SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to Settlement Chikwinya, the MP for Mbizo who recently raised a motion in Parliament calling for the withdrawal of the two radio licences given to the government owned Zimpapers’ Talk Radio and AB Communications, owned by ZANU PF sympathiser Supa Mandiwanzira. Chikwinya answers questions sent in by SW Radio Africa listeners.
Interview broadcast 14 December 2011
Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest tonight is Settlement Chikwinya, the MP for Mbizo who recently moved a motion in Parliament calling for the withdrawal of the two radio licences given to the government owned Zimpapers’ Talk Radio and AB Communications, owned by journalist and ZANU PF sympathiser Supa Mandiwanzira.
Mr. Chikwinya’s motion also seeks to dissolve the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board on the basis it was unilaterally appointed by Zanu PF’s Information minister, Webster Shamu in 2009. Mr. Chikwinya, thank you for joining us.
Settlement Chikwinya: You are welcome Lance, thank you.
Guma: Now let’s start off with why you want the two licences withdrawn and maybe give our listeners a bit of information on what happened in Parliament yesterday when you were debating this.
Chikwinya: The principal matter before the nation currently is that the inclusive government is committed to media diversity and media plurality and in essence we are simply trying to have independent voices also broadcasting and airing out of views of various Zimbabweans of various ideologies within the broadcasting space in Zimbabwe.
But currently we have a monopoly in terms of broadcasting licences, we have a monopoly in terms of the control of broadcasting frequency and what you have seen is the issuance of two licences to the radio owned by Zimpapers and AB Communications owned by Mandiwanzira is only a multiplicity of the same ideology, a cloning of the same ZBC ideology – therefore it is promoting one party which is within the inclusive government and to which party in this case is Zanu PF.
Guma: Okay last week you gave your intention to move this motion – what was happening in Parliament yesterday?
Chikwinya: Yesterday what happened then in accordance to parliamentary procedures is that last week I gave intention, I moved the motion, that is basically placing the motion on the Order Paper which is basically the agenda paper of Parliament and therefore yesterday we were now engaged in debate. I am quite happy that the motion attracted a lot of debate with actually 19 members having debated yesterday with debate lasting a total of six hours thirty minutes.
We had various reasoning from members of all political parties within the inclusive government in parliament. What is going to happen again tomorrow, we are going to continue with this debate and by the end of the day tomorrow I will then wind up the motion, put the resolutions before the House either for unanimous vote of all the Parliamentarians or if they are divided over the issue they might choose to go to a secret vote.
Guma: Okay now let’s get into the problems with the awarding the two licences – you raised a couple of very serious allegations in the debate yesterday particularly with reference to the winners of the radio licences. Just go through that with our listeners – what do you have a problem with in terms of both the BAZ board and those who won the licence?
Chikwinya: Principally in terms of the BAZ board, it is irregular in the manner that it was not set up in terms of Section Four of the Broadcasting Services Act as amended in January 2007 which basically says it is the prerogative of the president to appoint the Board after consultation with the minister and the Standing Rules and Orders committee.
Within the Standing Rules and Orders committee there sits the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament sits there, the Minister of Finance sits there, the minister of Defence they sit also, other legislators, so to the effect that it is actually broadly representative, but that was not done.
What actually happened is that when the Standing Rules and Orders committee invited applicants for the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Human Rights Commission, within the candidates who had not made the grade into the Zimbabwe Media Commission in terms of pass marks, the rejects of the Zimbabwe Media Commission were then seconded to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.
So this is basically a different process altogether – one person is applying out of interest to say I want to sit on the Media Commission, he does not make the grade, he will then choose for him to say he must then go to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. That must not be the case; there should have been advertisements to say people who are interested in the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, because these two different institutions have got two different mandates.
Those who are interested in the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe should have been given the opportunity to apply, they should have gone through an interview process, then they should have been selected by the Standing Rules and Orders committee and then a list sent to the president of Zimbabwe, then him – the president of Zimbabwe, in consultation with the Prime Minister, as provided for in Constitution Amendment Number 19, that any executive authority of government must be done by the president in consultation with the Prime Minister in as far that that appointment is done within the aegis of the Parliament of Zimbabwe.
Guma: Now the first question from our listeners came from the UK, this is Anne Kawenda Mudzingwa she says why does the MDC seem to behave in reactionary mode? Would it not have been more appropriate and perhaps more effective if the MDC had fought to get BAZ dissolved the minute they advertised for people to apply for the issuing of licences?
Chikwinya: I want to bear with the member who has questioned, who has presented that question in that maybe it is actually out of lack of communication over the processes which would have been done by the executive and the Parliament and maybe as they are actually being presented to the public.
But what happened is that in August of 2009 the Prime Minister actually wrote to Minister Shamu telling him of his concerns in the irregular manner in which BAZ was intended actually to be constituted because at that time BAZ had not actually been constituted but the only maneuver it is being intended to be constituted in this manner because the minister Shamu at that time had indicated that members of who had been rejected on entry into the ZMC would be taken into the BAZ.
