A newspaper vendor in Bindura, Zimbabwe, said Thursday that he was harassed by a member of President Robert Mugabe's cabinet earlier this week for selling copies of the London-based Zimbabwean newspaper, which is critical of the government.
The vendor, speaking on condition he not be identified, said Minister Without Portfolio Elliot Manyika, political commissar of the ruling ZANU-PF party, bought a copy of The Zimbabwean then demanded why the paper was being sold in Bindura.
The vendor said that Manyika then threatened to beat him if he continued selling the paper, reminding him that the ruling party was “still alive” in Bindura. Manyika could not be reached for comment on the account offered by the news vendor.
The Zimbabwean is published by Wilf Mbanga, one of the founders of the Daily News, which the government shut down in 2003. Bindura is a stronghold of ZANU-PF, but the opposition has been making gains in the Mashonaland Central capital.
Resident Alfred Zitonho, who witnessed the confrontation, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Manyika’s outburst attracted a large crowd which eventually bought the vendor's entire stock of the newspaper.
In other media news, a senior Zimbabwean broadcasting official told a parliamentary committee this week that there is "nothing wrong with" broadcasts by VOA's Studio 7, which Harare condemns as a "pirate" station promoting "regime change."
The statement by Alfred Mandere, chief executive officer of the state-owned transmission company Transmedia, came during a Transport and Communications Committee hearing on funding of state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.The hearing was looking into the practice by ZBH of charging the public for radio and television licenses to raise revenue. It also touched on the government's failure to issue private-sector broadcast licenses, according to an October 18 report in the Financial Gazette paper, a privately owned, independent publication.
Mandere told the panel that ZBH should encourage short-wave broadcasts to rural residents outside the reach of the state monopoly's FM broadcasts.
The Financial Gazette quoted Senator Forbes Magadu of the ruling ZANU-PF party as objecting, telling Mandere, "But they would end up listening to Studio 7.”
Responded Mandere: "There is nothing wrong with Studio 7."