Information minister silent as media reform deadline passes

Monday March 12th was, in theory, doomsday for Information Minister Webster Shamu – the deadline by which he had to implement the media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government.

Webster Shamu
Webster Shamu

But to the surprise of no one he has once again ignored a deadline.

According to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Shamu was ordered to reform the boards of three key media institutions, which were declared unconstitutional because they were appointed unilaterally by one political party, ZANU PF. Tsvangirai told journalists that Shamu had three weeks to comply.

Stewart Musiwa, Coordinator at Community Radio Harare (CORAH), told SW Radio Africa that ZANU PF has no intention of reforming media and open it up to independent players. “It would be detrimental to their chances of manipulating the airwaves,” he added.

Musiwa explained that the Broadcasting Authority (BAZ) has avoided calling for community radio applications, as required by the Broadcast Services Act, because they do not want people to be able to comment on their failures.

CORAH said that last year they become tired of waiting for the broadcasting authority to make a move: “We submitted an unsolicited application last year just to test the waters and were denied a license.” CORAH then took BAZ to court and are still waiting for a hearing date.

With ZANU PF pushing for elections this year, while resisting media reforms agreed to by the principals in the GPA, Musiwa said any election held before those reforms are implemented will not be free or fair. “They manipulate things to ensure victory, including the constitution process,” Musiwa said.

Just last week Shamu was reportedly summoned by the committee charged with overseeing reforms agreed to by the coalition government, JOMIC, to account for his refusal to comply with the principals’ orders. It is not clear when this was due to happen, but the Minister remains silent on the matter. SW Radio Africa

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