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African press review 3 September

Something a little different this morning as we focus on the papers in one country and how their coverage of the same events differs widely.

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As many readers will know, more than a few countries in Africa are blessed, or cursed, with seemingly immovable leaders intent on remaining president for life.

One such is the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who, lest we forget, has led the country for 30 years.

That may or may not be about to change.

So, this morning, rather than our usual hop skip and jump around the continent, let's explore what the papers there are saying about it.

Demonstrations banned in Harare

Naturally, they're still preoccupied with the recent unrest.

The government-owned Chronicle in Bulawayo informs its readers that police have imposed a two-week ban on demonstrations in the capital Harare.

The paper offers no comment beyond parroting the ruling party line that this is to prevent disorder and accusing what it calls "shadowy groupings" linked to opposition parties of responsibility for street violence, looting and the destruction of property.

It concludes with a quote from a Zanu-PF official that "Anybody who thinks they can simply walk into State House through violence is joking."

Rats, cats and opposition

The government-owned Herald has some jokes of its own.

It quotes the de-facto leader of the ruling party's youth wing as saying that the opposition hopes of taking power were analagous to a rat making love with a cat.

Tee-Hee!

It also enjoys an exchange between war veterans' leader Victor Matemadanda and opposition leader Morgan Tsangarai, the former repotedly saying "We are proverbial flies meeting on a mountain of faeces."

This, one assumes, diminishes them.

Ageing Mugabe kept in power

Still, not all the papers are fully-paid up members of Mugabe's fan club.

Privately owned Newsday, slogan "Everyday news for everyday people", tells its readers that it's "Unfair to keep on punishing ageing Mugabe."

He is 92-years-old.

There have been calls for Mugabe to step down in view of his advanced age, the deepening political, economic and social crisis, and ill health, says Newsday.

Although those close to him insist he is still fit to lead this nation only the blind will not see that the man is not well.

In fact, it is cruel of his family and hangers-on to push him to continue at the helm of the country, the paper argues.

Zimbabweans have no doubt that if these people really cared about him, they would have eased him from public life where his blips and blunders are not seen, not to mention falls and near-falls.

This will ensure that he preserves his tattered legacy with the dignity he deserves.

Hmm. Do I detect a hint of tongue in cheek there? Killing him with kindness?

Throwback to Smith era

In a separate story, the paper declares that Mugabe won’t succeed where Smith failed, noting that government on Thursday issued a decree banning demonstrations in Harare for the next two weeks;

It is, says Newsday, probably the biggest assault on people’s liberties in the past few years.

How the authorities approved such a draconian measure boggles the mind and, for older generations, this is a throwback to the colonial era, where the illegal Ian Smith regime employed such tactics to thwart the independence movement, the paper comments.

The Zimbabwean, which is put together and published overseas, takes an even sterner view.

"We have a bunch of incompetent losers who cannot imagine fair electoral competition and the emergence of a new Zimbabwe without them," it declares.

"We have looters, thieves, charlatans and night school law professors who have been masquerading as our liberators and revolutionaries who are protecting the imaginary 'gains' of independence.

"Our country is now worse off than before Zanu-PF came to the scene and Zimbabweans have just had enough."

The story is headlined "Freedom Now!"

Though "Now" is perhaps a little optimistic.

The latest news is that Mugabe is yet again off the radar, on his travels once more.

None of the papers are quite sure where he is.

Dubai? Singapore?

Or why. Medical treatment again? Affairs of state?

Even when he dons his cloak of invisibility, Mugabe continues to hog the headlines.

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