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Constitution-making Delays Commission

THE setting up of constitutional commissions, among them the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), has been delayed by the constitution-making process.

Tongai Matutu, the chairperson of the parliamentary select committee on the media, yesterday said MPs tasked to shortlist candidates for the ZMC were currently tied up with the constitutional process.

Other commissions are the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

Matutu said since June 19 — the closing date of receiving applications from would-be commissioners — no progress has taken place in constituting the commission.

“There has been no progress since June 19 as we (legislators) are tied up with the constitution-making process,” Matutu told the Zimbabwe Independent. “There is no co-ordination, but we hope that after the first all-stakeholders’ conference, we will move in to shortlist candidates and invite them for interviews.”
He said his committee wanted the ZMC to be in place by the end of August.

“The interviews will be transparent and will be held in public. The media and the public would be allowed to attend, but they will not ask questions. This is according to what was agreed by parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee,” Matutu explained.

He declined to divulge names of the people who applied to be commissioners.

However, the Independent is reliably informed that among the applicants were chief executive officer of the defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC) Tafataona Mahoso, academics Claude Mararike and Vimbai Chivaura, and pastor Gift Mabaudi.

The ZMC should replace the MIC, which has been the state’s weapon of choice in its dealings with the media in the country.

The setting up of the ZMC was supposed to be the starting point in media reforms, which would culminate in the establishment of new newspapers, and independent radio and television stations.

In May Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said both local and foreign journalists, as well as media houses had no legal obligation to apply for registration until the ZMC was constituted.

Tsvangirai said the 2008 amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) did away with the statutory MIC, which was responsible for the accreditation and licensing of journalists and media houses.

High Court judge, Justice Bharat Patel, last month issued a provisional order that MIC was now a legal nullity, a move being opposed by Media minister Webster Shamu and his permanent secretary George Charamba.

lMeanwhile, Harare provincial magistrate Moses Murendo is on July 21 expected to make a ruling in an application by Independent editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure — facing charges of publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state — to refer the matter to the Supreme Court.

Kahiya, Chimakure and ZimInd publishers, represented by finance director Michael Curling, are challenging the constitutionality of the law they are being charged under.

Harare Area Public Prosecutor Jonathan Murombedzi yesterday told the court that the state had failed to give a response to the application made last month to the journalists’ lawyer Innocent Chagonda within the timeframe agreed.

Chagonda said he was served with the response on Tuesday when he had indicated that he needed at least a week to prepare a counter-response. He said he would furnish the court with the written response on July 14.The defence and state attorneys then agreed to remand the case to July 21 for a ruling on the journalists’ application.

In their application, the journalists are arguing that Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which attracts a maximum of 20 years in prison, infringed Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which guarantees freedom of expression.

The scribes argued that it was important that the country’s highest court decides on the constitutionality of the provisions as it was a matter of public importance.

The law, they averred, was a hindrance to the practice of journalism and was not necessary in a democracy.

Charges against Kahiya, Chimakure and Zimind Publishers arose on May 8 when the news editor wrote an article headlined “CIO, police role in activists’ abduction revealed”, stating that notices of indictment for trial in the High Court of MDC-T activists allegedly abducted between October and December last year had revealed that the activists were either in the custody of the CIO or police during the period they were reported missing.


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