ZIMBABWE Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) recently refused to air advertisements of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) saying the party had not yet made a decision on its p
articipation in next year’s election. MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi yesterday said management at ZBH told them their adverts were “confrontational”.
Nyathi said the adverts included campaign material and issues to do with the opposition party’s position on policy matters.
He said the MDC would raise the matter with leaders of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) whose protocol on the conduct of elections calls for the opening of the public media to all political parties ahead of elections.
ZBH board chairman Rino Zhuwarara yesterday said the MDC’s adverts were turned down because the party had not confirmed participation in next year’s general election.
But Nyathi said: “They turned down our adverts saying that they were confrontational. We are raising the matter with Sadc since one of the guidelines in the protocol on conduct of elections is access to the state media by all political parties.”
Zhuwarara cited the Broadcasting Services Act, promoted by Information minister Jonathan Moyo in 2001, as the basis for denying the MDC space on radio and television.
“Everything is determined by the Broadcasting Services Act which clearly states that only contesting parties can be given space on both radio and television,” he said. “The MDC is not clear whether it is participating in the elections or not. As far as we are concerned, they have said they will boycott the elections.”
He did not say whether he had received an official communication to this effect.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said in September that government was going to open the airwaves to opposition parties as part of implementing the Sadc guidelines. Zhuwarara confirmed then that they would air MDC and other opposition parties’ adverts as long as they met the requirements of the broadcaster in content and thrust.
However, Chinamasa later changed his position and told parliament that the MDC could only gain access to the public media if it became loyal to the country.
Opposition parties have said they will not participate in the March polls unless President Robert Mugabe implements genuine electoral reforms and creates an environment conducive to free and fair elections.
The opposition parties have alleged that Zanu PF has already started rigging the elections and have rejected claims by the ruling party that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill and the Electoral Bill will achieve the goals enshrined in the Sadc protocol.