As the president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko is making his state visit to Zimbabwe this week, female journalists have been instructed not to wear “revealing clothes”. This rather odd move comes against the backdrop of Zimbabwe’s government setting stringent conditions for the country’s media practitioners to follow in the wake of the “high profile” visit.
The state visit by the Belarusian president to Zimbabwe is something that the latter’s government is highly boasting of. Belarus is one of Zimbabwe’s key economic allies as concerns the southern African nation’s perceived prospects of economic development.
Alexander Lukashenko’s stay in Zimbabwe runs from 30 January to 1 February 2022—with the government authorities regarding this visit as “historic”.
And as such, the media in Zimbabwe has been instructed to behave accordingly, with tough conditions that they must religiously stick to being set for them. Zimbabwe’s information ministry outlined these conditions to media personnel; and this also entails barring female journalists from putting on ‘improper’ clothing as they cover the visit.
The statement from the ministry, shared with journalists on Sunday, reads, “As you may be aware the nation will host the Head of State from Belarus.
“It is therefore imperative that as the media fraternity, we do our duty & cover the activities that will be soon availed to us in due course.
“But meanwhile & whilst we wait for the programme, I urge you who wish to cover activities that shall take place at the State House to…dress appropriately at all times.
“No casual wear soccer jerseys political regalia. Males tuck in & jacket is encouraged because it’s a formal event.
“Females no revealing clothes but anything decent.”
The ministry also stressed the point that the “taking of footage that is outside of the event at protected premises is not allowed,” and that journalists ought to report at the event 45 minutes before the commencement of proceedings.
The state visit by Lukashenko to Zimbabwe constitutes the government’s broader efforts aimed at ‘performance legitimacy’ — creating the image, and actually believing in it, that Zimbabwe is on the right trajectory towards economic prosperity through strategic partnerships with countries such as Belarus. This is a visit intended to “strengthen the existing excellent relations between Zimbabwe and the Republic of Belarus”.
This is not the first time that Zimbabwe’s government has created difficult working conditions for the media as regards the covering of state functions.
ZimLive reports that in October 2022, “six journalists from private media houses were barred from covering a state house event in which Mnangagwa was appointing a Tribunal to inquire into the removal from office of former Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission’s spokesperson John Makamure”.