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Political Tension Rises in Zimbabwe Over Pro-Mugabe Songs on State Radio & TV


ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told the state-run Herald newspaper the jingles have nothing to do with elections but are merely intended to encourage ZANU-PF members to participate in the constitutional revision public outreach process

Relations are more tense than usual between Zimbabwe's power-sharing partners - ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation keeps playing jingles hailing President Robert Mugabe much to the displeasure of the MDC.

Zimbabwe's Cabinet agreed on Tuesday that ZBC should stop playing the extended political songs because they do not reflect the spirit of the unity government established in February 2009 following a traumatic election cycle in 2008. Ministers said the spots asserting Mr. Mugabe remains in charge re-open wounds from that bloody period.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told the state-run Herald newspaper the jingles have nothing to do with elections but are merely intended to encourage ZANU-PF members to participate in the constitutional revision public outreach process now unfolding around the country - in some areas with political intimidation and sporadic violence.

Gumbo said the spots are not jingles but rather songs by the Mbare Chimurenga choir from an album entitled "Nyatsoterera," Shona for "listen carefully." The lyrics of the title song inform listeners that Mr Mugabe and his two vice presidents, Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, are in charge, not the inclusive government.

Information Secretary George Charamba said the Cabinet decision was not communicated to the state broadcaster because Information Minister Webster Shamu is away and the acting minister could not be reached.

ZBC Chief Executive Happison Muchechetere has declared that the state radio and television network will not stop playing the songs. He invited the MDC to provide its own music for similar airing. Former information minister Jonathan Moyo weighed in threatening legal action if the Cabinet forced the state broadcaster to drop the jingles.

Moyo said those who object to the songs do not share the history of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the jingles saga shows that Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF is not serious about the national unity government.

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe said the return of ZANU-PF propaganda on all stations of the state broadcaster illustrates the extent to which ZBC is a propaganda tool for the former ruling party.

MMPZ Coordinator Andrew Moyse said the torrent of offensively partisan ads that falsely promote ZANU-PF as the ruling party violates the spirit of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing.

Sydney Chisi, director of the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe, said the broadcaster must pull the jingles in order to preserve unity and peace in the country.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation responded to critics by posting three rhetorical questions on its website.

"Should Cabinet be involved in the day-to-day running of the institution? Are revolutionary songs not part of the history of Zimbabwe and why should anyone be unsettled by the songs? In view of public demand for the songs should the national broadcaster not listen to the voice of its viewers and listeners?" the ZBC website asked.

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