The Mugabe strategy, aka 'Harassed in Harare'

One of the failures of the contemporary model for gathering international news is that, thanks to the convenience of modern air-travel, overstretched foreign correspondents cover vast multi-nation territories. In the old days, they lived in-country. Although playing golf with government ministers and attending an endless stream of cocktail parties at the homes of the ruling elite doubtless introduced a different kind of bias into the reporting of the old-school journalists, at least they picked one story and lived with it. Today's reporters are, literally, flighty, and they stay on the scene only until a new, ostensibly more important story emerges from their region of interest.

The Mugabe henchmen orchestrating Zimbabwe's latest and most flagrant election fraud seem to be well versed in this dynamic. Having issued almost no press credentials they are now pretending such credentials are something working reporters ought to be able to produce. And by endlessly delaying the announcement of "official" results and refusing to take any dramatic action, they are winning a battle of fatigue. Harassed, arrested, molested and congested, the horde of media who flooded into Harare for the latest round of bogus elections is starting to feel the tedium, along with the magnetic attraction those of their breed feel for the airport, whenever the country they find themselves in slides inexorably off of the front page and into the dim interior of the newspaper. Many, doubtless, have already left. Not our trusty Zimbabwe correspondent, permanently on the scene:

Well it is all very Zimbabwean! There is an arrest list out for outside journalists who have been working without accreditation and appearing on overseas channels. This has proved very handy for those of us who were getting a bit bored with our correspondents wanting to be filmed on streets, doing stand uppers and wanting to eat out! Hence mass jitterisation of all foreign correspondents by local fixers. To jitterise: to give someone the jitters. A very successful move leading to mass exodus through all borders. The print guys arrested [including New York Times reporter Barry Bearak] were collateral damage at a lodge where the secret US-funded MDC number-crunchers were staying. Independent electoral observers were picked up trying to leave at the airport and now they are arresting the government-appointed electoral officials for corruption and fraud!

This after not allowing any outside observers, then removing the MDC observers and appointing Zanu councillors and policemen as observers. MDC in court to try and force the presidential announcement. The High court still has the ballot boxes from the previous two elections! So while the MDC yet again try the legal route, the ZEC breaks the law twice by not announcing a recount within 48 hours and not announcing the results within 6 days, allowing Zanu to cry foul, reinvade farms (war vets are announcing reinvasions to stop the whites taking back their land!) and to get war vets to start a bit of select thumpage. Mind you, I look forward to the idea of white land invasions. Rugby songs, a braii, beer bellies and tiny shorts should be enough to scare any self-respecting war vet.

The only official news crews left are SABC, CBC (thanks to their pushy ambassador who watches CBC) and Al Jazeera - now called Al Jazanu due to their very partisan correspondent Supa Manidwanzirwa, a man with all the right connections. Who is CEO of a company that leased bulldozers to the government during operation Murambvatsina and other dodgy business deals. The Al Jazeera team can be spotted anywhere due to their tons of equipment, broadcast van and a surplus of Hugo Boss suits and loafers that never seem to leave the hotel.

So I am now resting. Planning to go to Maputo if I can get new license plates after driving through a big hole and losing mine. Business as usual. Another stolen election.

Glossary of Terms:

Stand Uppers Those brief on-the-street reports done by standing newscasters "on scene," breathlessly giving updates while the mayhem unfolds in the very background of the shot. Known as "stand-ups" in US cameraman lingo.

Fixer On-site assistant to visiting crews, hired to ease a foreign production through the cultural, political and economic minefields of local bureaucracy and generalized mayhem. Jobs including bribing customs officers, exchanging bullet-ridden rental cars, trading cash on the black market, and ordering lunch.

MDC Movement for Democratic Change. The main opposition political party in Zimbabwe, whose candidate Morgan Tsvangirai was the apparent winner of the elections.

Zanu PF Mugabe's ruling party.

ZEC The ostensibly independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Reinvasion Renewed assault on farmland by Zanu PF henchmen under the guise of "land reform." The original farm invasions, in which the enormous landholdings of the white minority were redistributed as a form of political and military patronage, resulted in the collapse of the agricultural sector and famine, since many of those taking title to the land had no farming or business experience.

War Vets Veterans of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle rewarded with properties portioned out during the above-mentioned "land-reform." Distinct from the newer generation of veterans of the Congo war, who returned heavily armed from looting that country's diamond mines and were pacified with acreage or simply helped themselves to a share of property. These latter known as "freedom fighters," and "carpet-baggers."

Thumpage Savage, extended beating is the preferred mode of state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.

Braai Afrikaans for barbecue. Fundamental cornerstone of white African social life.

Operation Murambvatsina The wholesale razing of enormous Harare shanty-towns, considered hotbeds of Mugabe opposition, which resulted in waves of refugee flight and the overnight creation of dozens of thousands of homeless.

Maputo Capital of Mozambique. The current preferred tropical bolt-hole and getaway paradise for anyone trapped in Zimbabwe.

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