THE Media and Information Commission (MIC) has been hit by serious differences on its board over the closure of newspapers, resulting in the resignation of commissioner Jonathan Maphenduka, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
Maphenduka, a career journalist and former Chronicle staffer, was nominated to the MIC rather controversially as a representative of journalists.
His resignation letter, dated August 18 and sent to Information permanent secretary George Charamba, said the decision to close down newspapers “does not add strength to Zimbabwe’s case for democracy”.
He described the MIC’s actions as “ill-advised and counter-productive”.
The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), under which the MIC operates, was being applied in a “flawed manner”, he said.
Maphenduka said Zimbabwe was under siege from the “rabid hostility” of a “group of allies which are determined to bring this country to its knees”. But this didn’t justify denying newspapers the right to publish, he said.
MIC executive chairman Tafataona Mahoso yesterday insisted that Maphenduka was still a board member of the commission.
“We have not been told (by the Ministry of Information) that he has resigned,” said Mahoso. “In any case, it (resignation) is not automatic. He has to serve a notice period and the parent ministry must accept his resignation.
“As far as I am concerned he is still a member of the board,” said Mahoso.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Maphenduka said: “My resignation letter of 10 August stands but I have not received a response from the Ministry of Information.”
He said denying newspapers the right to publish was wrong.
“Without suggesting in any way Zimbabwe should meekly throw in the towel,” said Maphenduka in the letter, “I do not however subscribe to the idea that denying newspapers the right to publish, amid this hostile environment, is the best way of counteracting the rabid hostility besetting our beloved and great country.”
He added: “It must be obvious to all that the decisions of the commission regarding these newspapers at this most opportune time are shorn of discretion and are therefore ill-advised and counterproductive.”
The MIC has cancelled operating licences for the Tribune and the Weekly Times and denied Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe licences to publish.
Maphenduka said he supported the idea of regulating the media through Aippa as long as the system was not flawed. “Is the letter and spirit of Aippa such that it leaves the commission no option to be judicious?” said Maphenduka. “I cannot therefore with a clear conscience continue to serve as a member of the commission, and hereby tender my resignation.” – Staff Writer.