Majome forces govt rethink on ZBC licences

HARARE - Harare lawyer Jessie Majome, the MP for Harare West, has forced government’s hand in the scrapping of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) listener’s licence.

The opposition legislator and MDC shadow minister for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, refused to pay licence fees to ZBC.

She approached the Constitutional Court seeking to force the State broadcaster to encrypt its signal so that it is only received by those who wish to associate with its “biased programming.”

In the court application, Majome cited the infringement of her rights under the Broadcasting Services Act, which has provided a legal framework for ZBC’s 33-year-long monopoly over the airwaves.

“It is a notorious fact in the public domain that ZBC is not impartial in its dealings particularly regarding the coverage of events, positions and programmes of political parties operating in Zimbabwe on its television and radio stations,” Majome said in her Con-Court application.

Her appeal, which is yet to be heard by the highest court in the land, has been academic with government’s announcement that the contentious listeners’ licence fee charged to everyone with a receiver will be scrapped.

In a way, she has already won her battle.

Over the years, ZBC’s demand for licences has come under severe criticism as some argued that the possession or ownership of a television or radio signal receiver does not necessarily mean it was intended for purposes of accessing ZBC’s broadcast material.

ZBC, in its capacity as the nation’s public broadcaster, had been the sole beneficiary of the listeners’ licence fees which formed a major part of its revenue base after advertisers fled the station’s dwindling viewership and what critics have called “Zanu PF propaganda.”

“We are getting to a time when the listeners’ fee has to be scrapped,” George Charamba, permanent secretary in the minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services said on a local radio station.

“We have made a decision as a ministry and get it from me it will soon be a thing of the past.”

ZBC has since independence been abusing its monopoly and even the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as they mounted joint roadblocks to force motorists pay radio licences.

At several roadblocks, motorists were flagged by uniformed ZRP police officers but confronted by ZBC licence inspectors demanding radio licences.

In an effort to raise income in the face of public resistance, the ZBC was dispatching its officers at car parks, shopping centres and residential areas to force people to pay listeners and viewers’ licences.

The pressure on government to scrap the ZBC licences had been mounting, more so since two radio stations ZiFM and Star FM started broadcasting.

Listeners were arguing that while ZBC was demanding radio licences, they were actually not listening to it but to the two new radio stations.

Will Zimbabweans rub their hands with glee for the new 25 radio licences which will be issued in the next two months, there is an expectation that government issues licences to independent players.

In her court challenge, Majome had argued that ZBC was without doubt a propaganda and advocacy tool for Zanu PF.

“It operates as a public mouthpiece for Zanu PF,” she said.

“Through various documentary, current affairs and news programmes, first respondent (ZBC) promotes Zanu PF’s political agenda with overt and covert messages that are quintessentially Zanu PF in content, ideology and form.”

Last year, media lawyers urged government to revisit and amend the law that forces all citizens with radio and television receivers to pay licence fees to ZBC.

At a conference held in Masvingo organised by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa),  the Media Lawyers Network (MLN), resolved to have the law revisited.

Jacqueline Chikakano, a MLN member and Misa-Zimbabwe legal officer said: “We, as members of the Media Lawyers Network, condemn the legal provisions in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act, which mandate ZBC to obtain licence fees from all holders of broadcasting receivers regardless of whether they actually receive its services or not."

“We therefore call upon the authorities to revisit this provision and amend the law such that only those who actually access ZBC signals are obliged to pay the licence fees.”

ZBC was demanding $30 per year from motorists with radio receivers and $50 from television and radio household owners.

In a bid to force Zimbabweans to pay the fees, the broadcaster also approached the country’s courts pleading for the arrest of millions of people resisting to pay radio and television licences.

Most Zimbabweans resisted paying for radio and television licences because they felt ZBC was not offering a quality service.

Several residents in major urban centres such as Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru were issued with warrants of arrest for failing to pay ZBC television and radio licences, but ignored them.

The warrants of arrest were issued after the defaulters were given a 14-day grace period.

ZBC legal and corporate services manager Irvin Mhlanga had argued the national broadcaster was guided by the Broadcasting Services Act which requires anyone in possession of a gadget that is capable of receiving a broadcasting signal to pay for a licence.

