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Zero duty policy opens up avenues of communication
Mukundu, Zimbabwe Independent
July 30, 2009
View this article
on the Zimbabwe Independent website
The reaction of the state-owned media, especially the Herald, to
Finance minister Tendai Biti-s midterm
financial policy speech is hardly surprising. More so the reaction
of the likes of former Information minister Jonathan Moyo.
Moyo attacked Biti with
all sorts of words, from accusations of the new policy as partisan
to charges of abuse of the parliamentary floor and threatening national
sovereignty and security by allowing the free movement and entry
of foreign media content in Zimbabwe.
Despite its struggles
to deal with so many problems, chief among which is that it is broke,
the unity government through this policy has done something progressive
where it matters most. And that is opening the avenues of access
to information by as many of Zimbabwe-s citizens as possible
and indeed the ability of the people to communicate without restrictions,
be they of policy or poverty.
It is in the context
of this that the attacks by Moyo have to be understood. It is not
surprising that when it comes to the advancement of views that represent
dissent, views other than their own, Moyo and the likes of former
chairperson of the defunct Media and Information Commission Tafataona
Mahoso become analysts of choice for the Herald.
It is also important
to note that despite being an independent Member of Parliament,
Moyo-s heart and spirit are still on board the Zanu PF gravy
train. This is so because the ideological views of Zanu PF when
it comes to media and the rights of citizens to access information,
freely associate and speak their views, were shaped and are still
influenced by the likes of Moyo and Mahoso.
Where Zanu PF would from
time to time suppress dissent in the media in the 1980s, it had
neither the confidence nor inclination to be so vicious until Moyo
came onto the scene, presiding over the promulgation of laws that
include Aippa and BSA.
It is the effect of these
laws that Zimbabwe is struggling to reverse and the reason for Moyo-s
In Moyo, Zanu PF found
new energy and zeal that it never had to repress critical media
So when he is quoted
by the Herald attacking Biti for allowing duty-free entry
of newspapers, computers and mobile phone handsets, his views have
to be understood from a historical point of view of not only having
nostalgia for his days in the former ruling party but also a warped
ideological view based on the dominance of one view, his view, and
the subjugation of the rest, to his narrow-minded thinking.
The attack on the free
movement of media products as a threat to national sovereignty and
security is a strange and unintelligent argument that should not
be taken seriously nor have space in serious national discourse.
Of all things that have
gone wrong in Zimbabwe, Moyo sees foreign newspapers and duty-free
computers and mobile phones as a threat to national security and
sovereignty. What of the fact that almost half of the population
is being fed by foreigners because of the destructive policies of
What of the fact that
we are almost getting electricity which we are unable to pay for,
for free? What of the hordes of police and military service persons
who have run away from duty because of paltry salaries? What of
the abduction of innocent citizens, the torture and killing of civilians
in Chiadzwa and other parts of the country?
For a very long time
the likes of Moyo have abused terms such as national sovereignty
and security to mean the protection of Zanu PF-s interest.
The citizens of Zimbabwe
have enjoyed neither the benefits of sovereignty nor security as
many have had to cross crocodile infested rivers to look for a better
life in other peoples lands. Citizens have neither enjoyed security
as they are daily harassed by security arms of the state.
The argument of sovereignty
and national security has to be dismissed with contempt as an attempt
to capture the national psyche in a historical trap. Sovereignty
and security can only be guaranteed in a free society able to feed
itself and sleep without fear of harassment by its own security
arms and politicians.
Moyo and the Herald should
take time to unpack the jargon they use, more so declare their own
baggage and interests rather than pose as sober thinkers with the
interest of the country at heart. It is not surprising that Moyo
did not like what Biti said, more so because he is a lowly backbencher,
whose voice is becoming fainter every time he opens his mouth.
This is indeed an unfamiliar
position for Moyo who is used to strutting the national stage with
The policy pronouncement by Biti might have its economic shortcomings
but it is a major contribution to the freedoms that Zimbabweans
are crying for.
It is also a major contribution
to the development and usage of ICTs, be it in the mobile phone
or computer sector. The more Zimbabweans can talk, access information,
share ideas and concerns the more they can become liberated and
play their rightful roles as citizens.
It is possible that an
increase in mobile phone usage at reasonable charges can be a major
contributor to state revenue as mobile phone companies increase
their revenues, hence tax contributions. It is possible that the
duty-free entry of computers is the panacea Zimbabwe needs to move
into the ICT-driven knowledge age in all its sectors, and free us
from the Stone Age that Moyo and others want to keep us in. All
these aspects have a liberating feel and effect.
Zanu PF and the likes
of Moyo would rather have people remain ignorant, submissive, read
the Herald and listen and watch the ZBC, then go to sleep. We are
not told how newspapers printed in London and distributed in Zimbabwe
are a threat to national sovereignty. Why should Moyo or anyone
else determine what people read. Why should the choice of what I
read not be left to me if I can afford it?
This policy pronouncement
is probably the most progressive and pro-poor as it enhances access
to communication facilities. And with such facilities a communal
farmer in Murehwa can easily communicate with his/her market at
Mbare, negotiate prices, organise business and make a living. It
is through communication and access to information that society
can hope to move forward.
For those caught in the
past, their attacks of this policy are not only shocking but another
reminder of the threats of regression and myopia that lurks in the
dark. Unfounded Zanu PF phobias fuelled by false prophecies of its
oracles, in the form of Moyo and Mahoso, should not be allowed to
stop Zimbabwe moving forward.
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