Mopani Junction row intensifies at ZBC

Dumisani Muleya

THE row over the recent termination of a popular HIV/Aids radio soap, Mopani Junction, by the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is intensifying as ministers clash over the dis

pute.


Sources said tension has been steadily rising between Information minister Jonathan Moyo’s department and Health minister David Parirenyatwa’s office over the issue, which has political overtones.


Sources close to the saga say that Moyo’s office has been resisting efforts by Parirenyatwa and Mopani Junction stakeholders to get ZBC to resume the HIV/Aids programme, switched off air in July under unclear circumstances.


Media for Development Trust, producers of the programme, funded by the United States’ Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and managed by former ZBC presenter Musi Khumalo, appealed to Parirenyatwa to intervene after it became clear Moyo’s department was fighting a political war.


Despite repeated appeals by Aids activists for the programme to resume, Moyo’s department is said to have remained obdurate and refused to even respond to letters from Mopani Junction producers.


The Department of Information, which runs ZBC as an exclusive propaganda mouthpiece of government, recently boycotted a stakeholders’ meeting seeking an amicable resolution of the problem.


“The Minister of Health has been trying hard to get the programme back but Moyo’s department is not cooperating,” a source said. “ZBC promised to resume the radio soap in October but we understand that the Information and Publicity Department is blocking them.”


However, ZBC chief executive Munyaradzi Hwengwere yesterday said negotiations to resume the programme were still ongoing.


“We had made a tentative promise to resume the programme but consultations are still on,” he said. “Ask Musi Khumalo because she knows everything about what is going on.”


Hwengwere said the programme was taken off air after the contract between ZBC and its Mopani Junction producers expired. He said negotiations were aimed at resuming the programme, broadcast in English, Ndebele and Shona to millions of listeners.


Although Khumalo could not be reached for comment, sources close to Mopani Junction said Hwengwere’s claim that the contract had expired were simply not true.


“The contract was supposed to expire in January next year but it had a clause saying it would be reviewed after every three months,” the source said. “So it had not expired. If it had expired as Hwengwere claims, would ZBC have written to us saying they had decided to terminate the programme?”


Mopani Junction was produced locally in Harare and Bulawayo by the Media for Development Trust, National Family Planning Council, Amakhosi Studios and ZBC, which was set to earn $120 million from the project.

The drama was launched in February in a bid to broaden the campaign against HIV/Aids, declared a national disaster by President Robert Mugabe.


Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV/Aids infections in the world.