No media reforms, no elections

The Global Political Agreement makes very clear provisions for the media reforms that need to be undertaken in Zimbabwe before democratic free and fair elections are held.

John Makumbe
John Makumbe

To date, very few and mainly cosmetic reforms have been made. Indeed, a few independent print media houses are now operational, but there has been no change whatsoever with regard to the electronic media.

The illegally constituted Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is currently going through some dubious exercises purported to enable it to license a few electronic media outfits to operate in this country. All of the applicants so far interviewed are focusing on radio, but no applicants have been considered for television.

The reason for this unhealthy situation is patently obvious to most of us. Zanu (PF) is desperate to maintain the status quo in relation to the freeing of the airwaves for its own benefit. It is aware that the entry into the electronic arena by private broadcasters will almost definitely result in the people of this country having better access to information. To the former liberation movement, information is such a critical political resource that it should not be allowed to be handled by persons or organisations that are not under Mugabe’s control.

The current abuse of the useless ZBC to sing Mugabe’s praises is a clear demonstration of Zanu (PF)’s wishes to manipulate and control the information sector for its political benefit. Freeing the airwaves is likely to enable private entities to be more objective and non-partisan in their approach to such matters as news broadcasts. This will mean that such outfits will inform the people of this country about the activities of other political parties that exist. Such a development will obviously show Zanu (PF) for what it really is – a moribund, detested and despised yesteryear political party that no sane voter is keen to support.

The SADC and the two MDC formations should make it very clear to Mugabe and his cabal that legitimate and substantive electronic media reforms will need to be made in accordance with the GPA provisions before elections are held in this country. The sooner such reforms are made the better for this country and for those that are pining for elections as soon as possible.

I suspect that the BAZ is attempting to delay the granting of licenses to private entities until it is too late for them to be able to set up house before the elections are held. The SADC and the MDC formations should insist that private media houses in the electronic sector will have to be fully operational before elections can be held next year or in 2013. This is likely to be strongly resisted by the sinking Titanic, as the late Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa, once called the beleaguered Mugabe party.

Meanwhile, the laughing stock called the ZTV continues to provide comic relief to some of us after a hard day’s work. It is ridiculous to listen to an 87-year old man singing “Toita sei nenyika ye Rhodesia?” (What shall we do with this country called Rhodesia?). This is more than 30 years since Rhodesia was dead and buried, and the leading geriatric is still singing about it.

How can such a man be expected to lead a modern state into the future when he is actively reminiscing about matters long forgotten by the rest of the country? May God help us if that same man tries to stand for the next elections as his party’s presidential candidate.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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