Govt illegally awarded broadcasting licences: MP

Lulu Brenda Harris

The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has been accused of illegally awarding broadcasting licenses to media companies in the breach of the constitution.

Opposition legislators say the government usurped the powers of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) by awarding broadcasting licences in the absence of a substantive board.

Currently, government is in the process of selecting a new board. In December 2017, parliament had shortlisted 12 candidates for consideration by President Mnangagwa.

Despite the absence of a substantive board, some media companies in the last few months received webcasting and video on demand licenses.

In May 2018, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe announced that it had acquired three Media Service Licences, which were: Video on Demand License, Webcasting License, and a Content Distribution License.

Econet said these licenses were issued by BAZ in terms of Section 10 of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).

Zimpapers was also awarded a TV a content distribution license, reported to have been approved by the authority.

In September, diversified media group Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) was also awarded a license for online television and radio channels.

Deliberating in Parliament Wednesday, Magwegwe MP, Anele Ndebele, quizzed Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa if government had usurped the powers of BAZ by issuing these media licenses.

“This has been happening in the absence of a substantive Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board, my question to the minister is this new government usurping powers and roles of BAZ?” he asked.

In response, Mutsvangwa said they were working on appointing a new board.

“We appreciate the work which BAZ has to do and as a Minister who has been appointed hardly three weeks ago, we have already started working on that.  We need a board in place,” she said.

“It is a constitutional legality and we need to put a board in place”.

However,Hon. Ndebele insisted the minister had failed to answer his question regarding the legality of issuing out these licenses.

“I believe I have not been answered,” he shot back.

“The import of my question was to point out an illegality that her Ministry is presiding on.

‘They were issuing out licences fairly recently in the absence of that particular board which is mandated with issuing those licences and it is not lost to us as the opposition that the three companies that got those licences are pro-ruling party.

In return, Mutsvangwa who seemed unaware of the illegality requested the Hon Ndebele to furnish her ministry with more detail.

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