So the Prime Minister at that time actually wrote to minister Shamu. On 30th September 2009 minister Shamu went further to actually execute his intentions by actually appointing these members and over and above, he did not only appoint only those members as restricted by the SROC, that is the Standing Rules and Orders Committee but actually went further to appoint other members where he did not even consult anyone.
But subsequent to that the principals actually continued to engage each other in this matter and only as far as mid last year, the principals issued out a joint statement actually recognizing that there was irregular, there was an irregularity in as far as the issuing out of licences.
I mean the setting up of BAZ had been done and therefore minister Shamu had been told to rescind the appointment which he had done to BAZ and recommend members, the principals whom, a name of 12 people to the principals from which the principals were going to discuss and then also agree with SROC, then actually make the regular appointments.
Guma: I suppose the problem for people is they would have seen this BAZ board illegally constituted as it was calling for radio licence applications so I suppose part of Anne Mudzingwa’s question and another from Munashe in Westlea is when that call was made for radio licences, you were not as vocal as you are right now as the MDC.
Chikwinya: Yes I want to agree with them but what we do as parliamentarians is that we give due respect to the executive as well. Where we know that our principals have spoken what we now expect is that the minister should abide by the order, the express order of the principals. The problem in Zimbabwe currently is that of defiance of executive order.
It has been exhibited in as far as minister Shamu has actually defied the order of the principals as written to him, as communicated to him officially by those representing the principals, it has been communicated to him but he has defied them. Not only that, we have people in, you have the president calling for nonviolent actions during the opening of Parliament but actually some people were actually ordering youths to be attacking people outside Parliament.
You have, we have the president calling for nonviolent actions but we have actually people bussing in youths to attack members of parliament at the Parliament building. You have the president calling for the total submission of diamonds from Marange but you only have partial submission.
So we have ministers who are defying orders from the executive; this is actually what is keeping the inclusive government in handcuffs whereby the orders from the prime minister, the orders from the president actually you have got no, there’s no implementation force.
At the same time you have JOMIC which is also not playing its part in terms of such orders being implemented by ministers so this motion is not spared, or this issue of BAZ is not spared. Minister Shamu is simply defying the orders of the principals and he is quite clearly aware that he was told to rescind his appointment of BAZ well before the licences were even issued out.
Guma: Let’s quickly move on to Clayton Moyo who sent us a question on Facebook, his question is slightly similar to Anne Mudzingwa and Munashe’s question, he said if there were no consultations whatsoever with the Parliamentary committee on Standing Rules and Orders as per the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act, why has it taken you and your colleagues over two years to move the motion?
Chikwinya: This is exactly how I have presented it that we respect each other in terms of arms of government. If you want to move a motion as a parliamentarian you also equally consult your leadership and if your leadership tells you this is where we are in terms of how to address the same, you actually give respect to that process.
But what we have seen, what we have seen is that we cannot worry continuously watch, continuously watch as bystanders or as parliaments to say what is the executive, obviously they have given orders to the minister but the minister has defied. So us as parliament we also have another duty and a mandate to actually move this motion and when adopted, it can actually be followed to the letter.
Guma: Sidza Sachidza on Facebook says they’ve always been bringing motions to Parliament and the Senate, what are the chances of the licences being revoked and how have they been using their majority in Parliament besides winning the Speaker of Parliament election? Are they not wasting people’s money and time on a wild goose chase?
Chikwinya: It is never basically a lack of understanding of parliamentary procedures maybe which needs us as members of parliament when we are giving our feedback to our constituencies actually enlighten our constituency members.
Once the motion has been adopted in parliament, it is actually the duty of the minister of Constitution, Parliamentary Affairs, together with the leader of the House who is actually the prime minister of Zimbabwe to make it a cabinet issue on cabinet agenda, put it on cabinet agenda.
What we have had is that, what we have seen is could not, because we are an inclusive government, what we would be calling for as parliamentarians could not be met at times, could not be implemented as is but you will see, you’ll see that part of it or some of the content actually implemented, you’ll find that in June, actually in March 2009, I personally moved the motion on media reform and you have seen steps towards that.
It might not be exactly what we want but you have seen steps towards that. You have seen issues with regard to the intent of bringing up about media reforms. I agree that we have not yet got to where my motion actually was seeking to do but we have actually managed to actually create an open gap within the media space.
Guma: Still on that, I think another pertinent question – you may as well answer this one as well, it’s from Mina Yetu on Facebook who says Mr. Chikwinya, do the two MDCs realize their potential in changing the laws using their numbers in parliament? And he goes on to ask what have the MDC parties done to change repressive laws like POSA and including the controversial BAZ board?
Chikwinya: Ah okay; people might also be aware that in terms of the House of Assembly, the MDC enjoys a slight majority, I think of one member or we actually at par with Zanu PF subject to cross reference to figures but in terms of the Senate we are actually underrepresented because Zanu PF then have got chiefs, Zanu PF has other appointed members as provided for within the laws those appointed by the president.
