- Propaganda machine: Mugabe at ZBC.
The JOHN CHIMUNHU INTERNATIONAL LETTER
Now Daily Opinion
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has totally failed to fulfill its mandate as a public broadcaster.
To imagine that the circus at Pockets Hill is being funded by millions of dollars of our taxes just makes the heart bleed. Every Zimbabwean is contributing to the survival of ZBC through mandatory payment of licence fees and statutory allocation of our VAT payments through the treasury.
However, the ZBC has nothing to show for squandering our money. Apart from spreading president Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s propaganda, the ZBC is serving virtually no purpose and should just be disbanded before being brought back as a rebranded entity.
The ZBC should be an independent, impartial, non-partisan broadcaster that presents news that is relevant to the majority of Zimbabweans, is true, fair and balanced. The broadcaster must be accessible to all the people at all times, regardless of political affiliation, type of message, race, gender, colour, tribe or creed. However, as things stand, the broadcaster has been hijacked by Zanu PF and its business interests. No other party, business or entity may get fair coverage at reasonable cost as the Constitution envisages when it talks about freedom of expression. It would be strange for the supreme law to guarantee our right to express ourselves and advance our political views if we are denied the means to free expression that are freely available to citizens in a democracy through public broadcasting.
The ZBC’s emasculation of public views extends to its editorial policies. No one can go on air to openly criticize Mugabe or any of his government programmes. The right to own property is fundamental to a democracy. But in terms of ZBC editorial policy, no one is allowed to express views on the land reform programme that contradict those of Mugabe and Zanu PF. In short, the debate on land ownership and use, which is crucial to economic recovery, is currently suspended.
Mugabe has personal disagreements with many countries in Africa and abroad because of his record of violating human rights, rigging elections and corruption. The ZBC prefers instead to advance the parochial argument that Mugabe’s fight with the rest of the world must be a fight for all Zimbabweans. This editorial policy is wrong because no leader is above nation and the problems of an unpopular party leader who clings to state power through brutality cannot be made out to be the problems of Zimbabwe. There is a lot of goodwill for Zimbabweans all over the world but evidently no sympathy for Mugabe’s self-inflicted wounds. The sooner we separate Mugabe from nation, state and government, the better. We cannot allow ourselves to be punished for the sins of one man who chooses to play God or to use us as cannon fodder in his endless wars with the civilised world and all reasonable, logical people.
The ZBC also does not allow anyone to talk about leadership of the country, or how the president is performing on specific issues and programmes. Only the ZBC’c own commentators can waffle at will, parroting their master’s groggy voice and twisted logic.
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To make matters worse, the broadcaster has been subverted by George Charamba, a Central Intelligence Organization operative and permanent secretary for the ministry of information, media and broadcasting who believes that he must use it to advance the cause of his Lacoste faction of Zanu PF led by vice president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.
An MDC MP sued the ZBC and obtained a judgment against forcible collection of licence fees from all television owners by the broadcaster. However, ZBC is in wilful violation of that judgment and has continued to use threats, intimidation and lies to extort funds from a gullible public.
Someone must sue ZBC over its editorial policy, which promotes dictator Mugabe and Zanu PF whether they are right or wrong. At the expense of what is good for the country and in treasonous fashion, ZBC has put itself at the service of one man and his personal political agenda. It does not matter that the person in question is the president. He is subject to the law and we all have a Constitutional right to be protected from his excesses. How can a country so rich in opinion and diverse perspectives like Zimbabwe be subjected to the neurotic voice of one dying old man? It is not only illegal and unconstitutional but also defies logic.
ZBC is perpetually bankrupt and cannot pay reasonable staff salaries on time. Yet on a daily basis they insist on insulting the very people who must bring money to them, including opposition political parties and private businesses that want to advertise. How many times has the ZBC violated contracts by failing to broadcast adverts for which it has been paid, simply because Charamba disagrees with the content or despises the source of the material?
Daily, we are subjected to propaganda disguised as news on ZBC stations. We are forced to watch the lies about the ‘success’ of the disaster known as the ‘command farming’ programme. Important issues such as the floods triggered by Cyclone Dineo are relegated to the background. Then we have these curious, endless fundraising stories about relatives of ZBC workers asking for tens of thousands of dollars to go for treatment in India. Why India? Why not Zimbabwe, where we have some of the best doctors in the world?
Occasionally, we get told about what the president and the so-called ‘first family’ is doing. But the coverage is self-serving and of little benefit to ordinary Zimbabweans who want to know what the president is actually doing for the nation which he is supposed to be leading, and not his wife, children and relatives.
The so-called news is produced by people who are not even journalists but state security operatives planted into the media to extend Mugabe’s network of spies and informers. Apart from parroting the official line, these people are not good for anything except parading their hypocrisy and ignorance on television. All of it in bad English!
Despite the existence of good productions in Zimbabwe, we are still expected to pay licence fees to see old and boring Western and Indian films that we don’t even want to see. The acting CEO of ZBC is totally out of his depth. He has no knowledge of broadcasting and should not be confirmed as CEO.
Corruption, sex scandals and stupidity are rampant at ZBC. No wonder Zimbabweans have voted with their dollars by subscribing to foreign broadcasting platforms like DStv. Our bungling government is now trying by all means to ban DStv. It worked in the 1980s. in the internet age it doesn’t work. Somebody tell that to George Charamba.
Charamba must also explain how ZBC got to be granted six of the 12 TV channels that will be awarded as a result of ongoing digitalization. There was no public tender as required by the principles of good governance. So, who decided on who should get what? And how are the other six channels going to be distributed. If our experience with the granting of radio licences is anything to go by, we can easily foretell that the rest will be given to Zimpapers and other interests linked to Robert Mugabe.
It is clear that unless these Zanu PF bunglers are driven out of office, we will continue to be subjected to the same drivel that has dominated our airwaves since independence in 1980. Despite the promise of more vibrant and truly independent voices emerging through digitalisation and internet broadcasting, Zimbabweans will continue to suffer the monopoly propaganda of ZBC and its handlers.
No nation has ever advanced holistically by suppressing communication. Successful nations are those that give more information to people, not less, and allow the people to talk among themselves, no matter how unpalatable or how inconvenient the conversations may be to the people in power.
Instead of improving the state’s own communication systems, all Mugabe can think of is banning people from the airwaves. They are currently drafting the flawed so-called Cyber Security and Computers Bill to limit the ability of people to broadcast and communicate through the internet. How backward!
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