Tsvangirai wants all media boards revised

The Prime Minister’s demands could mark the start of a fresh tug of war within Zimbabwe’s fragile coalition over senior appointments.

Information minister Mr Webster Shamu named several boards packed with retired soldiers and Zanu PF supporters to run the government’s vast media empire.

Mr Tsvangirai was not consulted before the appointments were made despite a power sharing agreement that gave birth to Zimbabwe’s unity government requiring that senior appointments were done after full consultation between Mr Mugabe and his coalition partners.

Analysts said the packing of the state media companies with trusted loyalists was meant to ensure the ageing leader has enough manpower to undercut overdue media reforms the unity government must undertake.

“That issue is being revisited and appointments of board members of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is the business of the President and the Prime Minister,” Mr Tsvangirai told journalists just before his departure for Spain to receive an international human rights award.

“The names are submitted to us (Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara), we consider and we select.

“That has not been done, therefore it is quite irregular for the minister or anybody to announce those names.”

Dr Tafatoana Mahoso, the former chairman of the Media and Information Commission, which banned five independent newspapers and expelled a number of foreign correspondents was appointed to head BAZ.

BAZ is expected to license television and radio stations that have been queuing to challenge the monopoly of the state owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which is heavily biased towards Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

Mr Tsvangirai who is locked in another dispute with Mr Mugabe over the veteran ruler’s unilateral appointment of his two top allies to head the central bank and the Attorney General’s office did not say if the principals had agreed to reverse the appointment of the boards. 

But he said the coalition partners had agreed on who should sit on the Zimbabwe Media Commission that will spearhead media reforms and license a number of private newspapers that have been waiting on the wings since the formation of the unity government in February.

The media commission is part of several commissions to be formed by Zimbabwe’s power sharing government as part of a raft of reforms meant to democratise the country after years of polarisation.

Influential Western donors have refused to fund the new Harare administration until it embarks on significant political reforms.