President Emmerson Mnangagwa registered on Thursday for Zimbabwe’s first national elections of the post-Mugabe era, with his main rival Nelson Chamisa hoping to rally younger voters against the generation that won independence.
Western governments and investors will be closely watching the July 30 presidential and parliamentary ballots, for which monitors got clearance to deploy for the first time since 2002.
Mnangagwa and Chamisa, who also signed up on Thursday, are both campaigning on a pledge to revive an economy crippled by a legacy of often violent seizures of land from white commercial farmers and a black economic empowerment drive that targeted foreign-owned businesses.
Those policies were cornerstones of Robert Mugabe’s near four-decade rule, which ended in November after a de facto military coup that transferred power to 75-year-old Mnangagwa, his loyal acolyte for nearly 50 years.
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The ruling ZANU-PF says Zimbabwe is at a critical stage of transition requiring an experienced politician like Mnangagwa.
Chamisa, the 40-year-old leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), says the president is equally to blame for the country’s economic troubles, since he served in each of Mugabe’s governments since independence in 1980.
Both arguments appear to have struck chords among the 5.4 million-strong electorate, 60 percent of whom are under 40.
While Zimbabwe lacks a reliable polling system, an unofficial survey released last week in its second city Bulawayo by the Mass Public Opinion Institute put Mnangagwa on 42 percent and Chamisa on 31 percent, while 25 percent declined to disclose a preference.
Crucially, Mnangagwa enjoys the backing of the army, which analysts say remains averse to any leader who lacks a pedigree from the liberation war against white rule.
Chamisa faces the additional hurdle of a divided opposition vote.
Joice Mujuru, a Mugabe deputy for 10 years before she was ousted from the ruling party in 2014, and Thokozani Khupe, who leads a splinter MDC faction after falling out with Chamisa, also entered the presidential race.
Another four lesser-known candidates also registered.
“We have opened up the democratic space and everyone is excited, they feel they can enter the race and contest, which is good,” said Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambai, after filing Mnangagwa’s papers at the High Court.
Attempts by Chamisa to have Mujuru and Khupe join the MDC and its alliance of smaller parties have so far failed.
“It is unfortunate that we are in a situation where other parties have not seen the light to say that it is important for opposition forces to unite and rally behind one candidate,” said Jameson Timba, who presented Chamisa’s nomination papers.
If no single presidential candidate wins an absolute majority next month, a run-off is scheduled for September.
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Mozambique: Government set to impose license fees for local journalists.
Mozambican government has announced plans to introduce license fees for local and foreign journalists.
Local correspondents will pay $2,500 per trip for media accreditation while foreign correspondents living in Mozambique will be charged $8,300 per year.
Mozambican journalists reporting for foreign news outlets will be required to pay $3,500 for an annual accreditation.
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This is 50 times more than the country’s statutory minimum wage, estimated at around $70 per month.
The plan fees have attracted serious criticism as the move has been viewed as an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country.
Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has warned that the imposition of licensing fees on the country’s mass media must not compromise the fundamental right of the public to information.
In a statement, the CNDH, added its voice to the chorus of criticism of the proposed fees.
It conceded that the government has the right to update licensing and accreditation fees, but said such a measure should not undermine the right to information.
The CNDH points out that the current legal framework on access to information “takes as its guidelines the greatest divulging of information and free access to information… In other words, access to information is a matter of public interest and this access should be promoted and facilitated”.
It added: “The legal framework meant that the relevant state bodies must take measures to promote the broadest possible access to information”.
CNDS also warns that the enormous fees imposed by the July decree are not in line with the guidelines contained in the legal instruments on the right to information that are in force in the country.
The justification given for the fees is that they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector – but none of the money raised by the fees will go to the media.
The decree states that 60 percent of the money from the fees will go to the state budget, and the remaining 40 per cent will go to the government’s press office (Gabinfo).
Meanwhile, the government is showing signs of backing down.
On Tuesday, its spokesperson, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ana Comoana, said the decree will be discussed with interested parties before its implementation.
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BREAKING: Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan dies
Former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan died in the early hours of Saturday in Switzerland after a short illness, according to a statement issued by his family.
The Nobel Peace Laureate was the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from January 1997 to December 2006, and became the first black African man to take on the top job as the world’s top diplomat.
He had been a member of The Elders, a group of global leaders working for human rights, since it was founded in 2007. In 2013, he became its chairman.
He was founder and Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, which issued a statement on social media, saying: “It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…”