MDC - 1st ANNIVERSARY RALLY
with President Morgan Tsvangirai, Vice President Gibson Sibanda, National & Provinial Executive & Members of Parliament
RUFARO STADIUM, Saturday 30 September, Gates open 9am
Don't forget your Red Card and Whistle if you have them.
Chinja Maitiro! Isenzo
Please also allow your employees to attend.
CIO boss leads attack on farmers
CHARLES Gumbo, the war veteran who allegedly led a group of ex-combatants to beat up and shoot at commercial farmers and their workers in Featherstone last week, is the head of the CIO organisation in Chivhu. He led a 12-member gang of war veterans armed with automatic rifles and whips and beat up 13 commercial farmers and about 350 workers when they clashed at Hoffman Farm in Featherstone last Wednesday. None of them was arrested. Several farmers have been arrested instead. It has long been suspected that the CIO operatives and army officers were behind the violent farm occupations orchestrated by the war veterans since February this year. The invasions have paralysed Zimbabwe’s agro-based economy.
The Daily News spoke to Gumbo at the President's Offices in Chivhu last Friday. He said he was the local war veterans leader. "I am the chairman of the War Veterans’ Association in Chivhu" Gumbo said. Asked whether he had led the raid on the commercial farmers last week, Gumbo said: "I do not even want to talk about that," he said, before putting down the phone. Commercial farmers in the Featherstone area have accused the CIO in Chivhu of inciting and providing material support to the war veterans leading farm invasions in the area. Gumbo attacked the farmers and their workers at Hoffman Farm using pistols and automatic rifles, suspected to be government property. The group of assailants who beat up everyone at Hoffman Farm, including a Featherstone police officer, arrived in two Mazda pick-up trucks and a Peugeot 504 sedan. The vehicles are believed to belong to the CIO. The registration numbers of the trucks are 635-136P and 590-323K, while the registration of the Peugeot sedan is 446-920G.
Last year, Gumbo was one of the top army officers and CIO agents allocated stands at the 11 000-hectare Estates in Chivhu. About 140 plots on the farm were demarcated in what was called the Munyati Resettlement Scheme. Farmers in Featherstone said they were surprised when Gumbo and his gang walked in and out of the Chivhu Police Station with their weapons soon after they clashed last week. Gumbo shot at a lorry laden with farm workers and ordered the farmers to leave their cars and get into one of the CIO pick-up trucks before being driven to Chivhu. The farmers and their workers had ganged up to destroy the illegal shacks built by invaders on the farms. The violent incidents came in the wake of an assurance by the Minister of Home Affairs, John Nkomo, that the government would continue to evict invaders, mainly war veterans and Zanu PF supporters, who had occupied commercial farms since February.
From The Daily News, 25 September
Demos against police planned
A group of Bulawayo residents last week said they planned a public protest against the slow pace of Police investigations into the disappearance of Patrick Nabanyama, a polling agent for the MDC. Dumisani Nkomo, a spokesperson for the group said they planned to hold peaceful demonstrations every Friday outside the Bulawayo City Hall to press the police to conclude the case quickly. Nkomo said: "We want fast track justice to all those who abducted Nabanyama." Nabanyama disappeared from his Nketa home on 19 June after he was abducted by 12 suspected war veterans and Zanu PF supporters. The abduction followed numerous reports to the police over harassment by known war veterans.
ZimNews comment - The first of these vigils was held on Friday 22. The initial group of 130 was swelled by greater numbers. Human rights groups and the press were well represented and the message is spreading to ensure that the numbers grow in subsequent weeks. A healthy number of placards were on display. These gatherings will now take place every Friday at 1 o'clock lunchtime on the Large City Hall steps in Bulawayo. Please pass this message on, and attend if at all possible.
