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Zero duty policy opens up avenues of communication
Rashweat 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 anger.

In Moyo, Zanu PF found new energy and zeal that it never had to repress critical media voices.

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 Zanu PF?

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 gusto.
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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