By Nhau Mangirazi
Chinhoyi, May 10, 2016 – GOVERNMENT may soon be forced to revoke radio licenses issued to some prospective commercial radio broadcasters who are still yet to start operating, a parliament portfolio committee member has said.
Zvishavane-Ngezi MP John Holder, who is also a member of parliament’s Information, Media and Broadcasting committee which oversees the executive, said at the weekend said they were waiting for the 18 granted to the broadcasters by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to lapse before taking action.
“It is disheartening that those who got radio licenses are still yet to operate. All I can say is, the licenses may soon be revoked and call for other applications so that we see action on radio licensing.
“We are waiting for the grace period to lapse before we ask for reconsideration of licensing other players,’’ Holder said.
He was speaking at a belated World Press Freedom Day event in Chinhoyi at the weekend.
Holder had been quizzed by journalists if parliament and the government would take action on perceived lethargy by companies that were favoured with broadcasting licences ahead of many other hopefuls.
BAZ, under Zanu PF apologist, Tafataona Mahoso awarded licences to eight commercial players out of 21 applicants last year in March.
The process was mired in controversy amid concerns by media stakeholders the licences were only issues to companies and individuals with known links to the ruling Zanu PF party.
Kingstons won two licenses for Kariba and Harare while ex-ZBC chief executive officer Munyaradzi Hwengwere was given a licence to operate a commercial station in Zvishavane.
AB Communications, owned by Information Communication and Technology Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, was also given two licences to operate in Gweru and Masvingo while Zimpapers’ Diamond FM got the Mutare licence.
Of these, YaFM in Zvishavane is now operational while those in Kariba, Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo are still yet to take off the ground.
Meanwhile, Holder said current delays in extending broadcasting licences to community radio stations were being held back by former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s failure to clarify what a community was.
“The outgoing Minister of Information, Broadcasting Professor Moyo’s explanation of a community was more of a hindrance to licensing of community radio stations but I am happy to say the incumbent Doctor Christopher Mushowe and Deputy Thokozile Mathuthu are level headed and we hope we may move forward as a nation. The reshuffling may be a move in right direction in free press,” he added.
He also bemoaned the continued failure by government to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Information Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) report aimed at improving the state of the media in Zimbabwe.
“The biggest challenge we have now is that the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services has expressed their commitment to the processing of the IMPI into legislative and policy document,” he said.
“There is need for ministry to move with space in this regard so that our media policies and legislation are reformed and constructed well into new constructional dispensation.
“The eighth parliament had to be constituted at a very critical moment where alignment of laws including media took centre stage and we still mourn the slow pace of constitutional alignment throughout all sectors.”
He further added that the non alignment or slow pace has created institutional and constitutional challenges.
“This has resulted in the courts declaring some provisions of media Acts as inconsistent with the constitution hence null and void,” he said.
Misa- Zimbabwe board of Trustees member Davison Maruziva welcomed the interaction of journalists with members of parliament’s different portfolios committees saying they opened avenues for the media to access difficult ministers on policy issues.
“I am glad that Zimbabwean journalists are taking the right direction to interact and interface with members of different portfolio committees. We must strive to report accurately, factually and using multiple sourcing for the benefit of readers and listeners,” said Maruziva.
Misa-Zimbabwe statement bemoans the delays in media reforms by the government three years after the new constitution.