From The Daily News, 25 September
Bishop meets US envoy over Democracy Bill
Bulawayo - Bishop Pius Ncube, of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, last Thursday met the American Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tom McDonald, to discuss, among other issues, the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill 2 000. The US embassy is understood to be assessing the mood of a cross-section of Zimbabweans on the Bill which, if effected, could lead to an aid freeze. "The meeting was purely between me and himself. In fact, you are not even supposed to know about the meeting," said Ncube. While in the city, the ambassador met a delegation of the Bulawayo City Council. David Ndlovu, the acting executive mayor, said McDonald discussed developmental projects with the council. "We also talked about the Zambezi Water project and the ambassador pledged some support provided the government constructed the Gwayi-Shangaan Dam," he said.
An embassy official said: "What Ncube discussed with the Ambassador might have a significant bearing on Zimbabwe’s fate with regards to the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill 2000." Ncube yesterday declined to give details of the meeting. McDonald referred all questions to public relations officer, Sam Kaerezi, who refused to co-operate. The US Congress sits early next month to decide the fate of the Bill into statute. The Bill which has already passed the Senate, has seen the formation of a committee in the country, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge to lobby for support in the US against the Bill. The ruling Zanu PF party has projected the Bill as a disastrous piece of legislation. Its main thrust is on the human rights abuses by President Mugabe's government, the lawlessness in Zimbabwe and the President's reluctancy to put corrective measures as moves to end the current problems.
After the June parliamentary election, Mugabe blamed Ncube for his party’s defeat in Matabeleland. He accused Ncube of using the church to campaign for the opposition MDC. McDonald’s visit was to lobby Ncube to use his influence to persuade the region to accept the Bill. Pressure groups in the US, determined to see the Bill through have geared up their campaign and have asked their agencies in Zimbabwe to forward written reports on the breakdown of law and order to strengthen their cause.
On a separate subject, Ncube said he has failed to meet the President to discuss his harassment by the CIO early this year. "The meeting has not materialised. I think the President is busy as you have seen him flying around," said Ncube. Meanwhile, a newly formed Masvingo pressure group, the Zimbabwe Democratic Eye (Zimde), yesterday accused Zanu PF party of failing to initiate, develop and nurture democracy during the past 20 years.
Ministry of information abolished
THE Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications has been abolished, putting the professional future of 273 officers in doubt, officials said yesterday. The development is likely to affect the Zimbabwe Inter-African News Agency (Ziana), the domestic news agency, whose life and operational capital has, since its formation in 1981, been dependant on the ministry. The abolition means that another agency, the Zimbabwe Information Service (ZIS) with staff at almost every district and provincial office, would go. Although the operations of the ZBC are governed by an Act of Parliament, the new changes would place the corporation, for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, directly under the President’s Office.
"We are just waiting for the final day here," said an officer at Linquenda House, the headquarters of the ministry for the past 20 years. "There is a lot of anxiety within the ministry as most people know that they are going to lose their jobs. We have been expecting to have a meeting with the new minister but unfortunately he hasn’t come to our offices." In July, President Mugabe appointed Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State in his office, replacing Chen Chimutengwende who operated from Linquenda House as the Information Minister. But Moyo has stayed away from the 11 floor building in Harare’s Nelson Mandela Avenue. Willard Chiwewe, the then permanent secretary in that ministry has since been moved to Foreign Affairs. Yesterday, Moyo referred all questions to the Public Service Commission (PSC), saying he knew nothing about the fate of the ministry's staff.
"This ministry was abolished and Moyo is handling a different department which has nothing to do with the ministry," said another ministry official. Moyo, however, is understood to be working out requirements for his department for submission to the PSC. The ministry is, among other things, responsible for the mobile cinema units, a vital source of government propaganda aimed at rural communities. One of the ministry’s departments supervised the Posts and Telecommunications. It is expected to be transferred to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
At its best, the information section accredited local and visiting journalists, issued cards which enabled them to have access to government buildings and published government documents, calendars, brochures, tourism pamphlets and Heroes' Acre programmes. Ministry officials sometimes arranged interviews with ministers and government officials, while the Minister directly controlled the editorial coverage of Zimbabwe’s public media through weekly briefings and written directives. The Press section was headed by a director, assisted by a chief Press officer and hordes of officers responsible for separate government ministries. Dr Andries Rukobo, the out-going director, has been in the ministry for less than a year. He refused to speak to The Daily News last night.
