via Majome infuriates Con-Court – DailyNews Live 26 June 2014 by Ivan Zhakata
HARARE – The Constitutional Court has blasted Jessie Majome, the MP for Harare West, for seeking postponement at short notice of a hearing of her application seeking to force the State broadcaster ZBC to encrypt its signal so that it is only received by those who wish to associate with its “biased programming.”
In the court application, Majome cited the infringement of her rights under the Broadcasting Services Act, which has provided a legal framework for ZBC’s 34-year-long monopoly over the airwaves.
“It is a notorious fact in the public domain that ZBC is not impartial in its dealings particularly regarding the coverage of events, positions and programmes of political parties operation in Zimbabwe on its television and radio stations,” Majome said in her Con-Court application.
The matter was due to be heard yesterday, but Advocate Thabani Mpofu and Thembinkhosi Magwaliba, the lawyers representing Majome, Musangano Lodge, Benard Wekare and Africa Open Media, asked for postponement of the matter because they were not ready to argue the case.
But Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba blasted the lawyers, saying their behaviour was unacceptable.
“We are tired of this trend among legal practitioners of leaving applications for correspondence saying that they are not ready in the last hour,” Malaba said.
“We received communication that you were not ready yesterday. This behaviour is considered unacceptable.
“Judges have a heavy load and you should take them seriously by advising the court in time.”
Malaba was with a full bench of Con-Court judges.
Mpofu and Magwaliba had applied for the postponement of the matter saying they were notified on Monday that the four cases had to be dealt with jointly.
“We are not prepared to argue the cases as of today due to the developments before the court,” Mpofu said.
“At this stage I and my learned colleague had not agreed on how we are going to argue and this will cause confusion before this court. My apologies, but we assure you that we will have a different approach to the matters next time.”
Magwaliba echoed Mpofu’s sentiments.Responding to Mpofu and Magwaliba, the State, represented by Innocent Muchini, was not opposed to the application for a postponement of the matter.
Malaba finally agreed to postpone the matter.
“The unanimous view of the court is that the postponement of the cases be granted,” Malaba said.
“The matters are therefore postponed sine dia (indefinitely). The registrar is therefore advised to set down the matter to an available date.”
The opposition legislator and MDC shadow minister for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs had refused to pay licence fees to ZBC.
In her court challenge, Majome had argued that ZBC was without doubt a propaganda and advocacy tool for Zanu PF.
“It operates as a public mouthpiece for Zanu PF,” she said. “Through various documentary, current affairs and news programmes, first respondent (ZBC) promotes Zanu PF’s political agenda with overt and covert messages that are quintessentially Zanu PF in content, ideology and form.”
Over the years, ZBC’s demand for licences has come under severe criticism as some argued that the possession or ownership of a television or radio signal receiver does not necessarily mean it was intended for purposes of accessing ZBC’s broadcast material.
ZBC, in its capacity as the nation’s public broadcaster, had been the sole beneficiary of the listeners’ licence fees which formed a major part of its revenue base after advertisers fled the station’s dwindling viewership and what critics have called “Zanu PF propaganda.”