THE decision by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to give licences to eight radio stations with links to the ruling Zanu PF party exposes talk of media reforms in Zimbabwe as a mere ruse.
Zimbabwe’s media industry remains largely undeveloped because of the unhealthy monopoly by the State in the broadcasting sector.
The country has fallen far behind other regional countries that have a plural broadcasting industry.
Most of the countries are progressing at a much faster pace economically and in terms of their democratic institutions compared to Zimbabwe.
A genuinely plural media is a vital tool for economic development and the government’s Stone Age tactics to maintain control of the broadcasting sector through hook or crook are self-defeating.
It does not need a rocket scientist to decipher the government’s strategy following the Tuesday announcement that eight licences had been given to Kingstons, an ailing State company whose presentation was torn into shreds by BAZ officials during public hearings last year.
Zimpapers failed to impress with its pitch in Mutare, but still managed to get a licence while Zanu PF official and Cabinet minister Supa Mandiwanzira’s foothold in broadcasting continues to grow after he was given the Masvingo licence.
There have been questions about the neutrality of other recipients of the licences as some of the officials in companies involved are known to belong to Zanu PF.
The licences according to Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Zimbabwe chapter director Nhlanhla Ngwenya are “in essence an addition of platforms that are directly or indirectly linked to the ruling party, which compromises the diversity of views a liberalised broadcasting sector is meant to bring”.
We cannot agree more with this assertion as one only needs to look no further than the two national radio licences that were given to Mandiwanzira and Zimpapers in 2011.
The radio stations only became an expansion of the State media empire and are doing little to diversify the broadcasting sector.
Therefore, the BAZ charade should not fool any Zimbabwean that there is finally diversity in broadcasting.
The State broadcasting monopoly has just been given more megaphones to strengthen the Zanu PF dictatorship.