a daily newspaper to boost her ambitions to lead the ruling Zanu PF and government.
 
Senior journalists and editors from the state media say the Permanent Secretary for Information, George Charamba, summoned them to a meeting and instructed them on who should be covered and who should not be covered. Some of the targets for the media blackout include, surprisingly, Charamba’s boss, the Minister of Information, Skhanyiso Ndlovu, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono and Ray Kaukonde, a Mujuru loyalist and resident minister for Mashonaland East Province.
 
Two sources close to the Mujuru camp say her supporters see the website and the newspaper as effective campaign tools since the state media is no longer at their disposal.

“The other thing is that potential supporters, especially war veterans and Zanu-PF members, do not trust other privately owned newspapers” said one of the sources.
 
The website, vpmujuruoffice.gov.zw, a first among Zanu-PF and government officials, profiles Mujuru in detail as a former freedom fighter, politician and civil servant.

The site also includes biographies, all the official speeches she has made as vice president and photo galleries.
 
Many Zimbabweans at home and abroad are now relying on internet publications for  news, but Zanu-PF and government still has not fully appreciated the power of the internet.
 
The sources say the paper, to be called The Express, will recruit jobless journalists and other staff from the closed Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the Daily News and its Sunday title.

Some of the names linked to the project include former Financial Gazette deputy editor, Hama Saburi, ex-Daily Mirror assistant editor, Brian Mangwende, and former ZBH journalist Musekiwa Khumbula
 
The ageing Mugabe initially favoured Mujuru to succeed him but has changed his mind and has vowed to run for office next year.
 
In the briefing to state media editors, Charamba also ordered them to stop attacking badly performing government-owned corporations and start amplifying coverage of Mugabe. He also told them to give space to those campaigning for his re-election, such as the war veterans, Youth League and Women's League.
 
“He told us that our coverage should protect government's image and that we should do damage control on current shortages of basic commodities,” a source said.
 
Some sources say Ndlovu’s inclusion on the blackout list is because he is believed to be aligned to a group of senior Zanu-PF politicians opposed to liberation war veterans who support Mugabe’s re-election.
 
“Gono and the other businessmen have been targeted because they do not support Mugabe’s disastrous prize freeze policies. These guys are business people and they are the ones affected by such mad policies so they don’t support price cuts. Charamba told us that the president is angered by that” said the source.
 
The central bank chief’s other crime, sources say, is refusing  to change the editorial policy at his weekly paper the Financial Gazette, to bring it into line behind the government.
 
The coverage blackout has not gone down well with some top Zanu-PF and government officials who have voiced their displeasure at a recently held Zanu-PF Politburo meeting.
 
But Ndlovu and Charamba insist there is no ban on anyone and the latter has threatened to deal with any paper who writes the story.
 
Meanwhile, the spokesman of Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has issued a press statement accusing the media of having “fanciful delusions” and being “surrogates who are working overtime to plot and sponsor confusion within the democratic movement”.
 
The attack by spokesman Nelson Chamisa comes after reports on internal disputes within the MDC appeared in the media.
 
 Chamisa dismissed the press reports of a looming split in the camp as grossly false and exaggerated.
 
“We call upon Zimbabweans to watch out for false reports that are intended to derail the party and the democratic movement. The machinations of those who have a death wish for the MDC and its leaders will continue to fail.
 
“The MDC remains a united family of committed people who want to see meaningful change in this country. The nation should be wary of the invisible external hand that will always seek to sow confusion amongst us,” said Chamisa.