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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 15 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
May 11, 2012

Introduction

The Privileges Committee cross-examined Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba, the former Administrator of Shabanie Mashava Mines on Thursday 10 May 2012. The Portfolio Committee on Media, Information, Publicity, Communication and Technology heard oral evidence from the two companies that were recently awarded radio licences and the losing bidder, Zimpapers’ Talk Radio, AB Communications and Kiss FM, respectively, on the adjudication process by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).

Mr. Gwaradzimba’s Evidence to the Privileges Committee

Before Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba took oath when he appeared before the Privileges Committee to answer allegations of contempt of Parliament brought against him by the Mines Portfolio Committee, his defence counsel Mr. Simplisius Chihambakwe raised a matter of procedure regarding the presence of Hon. Jessie Majome. He argued that since Hon. Jessie Majome did not attend the previous meetings where the two witnesses were cross-examined, her taking part in cross-examing Mr. Gwaradzimba, would be prejudicial to his client. The Privileges Committee Chairman took note of the objection raised by the defence counsel and said the Committee would make a decision on the matter at a later stage but allowed the hearing to go ahead.

The hearing only lasted 35 minutes as the Committee had to abruptly adjourn the hearing because one of its Members, Hon. Jorum Gumbo, had to leave the meeting to catch a flight to South Africa to attend the Pan African Parliament session. Despite the fact that the remaining members formed a quorum, the defense counsel objected continuing with the hearing in the absence of Hon. Jorum Gumbo, who had attended the first part of the hearing. The rationale was that if the hearing was allowed to go ahead, Hon. Gumbo would only have a partial picture of the respondent’s evidence and this would be prejudicial to Gwaradzimba when the Committee finally sat down to make its decision. As a result, the Committee had to adjourn to a later date to be announced to continue with cross-examination of Mr. Gwaradzimba.

Before the committee adjourned, Mr. Gwaradzimba had refuted the Newsday story under cross-examination by his defence counsel. He said before the Newsday story by Veneranda Langa on 4 May 2011, Newsday had published another story about him which he considered offensive. His lawyers raised this issue with Newsday and the matter was still pending. Hence, when Veneranda Langa approached him on 3 May 2011 seeking his response to the Mines Portfolio Report, he was reluctant to grant her the interview. He said he only accepted to speak to Ms. Langa on condition that he would be allowed to see the draft article before it was published. However, he alleged that Ms. Langa reneged on her promise at the last minute as she said that was against Newsday policy. Hence she went ahead and published the story.

Mr. Gwaradzimba also alleged that the Newsday reporter, Ms. Langa deliberately left out most of the things in her report which he had said to clarify the distortions in the press about his alleged conflict of interest in the Shabanie Mashava Mines and his level of administration fees.

He told the committee that when he was appointed by government as SMM Administrator, he was given three terms of reference, (i) to ensure that liabilities of SMM were settled, (ii) to raise money for the recapitalization of SMM and (iii) to identify people who were culpable in contributing to the collapse of SMM.

Mr. Gwaradzimba also dismissed the findings of the Mines Portfolio Committee. He said out of the 24 legal cases involving SMM, the Mines Portfolio Committee only confined itself to the UK court case whose outcome was favourable to Mr. Mawere. He also alleged that the Committee’s Report did not refer to his submissions when he appeared before the Committee to give oral evidence. As stated above, the hearing will continue at a date yet to be announced.

Oral Evidence From Media Houses Recently Awarded Radio Broadcasting Licences

The Portfolio Committee on Media, Information, Publicity and Communication Technology heard from media houses who were recently awarded radio broadcasting licences by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in 2011 on their preparedness to start broadcasting and also to hear from the losing company its reservations on the adjudicating process. To this end, Zimpapers Private Limited and AB Communications as well as Hot Media Private Limited, respectively, gave oral evidence to the Committee.

