via Mandiwanzira faces ‘Supa’ conflict of interest over ZiFM radio licence — Nehanda Radio By Gift Kugara OCTOBER 2, 2013
Newly appointed Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira faces a serious conflict of interest in violation of the new Zimbabwe Constitution, legal experts have warned.
Mandiwanzira is the owner of ZiFM, one of the two companies that were awarded radio broadcasting licences last year. The other is Star FM, which is wholly-owned by Zimpapers, the state-owned newspaper publishing company.
At the time of awarding the licences, critics questioned the independence of the radio stations given that both were owned by persons that are closely connected to ZANU PF, the ruling party.
Mandiwanzira contested in the July 31 elections under a ZANU PF ticket and was subsequently appointed Deputy Minister for Information and Broadcasting Services, the very ministry that oversees broadcasting licence-holders like himself.
“It’s like Richard Branson being appointed Secretary for Transport in the UK”, said a legal analyst. Branson owns the global airline, Virgin Atlantic and UK train company Virgin Rail. “It would be unfair on competitors in the airline and rail business”, he said.
A legal analyst also pointed that the current situation where Mandiwanzira is both a government minister and a licence-holder and therefore key player in the media industry violates the new Constitution.
Section 106(2) makes provision to prevent ministers and deputy ministers from placing themselves in situations where conflicts of interest are likely to arise. The provisions states:
“Vice Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers may not, during their tenure of office –
(b) … expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests”
Analysts have pointed out that Mandiwanzira’s private interests as a licence-holder and private broadcaster present a conflict of interest with his public responsibilities as a deputy ministers.
“How can one person be referee and a player in the same game? Apart from violating the Constitution, it shows those who appointed them have no understanding or respect for the fundamental principles of corporate governance. Otherwise they would not have put him in that position. They could have asked him to give up the licence to take up the ministerial post.”
Mandiwanzira does not escape criticism from observers.
“For his own sake, and he seems to be a decent fellow who has built a reasonable media business, he ought to demonstrate more integrity. The ministerial post may be attractive but a man of integrity who wants to continue in his business should say thanks but no thanks because of the clear conflict that it presents for him.
“How will he look his fellow competitors in the eye? It’s like Strive Masiyiwa being appointed minister in charge of telecommunications – that would be absurd but a man of integrity and ethics like Strive would respectfully decline such an appointment”, said one observer.
Efforts to obtain a comment of Mandiwanzira or ZiFM were futile at the time of publication. The week he was appointed Deputy Minister by Mugabe, Mandiwanzira announced his resignation as Chief Executive of ZiFM but analysts said the move a token gesture as he was still the owner of the station.