Since July, Moyo’s new department has arranged interviews for journalists with ministers and heads of departments on various governmental issues. "We are basically there, not doing anything at all and people are saying a lot of things because of this information gap that has been created," another officer said. "The government should just conclude this matter because we cannot wait forever." Another source at the ministry said the employees were to be fired but Chiwewe, the ministry's then permanent secretary, advised the government against this move saying it would face massive litigation. Chiwewe is said to have advised the government to work on a new structure for the information and publicity department with the remaining officers being re-deploymed to other ministries. "Some of us have served the ministry for 20 years and are happy to get our packages and go," said another officer. "What we cannot stand is to be treated like trash and be made redundant while we get paid."
From the BBC, 25 September
Parliament: Disillusion sets in
Some Zimbabweans are wondering whether all the effort, not to mention blood, they put in to the June elections was not wasted. Even one of the new breed of opposition MPs, Priscilla Misihairabwi, is disillusioned. "People heckle, shout, get upset and then the day is done. It's almost like a theatre. People play their part and walk out and when they walk out, Zimbabwe is still in the same state, if not worse," she says. However she is one of those who have challenged her parliamentary rivals to "step outside" for a fist-fight. She tries to justify this by saying how angry she was at seeing MPs from the ruling Zanu-PF party smiling, instead of showing remorse for the pre-election violence which left 30 opposition supporters dead.
There is no doubting that parliament is livelier now than in the days when the ruling Zanu-PF party had a majority of 147-3. Then, the few MPs who bothered to turn up, often dozed off before waking to rubber-stamp decisions the party had already taken. Now, there is little chance of falling asleep with 150 people shouting and screaming while trying to prevent their opponents from making their point. Unless, of course, you've had one, or several, too many at the members' bar. During one late-night session, to pass the supplementary budget, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had to ask for the bar to be closed until the "august" house had adjourned. "I want members to draw lessons from this afternoon and evening that, when this House is deliberating on serious issues, there should not be a liberal supply of alcohol," he understated as his fellow MPs incomprehensibly slurred their way through the arguments.
And that night he rammed home another point about the "new" parliament - the opposition MDC can only block constitutional amendments. Zanu-PF has a workable majority for all other legislation. Nine months into the financial year, the government had run out of cash. So, just weeks after promising austerity measures to reduce government expenditure, Finance Minister Simba Makoni introduced a supplementary budget which raised public spending by 50%. The opposition was outraged and predicted that this would only send Zimbabwe's economy even closer to the wall. But all the MDC could do was to walk out in protest. The bill was passed just a few hours after being introduced to parliament.
Such impotence is leading to frustration. Outside the parliamentary building, one disgruntled bank worker complained about the soaring prices which have turned his pay-slip into a worthless piece of paper. "We were told that the opposition MDC would change things but there is no change. We are disappointed, we're not happy at all". Zimbabweans are not used to the idea of parliamentary opposition – they last experienced it in a meaningful sense in 1987. Voters in urban areas where the MDC swept the board expect to see concrete results not just hot-air.
But by definition, an opposition has no power. Priscilla Misihairabwi admits that it is difficult explaining this to the people who sent her to parliament to "change" (the MDC slogan) things. While she shares their impatience, she argues that the presence of 57 opposition MPs does keep the government on its toes. As evidence, she points to Simba Makoni's disclosure that Zimbabwe had spent Z$10 bn ($263m) on the war in the DRC and that such high expenditure was unsustainable. This was in response to a parliamentary question from one of Misihairabwi's MDC colleagues. This is not power - the 11,000 soldiers are still in the DRC - but "for the first time, this government has had to be accountable" she says. Forcing the government into embarrassing admissions during ministerial question time will also strengthen the MDC for presidential elections in 2002 when, at last, real power will be on offer.
