On 24 November 2011 BAZ announced it’s awarding to two so-called independent national radio licences to the state-controlled Zimpapers Talk Radio and AB Communications as Zimbabwe’s first ever licensed free-to-air independent national commercial radio stations since independence in 1980.
This follows four public hearings conducted by BAZ in terms of the Commissions of Inquiry Act and Section 10 (8) of the Broadcasting Services Act.
MISA Zimbabwe said the licensing of Zimpapers Talk Radio was set to raise eyebrows on whether the radio station will truly be independent as stipulated under the African Charter on Broadcasting considering that the government has a controlling stake in Zimpapers.
Former broadcast journalist, Supa Mandiwanzira, who was taken to task over his alleged links with Zanu-PF, is the majority shareholder and CEO of Zi fm stereo under the AB Communications stable.
“The licensing of the two applicants also brings into question the sincerity of the government’s calls for Zimbabwean journalists manning foreign-based stations to return home and legalise their operations,” said Misa-Zimbabwe in a statement to the media.
One of the foreign-based stations, Radio VOP (Communications), which was also among the applicants, was denied one of the two licenses that were on offer.
Misa-Zimbabwe said also likely to be in contention will be the legality of the licenses issued given the outstanding issue of the legal status of the current BAZ board which remains unresolved since its illegal constitution by the Ministry of Information in 2009.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the popular faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Welshman Ncube, the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, have publicly demanded the reconstitution of BAZ, which is headed by Tafataona Mahoso, who is seen as a Zanu-PF apologist and media hang-man.
Mahoso, who also doubles-up as the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, presided over the closure of four newspapers in 2003.