MDC-T say call for radio licenses “bogus” and a diversion

The offer of two commercial radio licenses, made by the current Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) on Thursday, has been dismissed as “bogus” by the deputy Minister for Information, Murisi Zwizwai, who said he was also speaking as the MDC-T representative in the inclusive government.

In line with the response of media groups in the country, Zwizwai said the BAZ board has no legal standing and the inclusive government “has not as yet” advertized for the issuing of radio licenses.

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Just a day after adverts appeared in the state run Herald newspaper and on ZTV, the deputy Minister dismissed the radio license offer, saying it was made by “a group of bogus individuals masquerading as the BAZ board”. Zwizwai said the MDC-T and inclusive government will “not labour to respond to individual posturing and the positions of people with no legs to stand on”.

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Asked to comment on the exorbitant fees and the June 30th deadline quoted in the adverts, he said applications and fees will be determined “when the BAZ board is properly constituted”. Zwizwai confirmed reports that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara had agreed, in a meeting last Monday, to reconstitute the boards of the Mass Media Trust, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and BAZ. They also agreed on the number of officials each party would nominate to the boards.

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The license offer is therefore a political distraction, Zwizwai said, adding: “They are trying to create sideshows to divert us but we will keep our eye on the ball and ensure that full implementation of the GPA is done”.

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This meeting of the principals that he refers to took place last Monday and as always Zimbabweans had not been made aware of the agreements that were made. A free media is recognized as essential to democracy and Zimbabweans have an absolute right to be told about discussions such as these, which could have such a profound effect on their future.

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But there is also consensus that Mugabe and ZANU PF will continue to make decisions without consultation, as they have done regarding many issues since the signing of the GPA over two years ago.

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Despite the MDC-T’s defiance and desire to follow the GPA roadmap, ZANU PF has consistently resisted opening up the democratic space and continues using the security forces to deny Zimbabweans freedom speech and of assembly.

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The Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (MISA) has released a statement calling for “clarity on the legal status of BAZ so that aspiring broadcasters are clear on which board to approach for broadcasting licenses”. This is in line with the position taken by civic groups in Zimbabwe.

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While the Mugabe regime continues to resist media reforms, other African countries are making much progress in that sector. According to statistics compiled by MISA the DRC has 381 radio stations, Benin 73, Uganda has more than 120 and Mali has 200.