From The International Freedom Of Expression Exchange, 25 September
Moyo - ZBC to keep monopoly for now
The minister of state for information and publicity, Jonathan Moyo, says the ZBC will continue to enjoy its broadcasting monopoly until the government establishes a regulatory framework giving conditions for new players. Moyo made the announcement on ZBC news in reaction to the recent High Court judgement in favour of the prospective private radio station, Capital Radio. The minister's remarks mean that Capital Radio will have to wait a while longer to apply for a licence to start operating. Moyo said nobody should broadcast in the country before obtaining a licence. He said this did not mean that the government was not committed to freeing the airwaves, as it had shown its commitment by the establishment of a media advisory panel, which was done before the High Court ruling.
The minister said his government did not want a "broadcasting jungle" and that there was a great need to "control broadcasting" because people would start broadcasting "pornographic and beastly material." He went to on to say that broadcasting was for Zimbabweans and that the government should limit foreign control in the broadcasting sector. He said the broadcasting reform process should be guided by national interests, the constitution and technological changes. Access to broadcasting for everyone in the country was more important that freeing the airwaves, Moyo said. Moyo has said the government would this week put in place mechanisms to set up a regulatory authority.
BACKGROUND: On 22 September 2000, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court declared null and void the ZBC's monopoly over the airwaves. In a Constitutional application brought by private broadcaster Capital Radio (Pty) Limited, the full bench of the court ruled that Capital Radio was entitled to import and utilise broadcasting equipment in Zimbabwe, subject to the laws of the country. The Supreme Court declared that the monopoly on broadcasting services created by Section 27 of the Broadcasting Act was inconsistent with Section 20 of the Constitution. The court said that the ZBC's monopoly was therefore invalid in so far as it vested in the ZBC the exclusive privilege of carrying a broadcasting service in Zimbabwe.
The ruling also declared that Section 14 of the Radio Communication Services Act was inconsistent with Section 20 of the Constitution and, therefore, invalid in so far as it prohibited any person, other than the ZBC, from possessing or running a radio station for the purpose of carrying on a broadcasting service in Zimbabwe. Since August, the government has been giving mixed messages regarding the opening up of the airwaves. On 11 August, Minister Moyo told a press conference that the government was not considering opening the airwaves. He said that instead it was urgently reviewing ways and means of ensuring that the ZBC was fully empowered to carry out its public mandate, by meeting technological and material requirements, in keeping with the global broadcasting trends.
On 26 August, at a MISA-Zimbabwe annual general meeting, the minister said that the government was not planning to liberalise the airwaves because it had already done so soon after independence. Moyo said that as a result of that liberalisation, there had been many players in the broadcasting section, some of whom had folded.
Machete attack on Zim farmer
Harare - A white farmer attacked early on Tuesday by illegal occupiers in his fields in northwestern Zimbabwe underwent surgery for serious facial wounds, medical officials said. Attackers slashed Marshall Roper in the face with a machete, cutting through his nose and into the roof of his mouth, leaving part of the nose hanging on a piece of severed flesh, the officials said. Roper, 37, evacuated to Harare from his tobacco and corn farm 200km northwest of Harare, was stable and out of danger, the Avenues Clinic officials said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
The attack prompted about 4 000 farm workers and more than 60 white families to demonstrate on Tuesday outside the police station in the provincial town of Karoi. The protesters demanded the arrest of Roper's assailants, the CFU said, adding the attackers' identities were known. The demonstrators dispersed later without receiving assurances from police that action would be taken against Roper's attackers or other violent ruling party militants and mobs of squatters illegally occupying private land in the area, the union said. District landowners were also demanding the arrest of 12 farm occupiers who allegedly tried to prevent Roper and his black workers from planting tobacco on his 1 500 hectare property soon after dawn. No arrests were reported and police were unavailable for comment.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Justice Ministry said a suspect in the murder of the first of five white farmers killed during the occupations was arrested on Friday, five months after the slaying. Douglas Chitekuteku, 41, described as a war veteran, is accused of firing shots that killed farmer David Stevens after he was abducted from his farm east of Harare on 15 April. Chitekuteku was arrested on Friday and appeared in court in the provincial town of Marondera, 75km east of Harare on Monday. He is set to appear in court again on 10 October on murder charges. No arrests have been made in the four other killings.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 27 September
Police besieged after mob attacks farmer
Karoi – Thousands of angry white Zimbabwean farmers and black farm workers marched for "law and order" yesterday after a white farmer was brutally assaulted by a mob of squatters with clubs and pickaxe handles. Marshall Roper, 36, was set on by 12 men at Peveril farm near Karoi, 130 miles north west of Harare, as he set off to plant his crop early yesterday. After bludgeoning him with farm tools one slashed him across the face with a panga, leaving him permanently disfigured. Shocked by the attack, almost 2,000 farmers and their workforce swamped Karoi's main street and confronted Supt Mabunda, the area's senior police officer, with banners reading: "Enough is enough."
