ZBC Bans Political Programme

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has banned a live television phone-in programme “The Legislator” bowing to pressure from Zanu PF bigwigs who felt that the programme was propping up the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Sources from Pockets Hill in Harare’s Highlands Suburb, the home of the ZBC, said the programme had to be terminated after senior Zanu PF politicians told the management that the programme was no longer useful.

“The programme was supposed to have been aired on Thursday night before the evening news bulletin but the producers were told that the programme had been terminated. I don’t think it will be shown again on ZTV,” said the source who declined to be named.

The source added that the programme, which has been running since March this year, had been banned after political interference from Zanu PF politicians.

“Remember the last episode where Zanu PF’s Bright Matonga was debating media reforms with the MDC’s Gift Chimanikire. It was felt that Matonga was exposed and the anchor failed to protect him from insults from the people who phoned in to contribute,” said the source.

During the programme, which was being sponsored by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) a development partner to the Parliament of Zimbabwe, anchor and former ZBC editor-in-chief Shepherd Mutamba would call in legislators from the country’s main political parties to discuss issues around reforms.

Members of the public would be allowed to make their contributions or ask the MPs to explain what they would have said during the programme.

The programme engaged MPs on a one-on-one basis on issues ranging from politics, media, constitution, human rights, corruption and gender.

One viewer two weeks ago called and told Matonga that they were destroying the country. “Chiiko chamurikutiitira ipapo vanaMatonga? Hamuoni kuti murikuuraya nyika here?” (What do you think you are doing, can’t you see you are destroying this country), said the viewer before cutting off the call.

Contacted for comment Mutamba confirmed that he was phoned by one of the producers and advised that the programme had been terminated but was not given the reasons.

“I was called on Wednesday morning and was advised that the programme was no longer going to be aired. They didn’t give me any further details. For more information please talk to the producers or the sponsors,” said.

Mutamba who was fired from ZBC by Jonathan Moyo when he was still the Minister of Information and Publicity.
Clifford Mfiri one of the producers of the programme was not immediately available for comment.

However the executive director of SAPST John Makamure said he was worried that the programme was not on air but was now trying to convince the ZBC management to have it back on air.

“The last time they could not air the programme they told us that it was because Vice President Joseph Msika had died. This time they have not told us why they failed to air it. I will be meeting the management to find out what is going on,” said Makamure.

Zanu PF through the Ministry of Media and Information Publicity has over the years maintained a tight grip on the public media. The Ministry also took over the employment of senior staffers to the ZBC compromising the quality of programmes and news.