Mugabe bans red in curb on opposition

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe's government has banned the colour red from Zimbabwe television because it is the symbol of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

President Robert Mugabe's government has banned the colour red from Zimbabwe television because it is the symbol of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The MDC encourages its supporters to flash football-style red cards, to tell Mr Mugabe that he is no longer wanted on Zimbabwe's political field.

But as Mr Mugabe prepares for next year's elections, the Ministry of Information and Publicity has ordered the state broadcaster not to show the colour red.

The immediate casualty is the red ribbon, the internationally recognised HIV and Aids awareness symbol. Producers of Zimbabwe's weekly HIV and Aids discussion programme, Perspectives, ordered participants to remove their red ribbons before filming could begin, according to a report carried by the Zimbabwe News Service, a news agency created by journalists left jobless by Mr Mugabe's decision to ban three newspapers.

"We were told to take off our red ribbons. When we asked why, we were told it's because of the colour," Martha Tholanah, an Aids activist, said.

Zimbabwe Television workers, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, confirmed the incident. A producer said they were under instructions "not to give unnecessary publicity to the opposition" by using the colour red on screen.

The ZTV workers told The Independent that they were not allowed to wear red before going on screen. "Unfortunately, they [the government] did not give me money to renew my wardrobe," said one staffer.

The ZTV is the sole broadcaster and independent broadcasting is banned in Zimbabwe.

In a separate development, Mr Mugabe's government, which faces acute foreign currency shortages and a collapsing health sector, has introduced ox-drawn ambulances to ferry ill people to health centres in rural areas.

The MDC said this was yet another indication of the "continuing collapse of institutions".

An MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said: "As long as we have Robert [Mugabe] and his gang around, we will not only end at ox-drawn ambulances, but we will see further deterioration in all aspects of life ... Mugabe has taken us back to the stone age."

Modern ambulances are a scarce commodity at Zimbabwe's state hospitals which haven't got the most basic drugs except the Panadol painkiller. Most hospitals have gone without ambulances for years.

South Africa's top Roman Catholic bishop, Cardinal Wilfred Napier said he was puzzled as to why South Africa was not considering sanctions against Zimbabwe when these were very effective in ending apartheid.

Bishop Napier said he did not understand why President Thabo Mbeki's government was not prepared to impose sanctions. He said no progress had been made in attempting to negotiate with P W Botha, the second-last white president, during apartheid.

Most churches had thus supported the African National Congress's call for sanctions against South Africa. "Sanctions in South Africa brought us a quicker end to the oppression," said Bishop Napier, who is the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference.

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