Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) accreditation cards proved not enough licence to guarantee journalists — from both the state and private media — entry to cover the graduation ceremony at the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) where President Robert Mugabe capped 1 028 students on Friday.
State security agents blocked journalists from entering the main arena as they demanded invitation cards similar to those issued to graduands and their relatives.
Journalists were referred from one gate to another — and back again-where they met security agents who told them to wait until someone from the university had to secure invitation cards for them.
“You have produced your accreditation cards, but only those with invitation cards are allowed to pass through. Maybe some of you are not welcome here,” an unidentified security agent told freelance journalists.
One journalist said: “They made us appear like fools, moving from one gate to another and referring us from one senior security official to another — and back again. In the end, we almost gave up but later called Anderson Chipatiso, the GZU public relations officer, who was at the Masvingo airport to meet Mugabe.
“Chipatiso had to struggle for us to gain entry as he had to explain that he personally knew the journalists and had invited them although some of the scribes said they had not seen the invitations.
After all, we are used to producing our ZMC accreditation cards at the same gatherings.”
Scribes from the private media were also not allowed to get in with their cameras.
Of late President Mugabe’s old age and failing health has been of much concern as some pictures captured him with a swollen leg, being assisted by security agents while disembarking from a plane.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Masvingo provincial chairman Energy Bara said: “We condemn such a move by security officials who frustrated ordinary journalists who were not a threat to the security of the President. It is the government that demanded journalists to be accredited, and we complied, now what then do the same government expect us to do then?”