Navigating Zimbabwe's media landscape to understand the current political climate

President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa delivering his statement during the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Solidarity Conference. Image by GovernmentZA, from Flickr (CC BY-ND 4.0 DEED).

In August 2023, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa was reelected in a contentious presidential contest, triggering post-election tensions and allegations of state reprisals against perceived adversaries. To grasp the ongoing political scenario in Zimbabwe, this article offers a curated collection of informative sources provided by Global Voices for staying informed about Zimbabwean news.

Zimbabwe's constitution recognises 16 official languages, although, English, Shona, and Ndebele are the most common. Media publications and broadcasts in Zimbabwe are produced mostly in English and to to a lesser extent in Shona and Ndebele. As of January 2023, Zimbabwe’s population is estimated at more than 16 million.  According to World Atlas, only approximately 2.5 percent of the population speak English as their native language, while Shona is spoken by over 70 percent of the population, and Ndebele by roughly 20 percent. 

Zimbabwe has some of Africa's oldest newspapers, including The Herald, a state-owned daily. Other state media in print include the Chronicle, the Sunday Mail, the Manica Post, the Midlands Observer, Kwayedza and uMthunywa. Kwayedza and uMthunywa offer extensive coverage of national news in Shona and Ndebele, respectively. Privately owned media outlets in print include the Financial Gazette, the Zimbabwe Independent, the Standard, and the Zimbabwe Daily News.

For purely digital news, platforms such as Zimbabwe Daily News, New Zimbabwe, and Studio 7 cover a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, entertainment, media, sports, lifestyle, and business.

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation serves as the country's sole state TV and radio broadcaster. It also maintains a presence on YouTube and Facebook, where it has garnered more than 73, 000 and 36,000 followers, respectively. Recent elections received coverage on this station:

The Zimbabwean, based in the United Kingdom and South Africa, represents the Zimbabwean diaspora and offers insights into Zimbabwean politics, arts and culture, business, sports, gender issues, social matters, and news analysis. Additionally, New Zimbabwe offers news about the Zimbabwean diaspora.

Internationally, Zimbabwean news receives coverage from several French and English-speaking international media outlets, including Voice of America Zimbabwe, the Conversation, Okayafrica, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio France Internationale, the English section of Africanews, BBC Africa, Sky News and the French-speaking section of Africa 24.  Additionally, SABC News based in South Africa does regular coverage of Zimbabwe news. The inauguration of President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa was broadcast on their television news:

The state of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is a matter of continual focus for international organizations. Zimbabwe's political landscape is characterized by an ongoing power struggle, with the ruling party employing diverse strategies to maintain its authority. Notably, politicians exploit musicians for their own gain, with artists like Winky D facing censorship or coercion to endorse the ruling party. Music is perceived as a potent tool for political influence, particularly in appealing to the youth demographic.

In 2023, Reporter Without Borders, ranked Zimbabwe 126th out of 180 countries. The Freedom House report categorizes Zimbabwe as “partly free,” giving it a score of 28 out of 100 because of restrictive media laws and internet usage regulations. Notably, in 2020, prominent author and activist, Tsitsi Dangarembga, along with fellow activist Julie Barnes, was arrested while peacefully demonstrating and calling for government policy reforms and the release of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono. Chin'ono faced accusations of inciting violence for his vocal criticisms of the Zimbabwean government. 

As reported by Global Voices Civic Media Observatory, an analysis of civic discourse on X (formerly Twitter), found posts promoting the ideas that “Criticizing the government and ZANU PF is anti-patriotic and must be punished,” and “Following the ZANU PF party's ideology is the only way to be patriotic.” 

This reflects the prevailing challenges to freedom of expression and the stark polarization in public discourse within Zimbabwe.

Internet penetration in Zimbabwe remains relatively low at 34.8 percent, according to a report by DataReportal, implying that about 65.2 percent of the population remained offline at the beginning of 2023. Only 9.1 percent of the total population actively uses social media, with Facebook (1.3 million users) and LinkedIn (760,000) being the most widely utilized platforms. They are followed by Instagram (381,700), Facebook Messenger (334,800), and Twitter (323,200).

Despite the presence of diverse media outlets in Zimbabwe, persistent challenges regarding freedom of expression persist. The significance of attaining accurate and impartial information cannot be overstated, as it is essential for gaining a nuanced understanding of Zimbabwe's intricate political and social dynamics. This underscores the urgency for sustained vigilance and advocacy, working towards fostering a society that is open, transparent, and respects the fundamental right to freedom of expression.


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