Saturday, February 03, 2007

The bullet's in the mail...or not...

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's spokesperson on Friday accused the editor of an independent newspaper of staging a "cheap sideshow" by claiming he was sent an envelope containing a bullet.

George Charamba, who is also the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity, accused, Bill Saidi -- acting editor of the Standard -- of trying to distract the public from his paper's "monumental editorial failure".

A large envelope containing the bullet, a clipping of a cartoon published in the previous edition and press clippings from the paper critical of Mugabe's government, was delivered anonymously to Saidi's office on Wednesday.

The note said: "What is this? Watch your step," according to Friday's edition of the Zimbabwe Independent, the Standard's sister paper.

The cartoon depicted baboons laughing at a Zimbabwean soldier's pay-slip.

In a statement issued Friday, Charamba accused the Standard of staging a media drama, according to a report on state radio.

"The media drama is meant to divert attention from his [Saidi's] monumental editorial failure on January 7, which falsely claimed that the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono had wastefully bought a top-class Mercedes Benz," the statement said.

The Standard had claimed in a front-page report that Gono had imported a Mercedes Benz Brabus V 12 bi-turbo vehicle worth $365 000 in 2006.

It later emerged that the central bank had approved the purchase of a Mercedes Benz S500 worth $138 000 by the governor in 2005. The Standard published an apology last week.

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