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Zimbabwe Prime Minister will challenge government on “farce” radio grants

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe is in a medium-sized uproar over the allocation of two radio licenses to entrepreneurs associated with Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. The signals will go to Zimpapers and AB Communications. The opposition newspaper The Zimbabwean identifies the principals of both companies as possible pro-Mugabe candidates in future elections.

“Despite having no experience in broadcasting, Zimpapers received a licence for its Talk Radio,” charges the newspaper. “The group dominates the print media, publishing several national and provincial newspapers. It is widely regarded as a mouthpiece for Zanu (PF) and editors and staff are appointed for their loyalty to the party.”

On Saturday, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai issued a statement denouncing the licensing awards. “A farce that flies in the face of true media reforms and media plurality in Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai called them.

The “granting of the two licences is the final nail on the coffin of media plurality in Zimbabwe,” he added. “It is unacceptable. The essence of media plurality is to allow multiple, diverse voices not voices of people and institutions aligned to a political party.”

Tsvangirai holds power thanks to a compromise deal known as the Global Political Agreement, reached in September of 2008, following widely contested elections between him, Mugabe, and a third candidate. He charges that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, which granted the signals, is “illegally constituted.”

The Zimbabwean identifies the chair of the board as Mugabe stalwart Tafataona Mahoso. The latter, in a recent Zimpaper column, managed to defend not only Mugabe, but disputed the impending demise of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as well.

“The latest we hear is that [Gaddafi] is being enticed by the same powers to leave Libya in exchange for yet another treacherous deal,” the Mahoso statement warned in June. “Adolph Hitler’s propagandists are credited in history as responsible for discovering the imperialist principle that for lies to be effective in deceiving small people, they have to be big.”

With Mahoso “planning to issue more local radio licences for each of the 14 biggest urban centres, you can expect to have your own local mini-ZBC to remind you just how blessed you are to have lived under a Zanu (PF) government for the past three decades,” The Zimbabwean warns. “What an insult to our intelligence!”

Tsvangirai’s statement says that he will speak to Mugabe this week “about this betrayal of the letter and spirit of the GPA and the agreement by the Principals themselves. This is indeed a sad day for the media industry in this country and it showcases the brazen and deliberate undermining of the executive authority in Zimbabwe.”

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