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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 42 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
December 14, 2011

Introduction

The House of Assembly spent the whole sitting yesterday debating a motion by Hon. Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T Mbizo) calling for the dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) which he said was improperly constituted. The motion further called for the cancellation of the radio licences which BAZ recently awarded to Zimpapers’ Talk Radio and AB Communications. On the other hand, the Senate debated and passed the 2012 national Budget.

House of Assembly Plenary Proceedings:

Dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) Board

Hon. Settlement Chikwinya moved a motion in the House of Assembly calling for the dissolution of the BAZ Board and the cancellation of the radio licences that it recently awarded to Zimpapers’ Talk Radio and AB Communications. He said the BAZ Board was improperly constituted and therefore ultra vires the Broadcasting Services Amendment Act (2007), in particular section 4, which provides for the appointment of the BAZ Board by the President in consultation with the parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC). He argued that the current BAZ Board was unilaterally appointed by the Minster of Media, Information and Publicity, Hon. Webster Shamu. He said this was in violation of the provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment 19 and the Broadcasting Services Act as amended in 2007. Thus he argued that the BAZ Board was illegitimate and therefore the licences it issued to Talk Radio and AB Communications were null and void.

Hon. Chikwinya further noted that the criterion used to appoint the current BAZ Board Members was based on political considerations. He alleged that most of the BAZ Board Members had strong links with ZANU PF and therefore could not be expected to be professional in issuing licences to applicants who were perceived as anti-ZANU PF. He further alleged that Talk Radio and AB Communications got the licences mainly because of their ZANU PF links. He also cited the issue of conflict of interest as he alleged that some BAZ Board Members, notably Susan Makore and Dr. Chagadama had direct interests in AB Communications and Talk Radio, respectively. Hon. Chikwinya said Susan Makore was a former ZBC senior staffer and was now working for Mighty Movies Private Limited, whose subsidiary AB Communications was awarded one of the radio licences. Hon. Chikwinya told the House that Dr. Chagadama used to work for Zimbabwe Media Trust owned by Zimpapers before his appointment to BAZ Board, the very same Board that awarded a radio licence to Zimpapers’ Talk Radio. He argued that this was a clear case of conflict of interest as the aforementioned Board Members did not recuse themselves from the licensing process.

Hon. Chikwinya dismissed AB Communications as “ZBC clones” meant to deceive the SADC and AU that Zimbabwe was fulfilling provisions of Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Section 19.1(a) of the GPA provides that “the government shall ensure immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act as well as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Hon. Chikwinya also lamented what he called the militarization of the BAZ Board. He noted that two BAZ Board Members were army personnel, namely; Retired Brigadier General Calisto Madzingira and Colonel Ruben Mqwayi. He questioned what value the two military Board members brought to BAZ other than to advance ZANU PF interests and to cement its stranglehold on the air waves.

In seconding the motion, Hon. Harison Mudzuri argued that BAZ missed a golden opportunity to regularize the operations of the “pirate radio stations” operating outside the country, namely; Studio 7, SW Radio, Radio VOP etc as envisaged in the GPA. Sections 19.1(b) and 19.1(c) (ii) of the GPA, which state as follows;

19.1(b) all Zimbabwean nationals including those currently working for or running external radio stations be encouraged to make applications for broadcasting licences, in Zimbabwe, in terms of the law;

(c)(i) that in recognition of the open media environment anticipated by this Agreement, the Parties hereby:-

(i) call upon the governments that are hosting and/or funding external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe to cease such hosting and funding; and

(ii) encourage the Zimbabweans running or working for external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe to return to Zimbabwe. Hon. Mudzuri argued that despite being short-listed as one of the 4 licence applicants, Radio VOP was not awarded the licence purely on political grounds. He said this was contrary to the spirit of the GPA as cited in the above-mentioned provisions.

The debate predictably took a partisan path as MDC and ZANU PF Members toed entrenched positions of their respective parties. ZANU PF Members who debated the motion, notably Hon. Makhosini Hlongwane. Hon. Bright Matonga, Hon. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, dismissed arguments by MDC Members that BAZ was illegitimately appointed by Minster Shamu without following proper procedures as provided for in the Broadcasting Services Act. They said BAZ Board Members were appointed through a process that involved parliament. Members seemed to be confusing BAZ and the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), whose members were appointed through a parliamentary interview process, together with other Commissions like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Hon. Hlongwane questioned the timing of the motion and argued that Hon. Chikwinya should have moved it immediately after BAZ flighted an advertisement calling for licence applications if he felt that BAZ was an illegitimate body. He said MDC Members should urge BAZ to issue more licences to other independent players instead of calling for the cancellation of licences issued to Talk Radio and AB Communications. Hon. Bhasikiti argued that MDC Members were raising this motion as an act of sour grapes because applicants aligned to their party were not awarded licences. Hon. Bhasikiti further argued that BAZ had to be strict in vetting applicants so as to ensure that only applicants who could defend national interests were awarded licences as there was a danger that some independent radio and TV broadcasters could propagate foreign interests like homosexuality.

ZANU PF Members informed the House that BAZ Board Members, Susan Makore and Dr. Chagadama did recuse themselves from the process of issuing licences and therefore allegations of conflict of interest by Hon. Chikwinya were not true.

Given the partisan nature of the debate, it remains to be seen whether or not the House will adopt the motion and compel the executive to reconstitute the BAZ Board as provided for in the Section of the Broadcasting Services Act (2007) and subsequently nullify the issuance of licences to Talk Radio and AB Communications and institute a transparent process.

Dismissal of the Clerk of Parliament

The motion by Hon. Brian Tshuma calling for the dismissal of the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Austin Zvoma was not debated yesterday as had been anticipated. It is likely to be debated today after Question and Answer Session.

Senate Plenary Proceedings:

The Senate debated and passed the 2012 National Budget. The Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Management, Hon. Gorden Moyo, presented the Budget in the Senate on behalf of the Minister of Finance.

Ratification of International Agreements

The Senate ratified the following Agreements:

  • Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which was signed in Mauritius on 29th August 2009 at a signing ceremony between the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).
  • The European Union (EU) and the International Coffee Agreement concluded in London, United Kingdom on 28th September 2007 at the Conference convened by the International Coffee Organization (ICO).
  • The 2nd Revised Cotonou Agreement and the Trade Agreement between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Government of the State of Kuwait.

Adjournment of Parliament

The Senate adjourned to 28 February 2012. The House of Assembly is likely to adjourn today for the Christmas holidays. The Speaker announced to the House that committees would wind up their business this Thursday and resume business on 16 January 2012.

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