Zimpapers Pvt Limited

Zimpapers Private limited trading as Zimpapers Talk Radio Station was represented at the hearing by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Justin Mutasa, who was accompanied by Mr. Pikirayi Deketeke, Mr. Admire Taderera and Mrs. Tomana. In his brief to the committee Mr. Mutasa said although press freedom was desirable in Zimbabwe given that the press operated in a society; however 100% freedom of expression in any given society in the world was never possible. He said Talk Radio Station was a business entity with no reliance on the fiscus and as such would be guided by commercial principles in its operations. Mr. Mutasa told the Committee that his radio station was set to begin operating in the next 60 days and their equipment will be in place by the end of the week. In terms of its editorial policy, Mr. Mutasa said Talk Radio would be governed by an editorial charter which will spell out its guiding principles. He said his radio station believed in balanced reporting, fair and comprehensive coverage. However, a major limitation of their operations was that they would use Transmedia, the only signal carrier in Zimbabwe, which was currently facing financial constraints to upgrade its infrastructure in order to reach all the corners of the country. Currently, Transmedia’s coverage reach was only 30% of the Zimbabwean population.

AB Communications

Mr. Supa Mandiwanzira the CEO of AB communications and the major shareholder of the private limited company (70%) also appeared before the Committee. He said the laws of Zimbabwe and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe guided their operations. His radio station was making plans to be in operation in the next 90 days, with renovations underway, having signed an agreement of supply with an Italian company. The media house was currently in the process of recruiting personnel.

Mr. Mandiwanzira denied any political affiliation to any party as the reason he was awarded a radio broadcasting licence. He said the reason their bid was successful was purely on capacity, talent, and preparedness. In terms of transmission, Mr. Mandiwanzira informed the Committee that his radio station would use the satellite transmission using the up-link and down-link system and thereafter distribute their information terrestrially. To avoid duplication of duties, they have gone into a partnership with Transmedia, where they will use Transmedia’s towers to install their satellite equipment.

Hot Media

The Portfolio Committee called Hot Media private limited to hear their concerns regarding the adjudicating process done by the BAZ in awarding radio broadcasting licences. Ms. Victoria Sharon Mugabe informed the Committee that Hot Media Pvt (Ltd) trading as Kiss FM was shortlisted but did not manage to get a licence. In their view, they deserved to be given a licence on the grounds that they had a broad-based shareholding structure with none having majority shares. She also revealed to the Committee that their bid indicated that the company had a budget of US$5,4 million towards the setting up of the radio station and roll-out programme. She further indicated that she believed their bid was superior to the winning bids because her company had a collective 100 years of business and broadcasting experience. In their bid, they had proposed to upgrade Transmedia infrastructure from analogue to digital system as stipulated by the SADC Protocol on Media, which has to be met by 2014.

Ms. Mugabe said they viewed the adjudicating process as unfair and not transparent as no clear parameters were set before the process began. Thus, her company was proposing the appointment of an independent adjudication audit. Further, Ms. Mugabe told the Committee that they felt the process was not fair as they had to make their presentations in front of their competitors who then took advantage of the opportunity and made changes to their own presentations to meet concerns raised by BAZ on their bid.

First Quarter 2012 Budget Performance Report of the Ministry of Youth Development

The Finance Principal Director for the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment, Mr. Ngwarati, presented his ministry’s First Quarter Budget Performance Report to the Committee on Women, Youth, Gender and Community Development. He indicated that the ministry was allocated $48 280 000 in the 2012 National Budget. However, the period under review was characterized by late release of funds by the Treasury. Only $298 000 was released to the ministry by March 2012. The money received by the ministry was used for critical areas such as settling long standing utility bills to ZESA, ZINWA, TelOne and NetOne. The money was also used for employees’ salaries and as a result most programmes were not implemented as planned because Treasury released small amounts of funds at any one given time.

Resumption of Parliament Sittings

Both House will resume their settings on Tuesday 15 May 2012.

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