By Own Correspondent
The new Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board that was recently inducted faces a daunting task of trying to convince people that they will deliver on their promises especially issuance of radio and television licences.
While the board deserves a chance, they will, however, need to work hard to come out of the shadows of their predecessors who dismally failed to deliver on their promise and mandate.
And even though Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Nick Mangwana said the new board which is made up of Ambassador Bornface Chidyausiku, Chief
Mabhikwa, Rodin Mazeyewe, Vimbai Nkayudya, Oliver Mandipaka, Victoria Mamvura, Jonathan Mapinda, Audrey Chihota, Charles Sibanda and Tendai Jennifer Chakanyuka will be issuing licences in a few weeks, stakeholders have remained doubtful.
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) director Vivian Marara said there is nothing new with regards to the promises adding that they have been made on countless occasions but not delivered.
“We are quite happy that the government indicated that priority be given to marginalized communities. However, our concern as always is that we have heard these statements before, so we want to know when this is going to happen.
“We want to know areas that are specifically prioritised is it Binga or Mutoko, we want to know these statistics,” she said.
The ZACRAS boss also added that government should avail the figures of how many licenses they are going issue out and also the criteria that are going to be used.
The issue of radio and television licences has been a topical issue in the country from as far as 2000 and government has not been willing to open the airwaves with licences only given to a few parastatals and individuals associated with Zanu PF such as Supa Mandiwanzira and Munyaradzi Hwengwere.
So dire was the stinginess that even the late musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi was also denied the licence a few years ago under unclear circumstances.
However, according to Mangwana, the government currently has the capacity to issue about 6 more television channels besides.
“Our capacity to license at the moment besides ZBC is 6 television channels.
“When it comes to community radio stations they are also coming and they are real,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary added that there is need to for media plurality and diversity in the country which will go a long way in ensuring that citizens are better informed to make decisions.
In an interview Young Journalists Association (YOJA) president Mlondolozi Ndlovu said he is doubtful that the BAZ board can liberalise the airwaves.
“We should take the statement of the government with a pinch of salt because we doubt their capacity to implement reforms,” he said.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has urged the new board to urgently take action and steps to licence the long-overdue community radio stations, especially for marginalized communities.
“The BAZ board should immediately put in place a regulatory framework for the introduction of community stations even with the broadcasting law as it stands, with a view to modifying the framework once the process of amending the Broadcasting Services Act has been completed.
“As a policy guide, the licencing of community stations must prioritize the issue of languages which in terms of the Constitution must be treated equitably and whose use must be promoted and advanced to ensure their development,” she said.
The Minister added that priority for community radio licences must also be given to un-serviced communities and underserviced parts of the country, arguing that these communities also have a claim to the rights and freedoms enshrined in them Constitution.-