So what happens is that if it is in as far as cases of legislation like Public Order and Security Act POSA or IAPPA is concerned, we have actually as a house of assembly, where we are in our majority, have passed a resolution, all of us, all the members of parliament, it didn’t even go to a vote, it actually was passed in its unanimous, in its unanimous content that POSA must be amended but it then faced a block at the Senate where Zanu PF obviously uses its numbers to block but in as far as the House of Assembly is concerned we would have passed it. That is why we have no difficulties in passing issues like the budget because…
Guma: So a similar thing could happen to your motion calling for the withdrawal of these radio licences. They could just come unstuck at the Senate level.
Chikwinya: No it’s different now. The motion does not seek to amend the legislation. The motion simply seeks action by the minister. You see it does not seek, it is not an amendment to the legislation, it’s not amendment to any law. It does not have to go to the Senate.
Once it passes through the House of Assembly, what is now left is for the cabinet chairperson, in this case the president, to then direct the minister that in respect of what Parliament has said, Mr. minister can you please implement as it is or were do we meet, but we have the agreement of principals, if we then have the Parliamentary resolution then we are quite well armed and we also have interpretation of, we have interpretation of the law itself which actually provides for a Section Four then the affected members can actually take their case to court, to actually form a parallel process because here we’ll be having a Parliamentary resolution, we have the interpretation of the courts, then we can actually have implementation of the same.
Guma: Whitlaw Mugwiji sends us a question: he says I’m not well-informed so my questions are just general – why should there be a limit to the number of radio licences given and what are the reasons given for denying the other radio stations?
Chikwinya: Okay this actually forms the core of my basis in terms of debate yesterday that why is it today we are actually dealing with the specific radio stations that were actually given licences or that were denied the radio licences.
We, the general law itself must actually be amended to create democratic tendencies and democratic space whereby if one applies for a licence and is not meeting the criteria, that must not mean that’s the end of the road.
He must be told where to go and address within what period and come back and make re-submissions so that the intention must be to licence. The intention must be to licence and not the intention to prohibit licences. So I think the member that has asked that question is quite, is very correct.
In a democratic system, depending on the, on our bandwidth in terms of our frequency, if we establish that our radio frequency or our bandwidth can accommodate this much then we must be able to say we intend to licence this number of radios but these are the criteria. So once you meet those criteria, one should be eligible to be licenced.
It should not be an issue of prohibiting from being licenced, but the current issue is that the BAZ board is actually going all out on its way to prohibit people from licencing for the obvious reasons that they do not want media diversity and they do not want plurality in terms of broadcasting.
Guma: We’re running out of time but just briefly, a lot of people were asking questions on the BAZ board chairman, Tafataona Mahoso saying he’s clearly Zanu PF, he writes articles in the state media, he defends Zanu PF on ZBC, why do we have a situation where he’s the chairman of the Broadcasting Authority? It seems very blatant.
Chikwinya: Yes, that actually forms part of our debate. You’ll find that when I was debating yesterday, I took time to profile members of the BAZ board. The intention was to make it clear that this board is made up of Zanu PF cronies, this board is made up of Zanu PF appendages, this board is made up of Zanu PF bootlickers.
People who have well known roots within Zanu PF and there is no way they can give impartial decisions in as far as licencing is concerned. The BAZ board is unlike any other commercial board of a parastatal whose mandate basically is to run an institution like a parastatal and make profits or otherwise but the BAZ board is there to control limited frequency and whose action actually can determine the thinking of the people.
Guma: Let’s quickly look at some of these individuals – who are they and what have they done in the past? Just quickly.
Chikwinya: There’s Susan Makore who is also a member of, who is the director at Mighty Movies; Mighty Movies is owned by Supa Mandiwanzira. Susan Makore sits in BAZ board, she was party to the adjudication of the licences, therefore you can actually strike a commonality of interests there.
There is Vimbai Chivaura who anchors the ZBC programme called Zimbabwe together with Tafataona Mahoso, a clear programme designed to actually promote Zanu PF propaganda. They are on record denigrating the prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, they are on record denigrating MDC in terms of its policies, in terms of why it is a British…calling it a puppet party.
There is retired Brigadier (Colonel Reuben) Mqwayi, a clear militarization of civilian activities. You would not expect soldiers within the BAZ, within the broadcasting fraternity, they have nothing to do with that. There’s a colonel again who is in there, I don’t have his name offhand.
There’s Charity Moyo, a well known Zanu PF activist from her days at college. She was an attaché minister of Foreign Affairs, she is a well known CIO operative operating in Harare. There’s deputy minister who has given us all the details of Charity Moyo. So these and other members will actually tell you that the BAZ board is infested with Zanu PF appendages.
Guma: Well we have to end there but we still have a lot of questions so hopefully I think we’ll have to do a Part Two. Many questions from listeners on this topic, I think it’s very close to people’s hearts so we’ll probably have you again next week.
That’s the MP for Mbizo, Settlement Chiwinya who recently moved a motion in parliament calling for the withdrawal of the two radio licences given to Zimpapers and AB Communications. Mr. Chikwinya thank you so much for your time.
Chikwinya: Thank you Lance, you are welcome.
To listen to the programme:
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