4 days left in media reform ultimatum

There are only four days left of a three week ultimatum allegedly set by Zimbabwe’s government heads for key media reforms.

Media and Information Minister Webster Shamu was apparently tasked with reconstituting the illegal boards of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the Broadcasting Authority (BAZ) and the Mass Media Trust. According to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, theses orders were passed down during a meeting of the government’s leaders more than two weeks ago.

The Prime Minister told a press briefing days after that meeting that Shamu had been told to reconstitute the three boards within three weeks, an ultimatum that ends of Monday March 12. This leaves four days for the Minister to carry out these orders, but it seems extremely unlikely this will happen.

Shamu has previously ignored similar orders and the MDC-T has said that the “obstinacy displayed by Minister Shamu is part of the grand plan by ZANU PF to undermine the government.”

Tsvangirai meanwhile also told that same principals meeting that any decisions taken by the illegal boards must be reversed. This includes the granting of two commercial radio licenses last year, a move that has been widely criticised for favouring ZANU PF sympathisers.

The licenses were awarded to Zimpapers, who publish the state’s mouthpiece newspaper The Herald, as well as AB Communications, owned by the former head of ZANU PF’s Affirmative Action Group, Supa Mandiwanzira.

The MDC-T last year condemned the awarding of the licenses, dismissing the move as a ‘political farce’. The party said the move “is nothing but a desperate attempt by ZANU PF to tighten its grip on the airwaves and closing the space for genuine independent broadcasters.”

“The shameful monopoly by ZANU PF of the country’s airwaves should be stopped and the airwaves liberalised,” the party said last year.

Tsvnagirai’s party has also insisted it does not recongsie the two new radio stations, but this has not stopped the stations gearing up to start broadcasting.

This week, the Mbare based Zimpapers Talk Radio station, held open auditions for newsreaders, DJs and radio presenters, attracting thousands. The radio station, nicknamed ‘Chipangano Radio’ after the notorious ZANU PF gang in Mbare, has said the strong audition turnout is a sign of “enthusiasm” for the station.

But SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa said public opinion is that the turnout is more of an indication of the desperation for jobs created by the restricted media space. Muchemwa reported that there is clearly a huge gap in the market which the government has failed to fill with independent media players.

“People know this is just a smokescreen because real media reforms have not happened. But there is a desperation for work,” Muchemwa said. SW Radio Africa

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