Media commission in limbo

The Zimbabwe Media Commission faces collapse due to political bickering that has resulted in its major donor withdrawing thousands of dollars.

Godfrey Majonga
Godfrey Majonga

One of the commissioners told The Zimbabwean that ZMC had not carried out most of its core activities since before the constitutional referendum in March 2013 — mainly due to politically motivated squabbles.

“While a sizeable number of the commissioners are impartial, some are partisan because of their political allegiance to either Zanu (PF) or the opposition. Most politicians regard the commission as a compromise product of the GNU (Government of National Unity) and use it to fight for political space. With Zanu (PF) now in total control of government, it seems they want it reconstituted to align with party expectations,” he said. Despite the existence of contracts approved by the President, commissioners have not been paid anything and are owed thousands of dollars for using their own money on commission business.

“Our contracts stipulate that we should get cars, allowances and bonuses – but we have been using their own vehicles and we have not been compensated,” said the commissioner.

Another commissioner accused the ZMC secretariat led by Tafataona Mahoso of frustrating donor-funded projects.

He said the secretariat refused to accept some $500,000 donated by the EU, resulting in the money being withdrawn.

“The secretariat made it no secret that it would not accept donor money, in line with Zanu (PF)’s suspicion that it would be used for regime change purposes,” said the source. The money was supposed to be used to buy office equipment, set up information centres, provide training, media law reform, hold local and foreign meetings and workshops and compile a code of conduct for journalists.

“There is no money and nothing is happening at ZMC right now. As it stands, the commission might collapse, just as others have done before,” he added.

Several other constitutional commissions have either failed to take off or are not operational due to financial constraints or political interference. These include the Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), Peace Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

The ZMC secretariat referred questions to Godfrey Majonga, the ZMC board chair, but he said he was not able to comment when called and asked The Zimbabwean to send written questions, to which he had not responded by the time of going to print.

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