State, media, and NGOs collaborate in shaping public opinion on upcoming Zimbabwe elections

By Stephen Gowans
March 27, 2008

A New York Times story published three days before elections in Zimbabwe provides an interesting illustration of how the state and mass media cooperate with agents on the ground to shape public opinion.

The aim of the March 26, 2008 article, titled "Hope and Fear for Zimbabwe Vote," is to discredit the elections that the current president, Robert Mugabe, seems likely to win, in order to justify continuing efforts to replace Mugabe and his policies of land reform and economic indigenization with the pro-foreign investment, pro-private property policies of the US and EU-backed Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition party.

Mugabe has provoked the ire of corporate executives, investment bankers, and those who have taken a leadership role in representing Western upper class interests by taking measures to invest Zimbabwe's national liberation project with real content. His government expropriated the farms of white settlers and their descendants for distribution to the landless poor after former colonial power Britain reneged on promises to finance land redistribution.

Now the ZANU-PF government is proposing to place majority ownership of the country's resources in the hands of indigenous Zimbabweans.

It's all part of a program to achieve real national independence by turning Zimbabweans into owners of their own land and natural resources.

Zimbabwe has barred election monitors from the US and EU, but will allow observers from Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, South Africa and the Southern African Development Community to monitor the vote.

The barring of Western observers is pointed to as indirect evidence of vote rigging. After all, if Zimbabwe has nothing to hide, why won't it admit observers from Europe and the US?

At the same time, it's suggested that Zimbabwe is only allowing observers from friendly countries because they will bless the elections automatically.

By the same logic, one would expect that a negative evaluation is foreordained from observers representing unfriendly countries, especially those whose official policy is to replace the current government. Indeed, it is this fear that has led Harare to ban Western monitors.

With Western observers unable to monitor the elections directly, governments in North America and Europe are left with a public relations dilemma. How can they declare the vote fraudulent, if they haven't observed it?

To get around this difficulty, the US, Britain and other Western countries have provided grants to Zimbabweans on the ground to monitor the vote. These Zimbabweans, part of civil society, declare themselves to be independent "non-governmental" observers, and prepare to render a foreordained verdict that the elections are rigged. Cooperating in the deception, the Western media amplifies their voices as "independent" experts on the ground.

The US Congress's National Endowment for Democracy – an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly – has provided grants to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network "to train and organize 240 long-term elections observers throughout Zimbabwe."

The NED is also connected to the Media Monitoring Project through the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which it funds, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which is funded by Britain's NED equivalent, the Westminster Foundation.

The Media Monitoring Project calls itself independent, but is connected to the US and British governments, and to billionaire speculator George Soros's Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

When the New York Times needed Zimbabweans on the ground to comment on the upcoming election, its reporters turned to representatives of these two NGOs.

Noel Kututwa, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, told the newspaper that his group would be using "sampling techniques to assess the accuracy of the results announced nationally."

Yet, Mr. Kututwa also told the newspaper that, "We will not have a free and fair election." If Kututwa has already decided the election will be unfair and coerced, why bother assessing its accuracy?

Andrew Moyse, a regular commentator on Studio 7, an anti-Mugabe radio station sponsored by the US government's propaganda arm, Voice of America, is quoted in the same article.

"Even if Mugabe only gets one vote," Mr. Moyse opines, "the tabulated results are in the box and he has won."

Moyse, on top of acting as a US mouthpiece on Voice of America, heads up the Media Monitoring Project. While part of the NGO election observer team the US and EU are relying on on the ground, he's already decided the vote is rigged.

Kutatwa and Moyse are the only experts the New York Times cited in its story on the upcoming elections.

Both represent NGOs funded by hostile governments whose official policy is to replace Robert Mugabe and his government's land reform and economic indigenization policies.

Both present themselves as independent election monitors, though they can hardly be independent of their sources of foreign government and foundation funding.

Both have declared in advance of the election that the vote will not be free and fair and that the tabulated results are already in the box.

Their foreordained conclusions happen to be the same conclusions their sponsors in the US and Britain are looking for, to obtain the consent of a confused public to intervene vigorously in Zimbabwe's affairs.

It's a symbiotic collaboration of media, state, and NGOs on the ground.

The target is public opinion, and ultimately, the poor of the world, and their struggles to break free from centuries of oppression.

Email: zimbabwecrisis@yahoo.com

Visit: Zimbabwe Watch