BY SIPHO MABUZA
HARARE – State media in Zimbabwe is a notorious gatekeeper for the ruling Zanu PF party.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s main rival Nelson Chamisa – the leader of the MDC Alliance – is rarely mentioned both on radio and television. If at all he should be mentioned, the stories – without exception – assume a negative tone.
On Tuesday, however, a caller on a phone-in show on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s Power FM might just have exhausted Chamisa’s good coverage quota for the year – all under 10 seconds.
DJ Chamvary was taking calls during her lunchtime show for people with birthday messages for their loved ones, but nothing could have prepared her for one call from a determined Chamisa supporter.
Enthusiastically welcoming the caller to the show, Chamvary – real name Rumbidzayi Mugwira – gave the caller the freedom of one of the country’s biggest radio stations.
“I would like to wish President Chamisa a happy birthday,” the male caller said calmly.
Chamvary’s heart – and her producer’s – must have skipped a beat as they tried to process what they had just heard.
Why, you ask? In normal countries, congratulating the leader of the opposition on radio or TV for any milestone is as mundane as drinking water, but at Zimbabwe’s state media organisations which are under the iron grip of a paranoid regime, it is potentially career limiting.
“Goodbye,” was all Chamvary could say as she terminated the call, but by then, the political arsonist had accomplished his task and was probably rolling on the floor, enjoying the carnage.
Chamisa, who celebrated his 43rd birthday on Tuesday, said on Twitter: “Forty-three years is evidence of God’s grace.”