ZBC rapped for stifling tourism

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STATE broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has been accused of stifling tourism growth in the country by charging exorbitant prices of $100 per year for television sets in each hotel room which did not correspond with low room occupancy enjoyed by tourism players.

RICHARD MUPONDE
SENIOR REPORTER

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Tich Hwingiri decried the fees charged by the State broadcaster saying they were not tourism-friendly, but a challenge in the growth of the sector.

“The fees are too high as they charge $100 per TV set in each room when room occupancy in most of the hotels and lodges was very low,” said Hwingwiri.

“This is a challenge to the growth of tourism unless these fees were reviewed downwards to achieve a win-win situation. This licence and that licence all adding up to cost of running the business are not favourable for tourism growth” Hwingiri said.

He also said low occupancy of rooms in the country’s hotels was a challenge as utility costs continued to grow faster than the increase in revenue.

“Low occupancies in areas such as Nyanga, Lowveld, Masvingo and Victoria Falls are a cause for concern. This is compounded by the unavailability of favourable lines of credit for capital expenditure (revolving fund),” he said.

Hwingiri’s sentiments came amid an outcry over ZBC’s demand for television and radio licence fees with several court applications pending challenging these demands.

In July, the former Women’s Affairs deputy minister Jessie Majome took her fight against the State broadcaster to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) challenging its demands for television and licence fees despite what she termed biased programming.

Majome, who is a member of the MDC-T national executive, had been arrested last year for failing to produce a television licence and charged with contravening section 356 (1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

She said the law compelling people to pay television and radio licences infringed on their rights given that ZBC was openly partisan towards Zanu PF.

Majome said by doing so, ZBC “impertinently disdained” the political views of at least half if not the majority of people in the country through its “heavily biased programming”.

She urged the Concourt to declare as unconstitutional sections 38(b)2, 38(c) and 38(d)1-4 of the Broadcasting Services Act and to declare that non-compliance with the said sections does not constitute a criminal offence.

The MP also urged the court to exercise its powers and permanently stay her prosecution over the non-payment of a television licence.

Other respondents cited in the application were the then Information minister Webster Shamu, former Attorney-General and now Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana and the National Prosecuting Authority.