Matonga, the legislator for Mhondoro-Ngezi who doubles up as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, told a world press freedom day in Bulawayo last Saturday that the government had no capacity to monitor and control new players as yet.
But in a hard-hitting statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s party said Matonga’s claims where “strange”. The party said Parliament has long acknowledged the nation’s capacity to manage at least 56 new broadcasting stations.
“It is against this background that we find it strange that a failed politician like Bright Matonga could claim government has no capacity to monitor and control the electronic media – mere rhetoric given that Matonga is parroting the lines of his failed and unpopular Zanu (PF) party which is ranked among the top seven press freedom predators in Africa,” read part of the MDC-T statement.
“Broadcasting does not need any monitoring or controlling. The people know what they want to see and hear, and can provide their own checks and balances. With the inception of the GNU (Government of National Unity), the initial agenda was to allow for a plural media of which a Zimbabwe Media Commission was to be appointed and a Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board (BAZ) was to be constituted.
The BAZ was created to allow for the opening up of airwaves. Two years down the line, there is yet to be licensing of a single private broadcaster.
The premier’s party added that it stood for an informed nation as a first step towards the development and growth of individual and societal capacity.
“There is need to allocate radio licences to communities and private players to ensure that the nation gets access to information and operates in a free and unfettered environment. The MDC believes in the adage information is power, and abhors anybody who limits its accessibility to the people.
The people of Zimbabwe have a right to know and a right to be heard. Any functioning democracy and any economic development depend on the premise of a people with access to information, education and entertainment – the able functions played by the media,” it said.
Several community radio initiatives have indicated there are ready to start broadcasting if issued with licences.