By Mutsa Makuvaza
GOVERNMENT has extinguished hopes by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s critic and advisor Trevor Ncube, and Zanu-PF MP (Nyanga South) Supa Mandiwanzira to be awarded TV licences.
Instead, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) on Friday awarded handed licenses for the six slots available for free-to-air television licences to State-owned Zimpapers, and to companies owned by the Ministry of Defence and also a company owned by a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) top official.
Heart and Soul TV, a subsidiary of Alpha Media Holdings which is controlled by Trevor Ncube, was part of the 14 applicants battling for the licence. Alpha Media Holdings are the publishers of The Standard and NewsDay, which Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana recently described as “gutter press” for its unchecked criticism of President Mnangagwa’s administration.
Although Ncube supported President Mnangagwa’s administration in the early days of his rise to power and immediately after the 2018 elections, he has personally taken a strong critical line while his newspapers also bash Government at every turn.
Ncube however remains a member of the inconsequential Presidential Advisory Council, which in theory is meant to advise the Head of State and Government.
Also among the unsuccessful applicants for TV licences was AB Communications, a media group owned by former ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira who has fallen out of favour with the top echelons of power in the ruling party.
Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications owns national radio Zi-FM Stereo, provincial radio stations Hevoi FM (Masvingo) and 98.5FM (Midlands Province). AB Communications also also Business Times newspaper and media company Mighty Movies as well as TruckAds.
Although the Nyanga South legislator remains in the ruling party while lying underground, he fell out of favour with Manicaland province power queen Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and subsequently got dropped from President Mnangagwa’s Cabinet in September 2018, despite his popularity in the province.
“The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe wishes to advise the public that the process of licencing new television services has been completed,” said BAZ board chairman Charles Sibanda Friday morning.
He proceeded to announce the six successful new stations which are:
- Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited trading as ZTN,
- Rusununguko Media (Pvt) Ltd trading as NRTV, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence,
- Jester Media trading as 3K TV,
- Acacia Media Group trading as Kumba TV,
- Fairtalk Communications trading as Ke Yona TV, which is controlled by a ZEC Commissioner, and
- Channel Dzimbahwe trading as Channel D.
Fairtalk Communications owns community radio stations Skyz Metro FM of Bulawayo and Breeze FM of Victoria Falls. Dr. Qhubani Moyo, a Commissioner with the ZEC, was Fairtalk CEO for the past five years before announcing in February this year that he was exiting from the company.
“The board of directors has selected Godwin Phiri to be Acting CEO from the 1 April 2020 as the company searches for a substantive CEO. I remain involved in the company as a shareholder,” Moyo announced at the time.
Zimbabwe Newspapers, which is majority-owned by the government through a trust and runs the country’s biggest newspapers and several radio stations, was also awarded a licence.
But if the case of State-owned Zimpapers winning the license was not shocking enough, the biggest humdinger was the announcement of Rusununguko Media Pvt Ltd, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence, as one of the six successful applicants.
Zimbabweans have long called for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to license independent broadcasters, and accuse state-owned media of biased coverage in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party. It will be interesting to find what kind of media content the army TV station will flight.
Zimbabwe National Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Elphios Makotore confirmed this Friday to Reuters that Rusununguko Media was indeed owned by the defence ministry.
Meanwhile, BAZ announced Friday that the authority processed the applications in terms of the requirements of the Broadcasting Services Act [Chapter 12:06], including conducting public inquiries to determine applicant’s suitability to be issued with broadcasting services licences.
“The new licensees shall have eighteen (18) months to rollout their plans and go on air, in line with section 11 (7) of the Broadcasting Services Act [Chapter 12:6].
“In the event of failure to broadcast, the licences will be availed to other aspirants through a similar process,” said Sibanda, the BAZ chairperson. – Zimbabwe Voice ■