Comment: Anti-reformists Bare Their True Colours

THE anti-reform proponents in the inclusive government are now coming out of the woodwork and seem not to be embarrassed at all to flaunt their reactionary credentials.


Right at the formation of the inclusive government three months ago we expressed worry that elements within Zanu PF would conspire to either sabotage or frustrate the reform process. We were right.

Nothing exemplifies the machinations of this lobby more vividly than attempts by Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu to legitimise the now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC).

In an affidavit deposed with the High Court last week the minister, who is challenging an interim High Court ruling protecting four freelance journalists who challenged the need for accreditation under the MIC, Shamu said the commission, whose mandate was nullified by the amendment to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, had changed its name to the Zimbabwe Media Commission, a constitutional body.

He said there “was otherwise no change in the status of the commission (MIC) as a legal entity possessed with full corporate powers”.

He also said board members of the MIC had running contracts which were not terminated by the Aippa amendment. He said the members of the MIC therefore continued to be members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission until the expiry of their contracts.

In other words he is averring that the MIC led by Tafataona Mahoso has morphed into the ZMC and should therefore continue to carry out its duties which include accrediting journalists and registering media houses until such a time as the ZMC is reconstituted.

“There is thus no gap or vacuum created by the promulgation of the constitutional amendment insofar as the existence of a commission to perform the functions prescribed under Aippa is concerned,” said Shamu. “That commission…is carrying out its functions and should be left to carry out its functions.”

That is giving Mahoso & Co a new lease of life to continue to regulate the media even after the High Court said this arrogation of authority should not be allowed.

 The issue here is about the legitimacy of the MIC. Raising loopy technical issues does not give the MIC any iota of legitimacy. What we have here is an attempt by Zanu PF to breathe life into an organisation whose tenure ended with the amendment to Aippa.

The process of selecting members of a new commission is moving at the speed of a glacier; all the better for those vouching for Mahoso.

There are no proper timelines for this initial process of appointing the commissioners. Then last month the Speaker of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, revealed that an enabling law will be promulgated to govern the operations of the ZMC; another delay which favours those keen to stall the media reform process.

We consider this an affront to the quest for media reform and a reflection of the debilitating discord in the inclusive government. Therefore putting up a defence for the MIC is defending the old order.

We will not be surprised at all to learn that Shamu and his colleagues in Zanu PF are seeking to retain Mahoso in the ZMC. He has become the de facto voice of an unreconstructed Zanu PF on issues of media freedom and state regulation of the profession. This particular leopard is not about to change its spots.

He believes in statutory control of the media. He does not believe in the free press. He is generally opposed to the opening up of the media. He is a yesteryear denizen of Zimbabwe’s dark past. His beliefs are at variance with national aspirations. He does not represent the national ethos. But Mahoso and those of his kind are useful to Zanu PF’s power project.

This is clearly encapsulated in this extract from his recent article: “… in the scheme of regime change politics, it is suicidal for a country to liberalise its media policy in the immediate aftermath of sanctions or while still enduring and fighting illegal sanctions,” he said. “This is because the immediate liberalisation of media policy is consistent with the objective of illegal sanctions and of illegal regime change.”

So the attempt to readmit Mahoso through the ZMC back door is all designed to retain the old party entrenchments which have become an embarrassment. Considering Shamu’s disclosures in last week’s affidavit Zanu PF can no longer pretend that it is for reform that is consistent with the formation of the unity government.  It is trying to defend the indefensible.  Zimbabweans have been demanding media plurality and not control.

They need more diversity on national television and radio and not the current soporific diet of repeats and shoddily produced magazine programmes. They want to read alternative views in the print media. This is the time to do away with relics of media repression and not ring fence them.

“We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

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