Free the airwaves now – Ncube

HARARE – Welshman Ncube, Industry and International Trade minister, says he regrets the lack of implementation of the broadcasting reforms agreed during negotiations that gave birth to the government of national unity.\r\n

Broadcasting reforms were part of the changes agreed to during the Global Political Agreement (GPA) negotiations, where Ncube was one of three principal negotiators.

Ncube told a broadcasting conference in Harare that no progress has been made to allow new entrants in the sector, which has only one player – the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

He said the three negotiators representing the three parties in government had agreed that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), would flight applications of prospective broadcasters and process them in the time frames set by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara.

“Regrettably, nothing has happened. It means that what was agreed by the political parties has not been implemented,” said Ncube.

“For things to move there is need for the relevant ministry to have the same enthusiasm to make that which was agreed in the GPA, succeed.

“Regrettably, that enthusiasm does not appear to exist. We have asituation where even though the legal framework permits, we still have no movement and are unlikely to have movement particularly now that for one reason or another, we are slowly retreating as political parties to our political mode trenches,” he said.

The secretary general of the smaller faction of the MDC led by Mutambara, was part of the negotiating teams that included Zanu PF’s Nicholas Goche, Patrick Chinamasa, Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma and Priscilla Mushonga.

During the negotiations, said Ncube, they had agreed that BAZ would flight adverts and process applications for prospective broadcasters as a matter of urgency.

The three leaders  – Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara  – produced an implantation matrix which demanded an immediate licensing of broadcasters by BAZ, said Ncube.

He said during their negotiations, they did not thoroughly address the implications of regulating the broadcasting section of the media like they did in respect of the print media where they created the constitutional body, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which could act independently without the interference of the minister or government of the day.

BAZ, in contrast, has not flighted adverts or awarded licences to new players despite there being clause 19 of the GPA which states that it must licence new players.

The board is improperly constituted and Mugabe has said it must be properly constituted although it has continued to operate without changes for more than a year since his pronouncements.

“In the principal negotiations we did not thoroughly address the implications of regulating the broadcasting sector of the media, whereas in respect of the print media we created the constitutional body the ZMC).Maybe we were tired,” said Ncube.

He said they had hoped the ZBC would be transformed into a truly public broadcaster run by an apolitical board to bring efficiency to the rundown institution.

“We said we needed an inclusive and open process by which we constitute the ZBC board.

There is some movement but we expect a standing committee on rules in Parliament to produce the list and do the job expeditiously so that, hopefully, we have a board with full authority and control over ZBC management and reflecting policies that underpin the GPA,” Ncube told delegates at the conference organised by Misa Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the region which have not yet implemented and practiced the three-tier broadcasting system which includes public, commercial and community broadcasting, respectively.

ZBC is heavily controlled by Zanu PF which has a tight grip on the content which civic society groups and political parties say is not reflective of the unity government.

As an alternative to independent news and entertainment, fed up Zimbabweans listen to broadcasts into the country by three offshore radio stations manned by exiled nationals.

SW Radio Africa, Radio VoP and Studio 7 broadcast into Zimbabwe everyday and have a combined listenership of a million people.

Mugabe has repeatedly said the radio stations must be banned before he can allow their journalists back into the country to join other applicants for commercial broadcasting licenses. – Daily News