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Zimbabwe's election roadmap riddled with potholes
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
July 29, 2011
MMPZ notes with
concern that the so-called Zimbabwe Elections Roadmap With Timelines,
concluded and signed by Zimbabwean negotiators to the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) on July 6th, 2011 is more indicative
of the disagreements between Zimbabwe's
coalition parties than a clear "roadmap" to free and
In fact, it
is a catalogue of the potholes that are certain to be encountered
before any referendum or national elections are held rather than
being an agreement on how those obstacles can be overcome.
Apart from total
disagreement over sections relating to electoral and security sector
reforms among other issues, MMPZ notes that the earlier agreement
between the coalition partners to reconstitute the boards of the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the Broadcasting Authority
of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and trustees of the Mass Media Trust, which is
supposed to oversee the operations of the state-run print media,
have also become casualties of this flawed negotiating process.
Instead of setting
strict time-lines for the reformation of these boards, the parties
have agreed to "defer" this essential prerequisite to
democratic elections indefinitely.
This is disappointing.
While the parties have agreed to start work immediately on persuading
host governments to close down radio stations broadcasting news
about Zimbabwe into the country from overseas, the critical issues
of establishing an independent domestic public broadcaster and broadcasting
authority have been set aside.
by Media and Information Secretary George Charamba that government
would not amend the notorious Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) until the
constitution-making process is complete also exposed this reluctance
by the ZANU PF arm of government to institute genuine media reforms
(The Herald, 22/7).
his remarks while giving evidence to the Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee on Media, Information and Communications Technology on
the ministry's half-year budget performance last week.
came barely two weeks after BAZ chairman Tafataona Mahoso told the
same parliamentary committee that the authority would only advertise
for new television players in 2013, extinguishing any hope of having
a new, independent television station in Zimbabwe before the next
elections (Daily News, 8/7).
by Charamba and Mahoso represent a slap in the face of the GPA,
which compels the three coalition parties to reform the country's
media landscape and open up the airwaves to allow a diverse community
of new and independent broadcasters.
three years after the signing of this political agreement, no privately
owned radio or television station has yet been licensed.
The feeble excuse
Mahoso reportedly gave for this incessant delay was that Zimbabwe
needed "a new regulatory framework to change from the current
monologue system to the digital system" before registering
new players (Daily News, 8/7).
This is nothing
less than a pathetic attempt to hide behind false technical arguments
to stave off promised reforms in the broadcasting sector.
But MMPZ commends
those members of the parliamentary committee who recognized this
when they expressed their concern over BAZ's apparent indifference
to reform. The Daily News reported the MPs as having been "angered"
by BAZ's attitude, as they felt that the regulatory body was "deliberately
delaying" issuing new licences to new players. This is because
the same authority "once appeared before the committee in 2009
making commitments that they will fulfil their mandate to licence
new players in the broadcasting sector".
One of them,
Edward Musumbu (Norton MP) said: "There seems to be dillydallying
with whatever they (BAZ) are telling us as a committee. You are
not serious with whatever you are doing. You don't seem to want
to open the airwaves and you don't seem to want to issue licences
to new players".
the excuses to delay reforms given by Charamba and Mahoso as a strategy
to retain the monopoly of the airwaves by the national broadcaster,
ZBC. This attitude vindicates and reinforces civil society's demands
that the government of national unity urgently implements the media
reforms promised under the provisions of the GPA. A starting point
would be to implement immediately those issues that have already
been agreed - namely the reconstitution of state media boards, which
are responsible for implementing most of the reforms, so that the
country's media environment - and especially broadcasting - does
not remain the monopolistic wasteland that ZBC has made it today.
media and information sector would allow Zimbabweans to freely express
themselves, especially during the forthcoming referendum and elections
- an essential element in deciding whether those elections are free
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