Grace's political comedy takes ZBC-TV hostage

HARARE - For the past two weeks, Zimbabweans watched free comedy live on the public television station, ZBC-TV as First Lady Grace Mugabe starred in the political drama, “Meet the People” that was shot in the country’s provinces.

At the end of the drama series last week, like in any film script it closed with the climax when Grace sensationally accused Vice President Joice Mujuru of corruption while also undressing Zanu PF Mashonaland Central chairman Ray Kaukonde whom he accused of leading a faction on behalf of the latter in the province.

With the ruling Zanu PF party which has been in power since independence refusing to open up television broadcasting to independent players, ZBC-TV has over the years been behaving like a party television station.

Analysts believe ZBC-TV which is supposed to operate as a public broadcaster has lost its mandate to inform, entertain and educate Zimbabweans as it is now being used to settle scores against Zanu PF political opponents.

In the past weeks however, those in Zanu PF who control the television station have even been using it through an overdose of Grace’s rallies which are attacking VP Mujuru and all those who are said to be supporting her.

Grace was all over television attacking those feigning love for her husband while plotting to overthrow him.

While her rallies were headline news in all forms of media including the print and radio, ZBC-TV as a monopoly seemed to undo all media. The television station dominated all its news bulletins with Grace’s rallies apart from screening all her provincial rallies in their entirety immediately after the evening main news. Even days after her rallies were completed, repeats still continue.

ZBC also operates four radio stations which were also on an overdrive broadcasting Grace’s political rallies.

There are others, however, who believe that the broadcast of Grace’s entire rallies were important as it gave every Zimbabwean an opportunity to judge the First Lady’s scheme as she ascends to political power within Zanu PF.

This they say exposes her weakness as already witnessed by the whole nation from Buhera, Muzarambani, Gwanda, Chipinge to Binga.

Defending its coverage of the First Lady, ZBC editor-in-chief Tazzen Mandizvidza last week said the First Lady’s entry into politics had captured the country’s imagination and could not be ignored.

“We do not know of any better way to do that other than to broadcast Dr Mugabe’s message in full so that our viewers and listeners can make their own conclusions, as compared to summarising and attempting to interpret the message for the audiences, as some of our colleagues in the print media have been doing,” he said in a statement.

Playwright Cont Mhlanga says ZBC-TV is a combination of a government and political party broadcaster.

“It is far from a public broadcaster. In fact it is closer to a private owned station by government and the party than anything else.

“The only seriously wrong thing about ZTV is not the content it is broadcasting and how it is broadcasting it and to whom but its monopoly on TV broadcasting. Zimbabweans remain with no alternatives and broad based choice of what local content they wish to see and consume.

“What I know though is that Zimbabweans do not like watching foreign content waya waya. They want good entertaining and informative local content and just cannot just get it!”

Media practitioner Takura Zhangazha says ZBC long abandoned its public service broadcasting mandate and its revamped board members must hang their heads in shame.

“ZBC has in general demonstrated patent bias against views that are contrary to those espoused by the ruling party especially where it concerns news content.

“In the case of its unprecedented coverage of the First Lady its editorial staff and board have ensured that ZBC retains its infamous status as a ruling party mouthpiece.”

He adds that the State broadcaster is now evidently and openly siding with one faction of Zanu PF.

Legislator Jessie Fungayi Majome says she has been vindicated because “that is the whole point of my application to the Constitutional Court that ZBC’s collection of listeners’ licence fees is unlawful and unconstitutional as it is clearly not a public broadcaster, but a Zanu PF broadcaster pathetically masquerading as a State broadcaster.

“It spectacularly fails to meet the stipulation of Sec 61 of the Constitution that it must be impartial, independent, and accord divergent views space.”

Political commentator Blessing Ivan Vava says it is shameful for the national broadcaster to be focusing on Grace’s rallies and giving her much coverage instead of focusing on their mandate to be a platform of information for the government and its citizens.

“What is rather shocking is that Grace is not in government, her rallies have nothing to do with the development of Zimbabwe and as always ZTV has been used by Zanu PF as its propaganda tool,” says Vava.

Media practitioner and political activist Tabani Moyo says ZBC is supposed to be a public broadcaster not a party station that is subservient to the whims and caprices of narrow political and factional interests.

“Zimbabwe is carrying the burden of a non-functional economy, demolition of the poor peoples’ houses, fuel and general commodities increases, instead of the ZBC triggering public debt on how to solve such a myriad of challenges it chooses to invest hectares of space on a Zanu PF select candidate for women’s league position.

“Is she a government official articulating public policy or government plan of action? This abuse of public institutions should surely be stopped.

“We have seen her portrait on Zupco buses, now ZBC; very soon you will see her face on the national flag at this pace. Zimbabwe should be preserved from such abuse.

“Surely, they are attempting to sanitise the rise of a monarch! A dynasty! Zimbabwe must resist!”

Legislator Settlement Chikwinya believes ZBC has never stood to be a public broadcaster but instead a Zanu PF broadcaster.

“The abuse of the staff and station not only boarders on immorality by whoever is pulling the strings but smacks of disrespect for the ordinary citizens who are all now being sucked into the Zanu PF succession debacle by having Zanu PF matters thrust forcefully down the people’s throats.

“It is shameful not only to Zanu PF but mostly to Mugabe himself who has been reduced to a bystander in this unfolding drama.

“The solution however is placed in genuinely reforming our laws to comply with the Constitution that places ZBC as a true non-partisan public broadcaster,” says Chikwinya.

Comments (3)

Even Grace herself is pretending to love president Mugabe.Indeed the president is surrounded by pretenders only as he has overstayed his welcome. It is a mockery to say Grace is now chief advisor to the president. What really has she to offer?She never gave the president any well meaning advice all the years of their marriage.Her recent rallies were full of hate speech which in fact confirmed factionalism & acrimoniously divided the pple in the party.How can she ever advise the president?How is she going to unite the people she has actually further divided in the party?

KUREMARA KWEPFUNGWA - 20 October 2014

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 21 October 2014

Mugabe wants to turn Zimbabwe into a dynasty like the Democratic Republic of Korea. You remember the Juche idea of the 80s. The party has been trying to turn the country into a mini Korea.What Grace has been doing is a sign of frustration.Why does she want us to worship her husband? He is just like any one of us. Anyone can occupy the position of head of state. Let people compete for the post freely.Grace is using the public broadcaster to unfairly campaign for her husband.Mai Mujuru must also be given the platform by the public broadcaster to defend herself

jaku - 21 October 2014

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