The solidarity among African leaders that has sustained Robert Mugabe's brutal regime in Zimbabwe may be on the verge of disintegrating. Mugabe's decision to shut down Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper, The Daily News , could prove to be crucial in weakening the support that he still enjoys in the region.
Three years ago a truck packed with explosives careened into the building housing the newspaper. Its printing press was destroyed. With the assistance of foreign donors, The Daily News acquired a new press and managed to keep publishing a first-rate newspaper.
Despite government attempts since then to shut the paper down-arresting and even torturing some of its staff, as well as tampering with its circulation and newsprint supply- The Daily News adhered to its slogan of "telling it like it is." As Zimbabwe plunged into economic chaos and Mugabe stepped up his repression, circulation, once around 100,000 a day, fell by roughly a third.
Last month, Mugabe's riot police, armed with AK-47 rifles, raided the paper, halting production and looting much of its equipment-though not the new printing press, which was too big to carry away.