Over the past few months Karoi has been plagued with violence by militant squatters, who style themselves veterans of the war against white rule in the Seventies and now occupy about 1,100 properties. Mr Roper's family believe that his assailants were intent on murder and only the intervention of loyal black workers saved him from death. Police in Karoi have been notoriously reluctant to act against the squatters, who are blamed for 2,400 recorded cases of assault and the murders of three farmers and at least two labourers.
Squatters invaded Mr Roper's tobacco farm in May and tried to drive him off the land. At 7am yesterday, a mob of 12 confronted him when he left the homestead to plant next year's crop. Mr Roper's brother, Gavin, said: "They surrounded him and told him he couldn't plant his crop. Then they went for him. Their intention was to kill Marshall, there's no doubt in my mind." Mr Roper was surrounded by the gang, who beat him with clubs and pickaxe handles. Gavin Roper said: "He was screaming 'Come and help me'. They were kicking him around." Then one squatter moved behind the farmer and slashed him across the face with a panga - a knife with a 12-inch blade. Mr Roper fell to the ground, with a gaping wound across the face. His nose was almost severed and his right cheek cut to the bone.
Hearing his cries, Mr Roper's workers drove away the squatters and carried him to the homestead, where he lives with his wife, Caroline, and two sons aged six and four and a daughter of one. An ambulance took Mr Roper to Harare, where he was receiving facial surgery last night. Gavin Roper said: "An inch or two lower and they would have cut his throat. That's what they wanted to do. Marshall is lucky to be alive, but he'll never get rid of that scar."
Five hours later, the entire farming community demonstrated outside Karoi police station. Waving banners saying: "We want law and order", they demanded to see Supt Mabunda. Looking flustered, he eventually appeared and was bombarded with questions. One worker shouted: "Why are you not helping when these 'war vets' are beating us?" To howls of derision, Supt Mabunda said: "Anyone who breaks the law will be arrested. The Zimbabwe police enforce the law." Beside Supt Mabunda was a man identified by farmers as Tim Sitcha, a notorious squatter ringleader facing charges of assault and criminal damage. He took notes during the meeting. Angry landowners saw this as more evidence of police collusion with the farm invaders. After a half-hour confrontation, the crowd dispersed peacefully. One black worker at the demonstration said: "These war vets think they are the most important people in Zimbabwe. They go maiming, raping and intimidating people and nothing is done by the police. How can we live like this?"
From The Star (SA), 26 September
War vet charged with murdering Zim farmer
Harare - A Zimbabwean guerrilla war veteran alleged to have slain David Stevens, the first farmer killed in the bloody campaign to seize white-owned land, has been arrested on murder charges, court officials confirmed in Harare on Tuesday. Douglas Chitekuteku, 41, a war veteran leader in the Marondera district east of Harare, was picked up at the weekend and appeared in court in the small town of Marondera on Monday, said prosecutor Stephen Johwani. The court heard that Chitekuteku mobilised mobs of other veterans and their supporters and abducted Stevens from his farm, Arizona. They took him to their base and severely assaulted him.
