FORMER Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) boss, Henry Muradzikwa, was this week fired for defying an order by Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and permanent secretary George Charamba to deny positive coverage to the MDC on either radio or television.
Muradzikwa was shown the exit on Wednesday after close to two years at the helm of the countryâ€™s sole national broadcaster.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that broadcast journalist and Zanu PF apologist Happison Muchechetere was expected to take over from Muradzikwa.
The sources said Muradzikwa had openly defied Ndlovu and Charambaâ€™s orders arguing that he only took instructions from the ZBH board chaired by Zimbabwe Newspapers chief executive officer Justin Mutasa.
Muradzikwa, the sources said, was instructed to enforce a media blackout on the MDC, as well as bar the party from placing advertisements with the national broadcaster.
At a meeting held at Pockets Hill, the ZBH headquarters, a fortnight ago, Ndlovu ordered ZBC not to give the MDC positive coverage until after the presidential election run-off between President Robert Mugabe and the oppositionâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai.
Ndlovu, the sources added, also barred the flighting of MDC advertisements on either television or radio. Muradzikwa, however, the sources said, was of a different opinion and said he would seek clearance from the ZBH board for him to implement Ndlovuâ€™s directive.
“He told them that since he was employed by the board, he would seek the boardâ€™s indulgence in executing the said orders,” one of the sources at ZBH said.
“They tried to pressure him into submission but he stood his ground and repelled the pressure.”
The sources said Ndlovu and Charamba felt they had been undermined by Muradzikwaâ€™s stance and they instructed Mutasaâ€™s board to get rid of the former editor of the Sunday Mail and editor-in-chief of the countryâ€™s news agency Ziana.
The sources said a host of allegations have now been lined up against Muradzikwa.
He stands accused, among other things, of “wining and dining” with forces working against Zanu PF and Mugabe.
His sin, sources said, was that he allegedly gave independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni “red carpet reception” when he came to ZBC-TV for a recording on his election campaign.
Muradzikwa, the sources added, was also accused of failing to use television and radio to effectively campaign for Mugabe. Muradzikwa, the sources added, was also accused of financial impropriety.
Yesterday, the former University of Zimbabwe lecturer said he was not given any reason as to why he was fired except to be informed that “the shareholder has lost confidence in you”.
“There was no specific reason why I was fired,” Muradzikwa said.
“Itâ€™s only the part of the letter which says the shareholder had lost confidence in me that probably says something about the reasons of my dismissal.”
He refuted allegations that he was responsible for Zanu PFâ€™s loss in the elections, saying he stuck to the Broadcasting Services Act schedules that govern the operations of the state broadcaster during elections.
“I religiously stuck to the statutes governing our operations as a broadcaster as given in the amended Broadcasting Services of Zimbabwe Act. Nobody had the right to instruct me on how to act as this was outside law,” Muradzikwa argued.
“We all made sure that we stuck to the laws and I believe I was right in that approach.”
He flatly denied financial impropriety during his tenure at ZBH.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has set up an information and publicity production team to spearhead President Mugabeâ€™s presidential election run-off campaign.
Mugabe will square up against the MDCâ€™s Tsvangirai in the run-off expected on or before July 31.
Sources in the ruling party said Patrick Chinamasa would chair the committee, which is also made up of Information and Publicity deputy minister Bright Matonga, former ZBC chief executive officer Chris Mutsvangwa, and radio and television personalities Hugo Ribatika and Tichafa Matambanadzo, among others.
“The Chinamasa committee will be responsible for producing Mugabeâ€™s campaign jingles, posters and T-shirts, among others,” one of the sources said. “It will also be responsible for crafting Mugabeâ€™s campaign manifesto in the run-off.”
The sources said the committee took over from the one that was jointly chaired by Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira and Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, which spearheaded the March 29 harmonised elections campaign.
The Shamuyarira-Ndlovu committee comprised members drawn from the information departments of Zanu PF and the government.
The partyâ€™s theme for the run-off is “100 percent Empowerment: Total Independence.”