HARARE – A few days after refusing to air Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s advert, State broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC TV) on Friday beamed the Zanu PF election campaign live on television for the whole day.
ZBC suspended regular programming to air the rm zbct, whose initial poor attendance exposed President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s waning support ahead of key elections.
On Sunday, the MDC launched its party manifesto in Marondera but was not given the blow-to blow coverage that Zanu PF received.
To ask for ZBC to cover an entire MDC manifesto rally could be asking for too much from the State broadcaster as it had refused to air Tsvangirai’s 50 seconds-long advert saying it was waiting for the greenlight from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) before airing political content.
ZBC is mandated by law to give all political parties airtime on their station as Zimbabwe approaches the D-day for the make-or-break election scheduled for July 31.
But on Friday, Zimbabweans who had just been switched off the popular SABC channels had to do with hours of the Zanu PF campaign launch.
Those with no alternative to ZBC TV were forced to watch the channel, where pro-Zanu PF musicians who performed at the event such as Jah Prayzah and Mathias Mhere did their best to ease the boredom as they managed to get the crowd on its feet.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, said ZBC TV’s reluctance to flight “a politically colourless advert” while “devoting an entire day” to covering the Zanu PF campaign launch exposed the broadcaster’s double standards.
“But more importantly, this shows why Sadc agreed with the prime minister that Zimbabwe cannot hold free and fair election without media and security sector reforms,” said Tamborinyoka.
“The abuse of State resources by Zanu PF cannot continue to go unchecked. The other day we witnessed police officers acting as polling officers during Zanu PF primaries and now it is ZBC.
“But the people will not be hoodwinked. Zanu PF will be booted out precisely because of this kind of abuse,” said Tamborinyoka.
In a letter dated June 28, undersigned by Tarzen Mandizvidza, ZBC general manager, the broadcaster cites statutory instrument 33, 2008 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (Zec) which compels the public media to avail a platform for all political parties to advertise.
“We are now in the election period and we are guided by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission media coverage of elections regulations,” says the letter.
“The regulation requires us as a public broadcaster to allocate airtime equitably between the election period.”
However, Tamborinyoka says ZBC is missing the point because the premier’s advertisement was not coming from the MDC office but from government.
“We have no problems with the regulations of Zec but this was an advert that was paid for similar to Zanu PF adverts that were flighted at the material time,” said Tamborinyoka.
He added: “This shows the imperative need for reforms at ZBC.
“It remains a concern that a politically colourless advert from the prime minister was not flighted but Zanu PF continues to have unlimited access.
“This is the reason why we are insisting on media reforms.”