Mhlanga said an estimated six million gadgets were receiving broadcasting signals nationwide but the national broadcaster was getting less than a third of that number in licence holders.

A ZBC manager said recently the state-run broadcaster was broke because its source of funds comes from licences and currently viewers and listeners owed the broadcaster millions.

“We do not have a proper tracking mechanism to thousands of tickets we are issuing daily. The problem we are having is that our police and judiciary are not cooperating with us,” Mhlanga said.

He said during their engagement with the judiciary, it emerged that it needs more than two months for it to clear millions of ZBC radio and television licence defaulters.

“They said they do not have the manpower to deal with our cases, and promised to accommodate us.”

Comments (17)

This should have been scrapped long back,i think the ministry has finally come to its senses.The Muchecheteres were boasting that whether u like it or not u will pay the licence.How can one pay for instance he has 4 cars pay for all the car licences and the home licence when he can only listen to one gadget at a time.

fundi - 20 January 2014

I will never pay for that licence,never at all.Infact to hell with that Dead BC. I watch SABC and other channels.Also I read independent newspapers only,no herald and the chronicle.

josefa chinotimba - 20 January 2014

Dead BC is a Zany pf propaganda tool. I don't support that party because I have not benefited anything from it. Let their dedicated supporters pay for Muchechetere to live a luxurious lifestyle. In fact I and most other people do not listen to their biased reportage. It makes one sick from inside. I always tune in to outside stations like SABC. Imagine one having to watch a whole program of the so-called professors; Mahoso, Mpepereki and Chivaura spewing their Zanu-pf moronic and sickening literature.

tomasi tohwi - 20 January 2014

Thumbs up, for ZBC license scrapping. this has been long overdue.

Samizho - 20 January 2014

I believe ZBC should wake up. Mahosho, Mupepereki and Chivara are imperialist agents sent to cause disaffection with the government..Why the government made of such intelligent men and women can not see this defeats me!

gutter poet - 20 January 2014

NGAVAUNZE PAY TV LICENCE TIONE KUTI RINOTENGWA NANI. VAKAWANA 3 CHAIVO AIWA TINOTI MAKOROKOTO. MAZIMBAVHA EVANHU

PRINCE JOHNSON - 20 January 2014

NGAVAUNZE PAY TV LICENCE TIONE KUTI RINOTENGWA NANI. VAKAWANA 3 CHAIVO AIWA TINOTI MAKOROKOTO. MAZIMBAVHA EVANHU

PRINCE JOHNSON - 20 January 2014

Scrapping it now after you stole our money for all these years mapenzi evanhu

apostle - 20 January 2014

Never paid any license to ZBC since I started watching and listening to SA radio and TV stations more than 15 years ago and will never do so. I chase away the license inspectors and just leave at roadblocks where ZBC employees try and force me to pay for a license i do not want.

Sabi - 20 January 2014

This is long overdue,besides the people's money was being used to finance pay cheques for that ZBC fat cat pocketing 41k per month

blackindy - 20 January 2014

This is long overdue,besides the people's money was being used to finance pay cheques for that ZBC fat cat pocketing 41k per month

blackindy - 20 January 2014

This is long overdue,besides the people's money was being used to finance pay cheques for that ZBC fat cat pocketing 41k per month

blackindy - 20 January 2014

This is long overdue,besides the people's money was being used to finance pay cheques for that ZBC fat cat pocketing 41k per month

blackindy - 20 January 2014

This is long overdue,besides the people's money was being used to finance pay cheques for that ZBC fat cat pocketing 41k per month

blackindy - 20 January 2014

License for what?To watch old faces of Mupepereki and Mahoswo?Introduce pay channel and see hw many will pay.Zbc has expired long ago just like Mugabe and his wives ana Chombo nana Mutasa.Thot ZBC yakavharwa kare ini

Mhere - 20 January 2014

Ndipeiwo minister one ari kubhadhara radio licence,kana ariko ndinotanga nhasi kubhadhara

me - 21 January 2014

ZBC wake up and smell the coffee, get your act together and employ a hands on BDM, so you make some gold. You should look at what they provide on DsTV.

Zuruvi - 21 January 2014

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