Chitekuteku then shot the unarmed Stevens with a .303 rifle at point-blank range and left him for dead, the court was told. Another five farmers tried to rescue Stevens, but they were also abducted and severely assaulted. They were released after police intervened. Johwani told the court that Chitekuteku was arrested in Marondera on Friday, apparently after a tip-off from a witness who claimed he saw Chitekuteku shoot Stevens. Chitekuteku organised the invasion of scores of farms in the Marondera area when the campaign to seize white-owned land began in February, the court heard. Magistrate Gladys Pise ordered that Chitekuteku be held in custody until October 10, when he will appear in court again. He was not asked to plead. Stevens, an outspoken supporter of the opposition MDC, was the first of six white farmers to be murdered in the land campaign. Three days after the killing, President Robert Mugabe denounced white farmers as "enemies of the state". Mugabe later said Stevens "had it coming to him" and claimed the farmer "was the one who started the war".
From The Daily News, 26 September
DRC owes army $44m
THE DRC government allegedly owes Zimbabwean army instructors working in that country US$800 000 (about Z$44 million) in unpaid allowances. There are 160 army instructors based at Kamina airbase. They claim they have not been paid since last November. The instructors said they were each entitled to US$500 a month in allowances. "We have not been paid home country allowances since we were deployed in November last year," one officer told The Daily News. "We are now sponsoring the war because we are forced to use our own money when we should be given money by the DRC government," he said. The DRC ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kikaya bin Karubi, would not comment. "I don't have any information," he said. "I tried to get information from the Congo but nobody could confirm that." A senior Zimbabwe army officer said the payment of allowances was "erratic".
The instructors were picked from different camps in Zimbabwe to train senior Congolese army officers in basic military conduct, he said. About 110 of them returned home last month on a two-month leave. They complained their commanders were reluctant to assist them. "Instead of solving our problems, our seniors label us MDC supporters whenever we complain," said one of the officers. "We now doubt that the DRC is paying part of our expenses in their country. If they fail to pay just 160 soldiers, how can they pay 11 000 people?" The first Zimbabwean soldiers were deployed in the DRC in August 1998 to help President Laurent Kabila fight off rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
From The Daily News, 26 September
War vets boss says eviction good for country
Masvingo – Cosmas Gonese, the war veterans secretary general, said yesterday the eviction of scores of villagers and war veterans from the commercial farms is necessary to save Zimbabwe from anarchy. "If we do not control farm invasions all the farms will be filled up with people and the issue of the rule of law will not be observed. Zimbabwe will be ungovernable," said Gonese. "To contain the chaotic situation, it is in the interest of the nation to put a full stop to farm invasions." He said the rift between the government and former fighters was a result of lack of co-ordination. But Gonese's remarks were dismissed by other war veterans in Masvingo.
Munyaradzi Mhike, the Masvingo provincial chairman, dissociated himself from Gonese's remarks. "Those on farms should stay put and that is our position," he said. Another war veteran, Naison Moyo said landless people on farms should remain there because they had a genuine cause. <BR>The Minister of Home Affairs John Nkomo said the government would continue to evict war veterans and villagers who moved onto the farms after the launch of the fast-track resettlement programme.
From The Daily News, 26 September
Support for MDC lands detectives in hot water
THREE Chipinge detectives are to appear before a police disciplinary hearing for allegedly supporting the MDC. The detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department, Edwell Magamu, Gideon Jambo and Lewis Nyamuda, were last Thursday suspended pending a disciplinary hearing for allegedly supporting the MDC. They will appear before a police disciplinary hearing separately. If found guilty, they risk dismissal or jail. "There seems to be a witchhunt going on here," said a police officer.
From Business Day (SA), 27 September
‘Airwaves not free just yet'
HARARE - Although Zimbabweans are elated by the Supreme Court's ruling last Friday nullifying the monopoly of the ZBC on the airwaves, no one is popping the champagne corks just yet. In reaching the landmark decision, the court said the state broadcaster's monopoly was unconstitutional paving the way for the establishment of competing commercial radio and television stations in Zimbabwe. But given the mauling President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party suffered at the hands of Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC in June's general election, there are doubts the government will meekly give in and allow other players to enter the industry.
