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Media under threat in Zimbabwe
Rejoice Ngwenya
November 28, 2011

Former media hatchet man Dr Tafataona Mahoso and his team at the Broadcast Authority of Zimbabwe [BAZ] have sunk to the deepest and darkest enclave in the abyss of parochial shame. Last Thursday, 24 November 2011, they gave the country-s first two commercial private radio broadcast licences to two institutions aligned with ZANU-PF: Super Mandiwanzira-s AB Communications- Zi Radio and Zimpapers- Talk Radio. Mr. Mandiwanzira is a former Zimbabwe television reporter and president of indigenisation pressure group Affirmative Action while Zimpapers is a State-controlled public company. The tragedy of this blatant act of partisan theatrics is aggravated by Dr Mahoso-s cult worship of President Robert Mugabe-s ruling ZANU-PF, masquerading as head of a board ostensibly meant to protect and defend media freedom! He has a democratic right to be a member of an ideologically bankrupt party, but must be stopped dead in his tracks in attempting to force-feed its malignant institutions on progressive Zimbabweans. In fact, BAZ have to be really narrow-minded to take citizens so much for granted that they will accept Zimpapers / AB Communications outfits as 'alternative, independent media-.

By a stroke of fateful coincidence, a few days earlier, the African National Congress [ANC] of South Africa had itself engineered a systematic return of that country-s media to the inquisition. The so-called 'secrecy bill- meant to muzzle freedom of expression passed by 229 votes to 107 attracting criticism from the Nobel prize-winning trio of author Nadine Gordimer, ex-Robben Island inmate Nelson Mandela and human rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu. Opposition Democratic Alliance Parliamentary whip Lindiwe Mazibuko threatened to seek Constitutional Court recourse if the Bill was passed into law. In Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF treats court verdicts with contempt, yet if Dr Mahoso insists on his Kamikaze mission, enlightened media stakeholders will have no choice but lace the arteries of BAZ with populist venom.

Zimbabweans have a right to protest, and vigorously. BAZ-s raison de etre is entrenching the hegemony of ZANU-PF on media as inherited from Ian Smith-s Rhodesia. Zimbabwe Newspapers group is a ZANU-PF loudhailer manipulated to exalt authoritarian dictatorship. In no way can one argue for media diversity when President Mugabe and his cronies control all local broadcast networks and the public press. What Zimbabweans are fighting for is freedom of not multiplicity in media.

Whereas the ANC wants to classify most government information as 'secrets-, ZANU-PF is intent on perpetuating totalitarian insanity during the 2012-13 plebiscite era. Therefore Dr Mahoso-s decision must be met with objective hostility to prove that Zimbabweans are not political poodles rolling over for their bellies to be caressed. BAZ is duly constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act and Section 10 (8) of the Broadcasting Services Act. Coalition partners Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] are disputing its legitimacy, thus BAZ have no moral standing to stifle media freedom through an imbecilic and mythical 'qualification and selection process-.

It would be a tragedy of incalculable proportion if truly independent broadcast continues to be excluded from Zimbabwe-s pre-election landscape. ZANU-PF, under a smokescreen of 'indigenisation-, will camouflage its predatory gluttony by using so-called 'independent- analysis on Zimpapers and Zi Radio stations. The externally based Voice of the People, SW Radio and Studio 7 will be no match to locally modulated ZANU-PF propaganda.

Zimbabweans should take up the challenge of discrediting BAZ by making life intolerable for Dr Mahoso and his compliant board. Media Institute of Southern Africa, Media Alliance Zimbabwe, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Editors Forum, African Media Initiative, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, advertising agencies, human rights organizations, media students at National University of Science and Technology, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe Open University and University of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo and Harare Polytechnic must unleash a relentless cyber revolution against this contagious monster called BAZ. Our politics must, once and for all, be inoculated for immunity against ZANU-PF-s irritatingly arrogant pre-election partisan paranoia.

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