On 20 November 22, 2013 the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) invited applications for local commercial radio broadcasting services in 25 areas of the country including all major cities and towns such as Bindura, Chegutu, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Chirundu, Gwanda, Hwange, Lupane, Marondera, Plumtree, Redcliff, Rusape and Zvishavane.
While MMPZ welcomes this invitation, there are several reasons why they remain sceptical of the sincerity of government’s intention to genuinely free the airwaves.
Chief among them is the fact that BAZ is inviting applications under the same old discredited legal and institutional framework. This law, for instance, rules out applicants who are “wholly or partly funded by foreign donations or contributions” and compel applications to “provide proof and particulars of source of funding”. Political parties and organizations are also barred from applying for licences, among other strict conditions.
Section 61 of the Constitution declares that: “Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information” and that the broadcasting and other electronic media of communication “have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures that are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution”, and are “independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests”.
The legitimacy of BAZ itself has been a subject of serious debate, as the Media and Information Minister at the time, Webster Shamu, unilaterally appointed it in September, 2009 during the existence of the coalition government. Notably, the BAZ board he constituted was packed with former military men and ZANU PF allies, thus compromising its independence from political influence. Read more MMPZ STATEMENT ON BAZ RADIO LICENCE INVITATION