In Zimbabwe, sex scandals and threats of vote rigging are overshadowing elections which look set to extend the rule of one of Africa’s longest serving dictators. Once again, Robert Mugabe, who has held onto power for more than three decades, is showing he is not ready to give up yet.
Duration: 2min 58sec
MARK COLVIN: In Zimbabwe, sex scandals and threats of vote rigging are overshadowing elections which look set to extend the rule of one of Africa’s longest serving dictators.
Zimbabwe’s sole television station, state-owned and tightly controlled by Robert Mugabe, is targeting the private life of his arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai with attack ads.
Some see the elections at the end of this month as being Mr Tsvangirai’s turn, but the reality is somewhat different. Once again, Robert Mugabe, who has held onto power for more than three decades, is showing that he is not ready to let go.
Africa correspondent Ginny Stein reports.
GINNY STEIN: Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born the year voting was made compulsory in Australia. King George V was on the throne in Great Britain, and Stanley Bruce was prime minister of Australia.
After more than the three decades in power, the 89-year-old has become the embodiment of the successful African dictator.
And with the power of the media in his hands – he controls the only television station in the country – he is once again showing why he and his party machinery are so adept at hanging onto power.
In television ads running on the state broadcaster, three former girlfriends reveal how they were dumped by prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai before the party chimes in to tell voters he’s not fit for office.
EXCERPT OF TV AD: I received a message from an unknown number that said the relationship was terminated. At an age of 60 you dump women with SMSes.
GINNY STEIN: While there are many questions about the tone and taste of the ads, in what is a socially conservative African country they are having an impact. And it’s not the first time the sex life of an opponent has been used to bring him down.
Outspoken government critic, Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, was silenced after secretly filmed footage of him having sex with a woman was broadcast on the evening news.
But it’s not just Morgan Tsvangirai’s private life that has been a gift to propagandists working to ensure Robert Mugabe stays in power. After five years as prime minister in a unity government, the former trade unionist has lost much of his shine.
While he was able to claim some glory from bringing an end to the country’s economic crisis, which saw inflation run to more than 500 billion per cent, those days for most are a distant past, and the daily grind of life in a poor nation is all that remains.
In crying foul before the poll has even been held, it’s as though even he has given up before the campaign has begun.
This is Ginny Stein in Nairobi reporting for PM.