By John Chimunhu|
Anti-corruption activists have demanded the immediate removal of
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation corruption investigation amid allegations he is biased.
The calls came after it emerged that Mandiwanzira, who took charge of the investigation this week, had a deep personal rivalry with Brigadier-General Elliot Kasu, the suspended ZBC finance director at the centre of the alleged scandal.
Now Daily has been told by government officials that Mandiwanzira’s production, broadcast and public relations companies, ABC Communications and Mighty Movies could be asked to testify over their dealings with the bankrupt state broadcaster.
Additionally, according to a statement released Thursday by anti-corruption lobby group Consumer Action, Mandiwanzira could not be expected to be impartial in the probe as he had the interests of his private ZiFM and ZiTV Online to protect. Zi FM competes directly with the ZBC and has reportedly lured advertisers and staff from the public broadcaster.
“Mandiwanzira’s appointment was a violation of the constitution because he is a licence holder in the same business that he is supposed to regulate and control,” Consumer Action said.
Mandiwanzira clashed with Kasu in June when the two squared off during the Zanu PF primary elections in Nyanga South, which the former won. Their rivalry has deepened through the Zanu PF Manicaland executive, where both are members belonging to rival factions, sources said.
“After leaving ZBC, Mandiwanzira continued to produce programmes that were shown on ZBC-TV. The nature of his contract must be investigated, along with those of scores of independent producers who were paid astronomical fees by ZBC. It is well known that many such producers abused the corporation’s resources without paying and now own the rights to the productions,” Consumer Action said.
Panic has gripped the ZBC after the investigation got underway last week. Information minister Jonathan Moyo suspended the entire Cuthbert Dube-led board and sent CEO Happison Muchechetere and Kasu on forced paid leave. The ministry claimed it had contracted the Comptroller and Auditor-General to investigate the alleged financial rot at the corporation’s Pockets Hill headquarters. A ministry official said the probe would establish the ZBC’s true financial position and examine all financial transactions to determine the source of its multi-million dollar losses.
The investigation is also expected to uncover over-staffing and payment irregularities after it was revealed that 46 managers’ salaries were gobbling up $1 million of the corporation’s $1.6 million monthly salary budget. Mandiwanzira revealed on Wednesday that ZBC’s monthly revenue was $275 000 compared to its $2.3 million budget.
Ordinary workers have not been paid since May while managers enjoy inflated salaries, allowances, housing and car loans, according to union representatives.
Moyo is accused of using the purported clean-up of ZBC to settle scores in the race in Zanu PF to succeed the ailing party leader Robert Mugabe.
Muchechetere took over the reins at ZBC in 2008 after Zanu PF ordered the sacking of former CEO Henry Muradzikwa, who was paid to go after being accused of failing to use the airwaves to campaign for Mugabe, resulting in election defeat. Muchechetere adopted a hard line.He reportedly refused to take orders from then minister Webster Shamu, whom he considered his junior in their wartime ranks. Muchechetere rejected cabinet-ordered reforms and barred all Mugabe opponents from the state media, playing a key role in the public media’s role in Zanu PF rigging of the July 31 election.
Under Muchechetere, a war veteran, a festering sex scandal worsened. Programme presenters and DJs reported to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists that they were often forced to have sex with bosses before going on air. The egregious Muchechetere accused the victims of being ‘prostitutes’ and stopped an investigation launched by human resources director Benaniah Shumba. Many of the women were forced to abandon complaints levelled against editor Tazzen Mandizvidza and former news manager O’brian Rwafa.
Consumer Action called for a parliamentary investigation into the ZBC scandal.
“Jonathan Moyo is responsible for some of the problems at ZBC and there is no way he can be impartial. He forced ZBC to host expensive Zanu PF galas and rallies that were broadcast live. He also came up with the unpopular ’75 percent local content’ policy, which forced viewers and advertisers to switch to digital channels, costing ZBC revenue. Moyo also pushed up characters like Munyaradzi Hwengwere, who left amid damaging scandals involving theft of equipment,” Consumer Action said, urging people not to pay licence fees until the scandal was resolved.
Zanu PF is reported to be positioning its deputy information director, Psychology Maziwisa to take over from Muchechetere.
By John Chimunhu|