Mixed reaction to new independent commissions appointments

There has been a mixed reaction to the appointment of Godfrey Majonga as the chairman of the newly constituted Zimbabwe Media Commission, (ZMC).

Commissioners to the ZMC, together with those who will sit on the Human Rights Commission and Election Commission were announced by the chief secretary to Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, on Monday.

The announcement followed a meeting held by the principals – Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara – also on Monday.

While many of the journalists interviewed by SW Radio Africa said they had little doubt about Majonga’s integrity, they bemoaned his lack of print media experience for such a high profile job. Origionally Henry Muradzikwa had been earmarked to become the chairperson of the ZMC.

Majonga was a popular radio and television personality who fronted the main ZBC news bulletin in the 1980’s. But following a fall from an Avondale flat in Harare, which was home to ZBC colleague and journalist Chris Somo, he was paralysed from the neck down and his media career came to an end. Somo was not in the flat at the time of Majonga’s.

The exact details of what happened have never been explained but rumours have persisted that he was forced to jump from the second floor flat for allegedly getting involved with a girl who belonged to a top ZANU PF ‘chef’. He has been in a wheelchair for over 20 years now.

Majonga is currently a deputy director at Danhiko project in Msasa, where Grace Mugabe is reportedly a trustee of the board. Danhiko is a training school for the disabled.

‘Majonga has a strong personality I have no doubt, but I would have preferred Muradzikwa as chairman because of his vast experience in newspaper, news agency and electronic media,’ said Guthrie Munyuki, a former Daily News staffer.

But reports say Mugabe was not comfortable with Muradzikwa after his spokesman, George Charamba, led a campaign that got him fired from the ZBC where he was the chief executive officer.

In May last year Charamba accused Muradzikwa of being sympathetic to the MDC and also blamed him for ZANU PF and Mugabe’s loss in the 29th March harmonized poll.

Speaking about the media commission Munyuki said; ‘I have no doubt that as a group they will try to reform and register new players in the industry but the appointments have been long, long overdue. The stabilising factor in the ZMC is the appointment of Chris Mhike, a journalist cum lawyer, whose experience in legal matters will come in handy’. He added; ‘Now that the commissions have been appointed, the real work must begin. The commissioners will now face a formidable range of tasks and duties.’

Names for the commissioners were submitted to Mugabe in August and it has taken four months for the principals to agree on the names for the independent commissions.

Sam Mawokomatanda, the former chairman of the national Quill Club (the journalists club) and former Sunday Mail sports editor told us the deputy chairperson, Nqobile Nyathi, was a strong addition to the new commission.

‘She’s from the independent media where she was once an editor, so at least she can stand her ground. People like Chris Mutsvangwa pretend to be nice people but they are ZANU PF. I know Miriam Madziwa from her days at the Chronicle, I worked with Mathew Takaona for many at the Sunday Mail, they are decent characters,’ Mawokomatanda said.

Freelance journalist Stanley Gama said while some members on the ZMC had strong links to ZANU PF, he believes the final list came about as a result of a compromise between the principals.

‘I’m delighted we now have the new commissions and I will be the first to admit that some members are highly competent and experienced individuals but success will depend on being able to work in close cooperation with stakeholders, and not the government,’ Gama said.

Gama added; ‘The choice is not very exciting but it will bring finality, stability and clarity to the new roles envisaged under the Global Political Agreement.’

Sitting on the electoral commission will be Joyce Laetitia Kazembe, who was deputy chairperson of the previous electoral commission, and Harare lawyer Theophileus Gambe.

Other members are Petty Makoni, Sibongile Ndlovu, academic Bessie Nhandara, Zimbabwe International Trade Fair general manager Daniel Chigaru, UZ Professor of Public Law Professor Geoff Feltoe and Mukhuli Nyathi.

UZ law lecturer Dr Ellen Sithole sits on the human rights commission with Dr Kwanele Jirira, Neseni Nomathemba and Elasto Mugwadi, a former chief immigration officer and a lawyer.

Others are Dr Joseph Kurebwa, a UZ lecturer; Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube former Bulawayo mayor and civic leader, Jacob Mudenda, former ZANU Midlands chairman, who is also a lawyer and businessman, and Professor Carol Khombe, a lecturer at NUST.

Consultations are still underway on the appointment of chairpersons to the electoral and human rights commissions.

The official list of commissioners that have been announced are:

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission:
Joyce Kazembe, Dr Petty Makoni, Sibongile Ndlovu, Bessie Nhandara, Daniel Chigaru, Theophilus Gambe, Geoff Feltoe, Mukhuli Nyathi,

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission:
Dr Ellen Sithole, Dr Kwanele Jirira, Neseni Nomathemba, Elasto Mugwadi, Dr Joseph Kurebgwa, Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, Jacob Mudenda, Prof Carol Khombe

Zimbabwe Media Commission:
Godfrey Majonga (chairperson), Nqobile Nyathi (deputy), Miriam Madziwa, Lawton Hikwa, Henry Muradzikwa, Chris Mutsvangwa, Mathew Takaona, Chris Mhike and Dr Millicent Mombeshora.