Zimbabwe’s government is on a mission to tell the ‘true Zimbabwe story’, spending millions on publishing propaganda at a time when its failed economic policies have left the country reeling. In March it spent over a million US dollars on a 70-page sponsored supplement in New African magazine in which it defended its violence against opposition leaders – attacks which had been roundly condemned by human rights organizations.
Two months later the Government poured yet more money into the New African, which produced a summer issue – flagged as a ‘Zimbabwe special’ – containing 79 sponsored pages and just 15 pages of ‘editorial’ in which the magazine’s editor interviewed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and Tanzanian president Jakaya Mrisho. Copies were given away free in Zambia during the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit in August. Said Zimbabwe’s deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga: ‘We don’t care how much it costs us… we are going to publish the Zimbabwe story in all languages necessary because people out there are interested in hearing the truth’.
With Mugabe emerging victorious from the SADC summit, these are worrying times for those struggling against the country’s political repression and appalling human rights record. The willingness of New African to become a mouthpiece for a repressive regime also raises questions about the integrity of this glossy monthly’s contribution to an African media struggling to find a voice independent of those in power.