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Zimbabwe Refuses to Accredit VOA International Correspondent

  • Tatenda Gumbo

With the whole world watching Saturday’s referendum, elements of Zimbabwe’s government remain hostile to foreign media coverage.

A Voice of America correspondent in Johannesburg was Thursday deported from Harare and barred from covering the referendum after authorities denied her accreditation.

Anita Powell submitted an application to the Zimbabwe Media Commission to cover the referendum but had not received a response by the time she landed in Harare.

Powell was informed she would need a letter of clearance from the Ministry of Information to receive accreditation from the media commissio. She met with Information Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba but was told her application was denied.

She was required to leave the country before her visa expired.

VOA tried calling Mr. Charamba several times Friday, but our calls were not picked up.

VOA spoke to Deputy Information Minister Murisi Zwizwai, who said there are some in the ministry who simply do not want to accredit international journalists to cover Zimbabwean events.

Mr. Zwizwai said the monopolization of the ministry by certain individuals would not be tolerated.

"We are having a referendum where everyone should have access and see all the processes going through and its a pitty if an individual mistakes Voice of America for Studio 7 and then begrudges and come up with such verdicts," said Zwizwai

Voluntary Media Council executive director Takura Zhangazha criticized the ministry’s actions, saying government should be open to international media as the world watches the referendum vote.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF traded barbs after political violence broke out in Mbare high density suburb, Harare.

Zanu-PF supporters allegedly assaulted nine MDC supporters and a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) camera crew that was covering the event was not spared the beating.

Zanu-PF dismissed the incident as propaganda.

The BBC said its crew was in the high density suburb of Mbare filming the nine MDC supporters putting up posters encouraging people to vote ‘Yes’ in Saturday’s referendum.

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer team in Zimbabwe for the referendum visited the MDC members and condemned the violence.

SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told VOA that he will be briefed about this and any other incidents of violence this evening.

Calls to Mbare Police Station went unanswered.

One of the alleged victims and aspiring MDC parliamentarian for Mbare, Sten Zvorwadza, said that two MDC supporters sustained serious injuries.

He said while they were putting up posters, a group of people wearing Zanu-PF regalia started acsended on them and started beating them up. In an attempt to report the case to the police, Zvorwadza said police refused to take their report because they were MDC supporters.

But Zanu-PF director for information Psychology Mazivisa accused the MDC of trying to tarnish the party's image.

In Kwekwe, meanwhile, four MDC activists have been arrested and will spend the weekend in the cells for allegedly being involved in a violent incident the prime minister’s party is blaming on ZANU-PF.

Zimbabwe Organization for the Youth in Politics director Nkosilathi Moyo was at the rally which was addressed by MDC secretary general Tendai Biti and said a group called Al Shabab with ZANU PF links is responsible for the violence.