The case at the High Court in which the War Veterans Welfare Group has sued the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) for refusing to flight advertisements inviting former liberation war heroes to participate in a demonstration held in Harare recently, has once again put the national broadcaster in negative spotlight.
As a public broadcaster, which is what ZBC should be, it must shun partisanship and serve all Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliations.
The national broadcaster has no right; either moral or legal, to pronounce which organisation between the War Veterans Welfare Group and the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) is the legitimate one.
By reneging on the contract to broadcast the advertisements on the basis that they only recognise ZNLWVA, ZBC has illegitimately turned itself into a court of law with the power to determine what is legal and vice versa.
What makes the refusal by ZBC to flight the advertisements even more shocking and hard-to-forgive is the fact that the cash-strapped national broadcaster was paid but unjustifiably chose not to broadcast the message from the War Veterans Welfare Group.
During former president Robert Mugabe’s 37-year tenure, this conduct by ZBC would not have been out of place but not now in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation, this is absurd.
Mnangagwa has repeatedly projected himself as a leader who is determined to create a new Zimbabwe in which people’s rights are respected regardless of whether not they belong to the ruling party. He has also, time and again, expressed his commitment to ensuring that professionalism prevails at national institutions like ZBC.
If indeed he is the democrat and impartial leader that he claims to be, the president must call the national broadcaster to order because ZBC is clearly acting in a manner inimical to what he preaches daily. The new dispensation must cease to be a mere catalogue of lofty promises not reflected on the ground. For example, the way ZBC covers news must be inclusive and devoid of partisanship.
For several decades ZBC has disgracefully sided with the ruling party. In fact, the national broadcaster has acted like an appendage of Zanu PF.
ZBC’s hand-in-gloves relationship with the ruling party is one of the main reasons Zimbabwe is hamstrung by political polarisation.
Given the foregoing, Mnangagwa, if he truly wants to earn the respect of all Zimbabweans, must ensure that ZBC is transformed into a genuine public broadcaster rooted in principles such as independence, diversity and universality.
The president cannot continue preach about the so-called new dispensation in a context in which ZBC and several other institutions are still suck in Stalinist mode. Daily News.