In fearing the worst, analysts and opposition parties alike also point to the 2002 presidential election, in which Zanu (PF) is once again expected to be given a run for its money by the MDC, as "too big" an event for the government to allow alternative voices on the airwaves. The secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Basildon Peta, said the union hoped the government would not repeat the chicanery of the cellular licence saga, when the state sought to bar Strive Masiyiwa of Econet Wireless from obtaining a licence to operate.
Andrew Moyse, the co-ordinator of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, said: "But I still believe there is a long way to go. Although the government has said it welcomes the ruling, I do not think it will let go easily. We can expect a struggle for the airwaves, and government is likely to try to recover lost ground in setting the regulations and granting licences."
From Media Monitoring project of Zimbabwe, 27 September
The airwaves and government promises
While the recent Supreme Court ruling annulling sections 27 and 28 of the Broadcasting Act has heightened hopes for liberalization of the airwaves in the country, an review of pronouncements by government officials indicate that the government was never prepared to let go. President Mugabe’s remarks in 1993 - "…you don’t know what propaganda a non-state radio station might broadcast…" appears to be the guiding theme of Zanu PF government policy. It may not therefore be surprising to see the government play delaying tactics in formulating appropriate broadcasting policy. What more could be expected with the advent of the Presidential elections in 2002.
In 21 December 1995 the then Minister of Information David Karimanzira told ZBC employees at a Christmas party that "government has decided to allow other broadcasters to come and compete with ZBC and consultations leading to the amendment of the Broadcasting Act" were underway. The following year (27 June 1996) the then Director of Information at the time Bornwell Chakaodza told the Chronicle that 5 applications had been received for licences to establish private radio and television stations. The names of the interested individuals or organisations were not disclosed. This suggests that the applications were being processed, but by who and using what criteria is anyone’s guess.
Not to be outdone Minister Joyce Mujuru told Parliament on 20 February 1997 that "…the Cabinet has made a policy stance on the freeing of the airwaves". She added: "…my ministry is now working to resolve issues related to the coming in of other players in to broadcasting. It is our wish that the exercise is undertaken during the first half of 1997"
On 17 June 2000, Minister of Information Chen Chimutengwende told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) that liberalization of the airwaves would be a top priority for the next parliament. No meaningful debate on the subject has yet materialized save for a statement by Minister Moyo who said the airwaves were liberalized in 1980 by bringing the ownership of the local broadcasting stations to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe. He told parliamentarians on September 14th that "these assets belong to the people of Zimbabwe and that is exactly what is happening" suggesting that there were no immediate plans to move towards liberalization.
Contrary to the assertions made by the Honourable Minister, the media landscape of Zimbabwe – at least that part funded out of public money- is not strikingly different from that inherited from the illegal Rhodesian regime in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence. ZBC still operates under the terms of the 1957 Broadcasting Act (amended in 1974).
Now we hear of a National Media and Advisory Panel to "comprise experts on all aspects of broadcasting".
This implies that suddenly, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which represents a large majority of professionals working in the Zimbabwean media, risks "being irrelevant in the process (Moyo) has started" if they work with veteran journalist Andrew Moyse and veteran documentarist Edwina Spicer. Both are members of MISA and Zimbabwean citizens. It is clearly impossible for the government to claim that it alone speaks for all the people when almost half the electorate voted for the opposition. A sound alternative could therefore be a parliament-driven committee with the government providing the logistical and political support.
According to MISA, the government embarked on a programme to liberalize the airwaves in 1997, and the process had reached an advanced stage. To a certain extent, interested stakeholders were consulted for their inputs. In July 1999, the government announced that opening up the airwaves was no longer on its agenda. It said that it was only opening up the telecommunications sector and that broadcasting would be looked into at a later stage. Thus, the Broadcasting, Postal and Telecommunications Bill was re-written and became the Postal and Telecommunications Bill.