By Leopold Munhende
THE Zimbabwe National Army has been granted a free-to-air national television broadcasting licence which was however denied to local media mogul and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s co-adviser, Trevor Ncube.
Government critics have accused the Harare administration of being a military state.
The army also has interests in diamond mining in the country, with Zanu PF opponents insisting the military must not have any commercial interests in the country.
However, another surprise highlight has been Ncube’s denial of a broadcasting television licence.
It is the second time the Zanu PF led administration has denied Ncube a broadcasting licence.
The latest rejection follows another bid by the NewsDay publisher to acquire a commercial radio broadcasting licence nearly a decade ago.
However, ZTN owned by state-controlled media empire, Zimbabwe Newspapers was awarded one, making it the only media group that will have tentacles in print, radio and television broadcasting in the country.
Ncube owns Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) publishers of NewsDay, the Standard, and the Independent. The rejected application was for HSTV.
Supa Mandiwanzira, another media owner and Zanu PF politician also had his application by AB Communications rejected.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) announced Friday the licencing of six new TV stations.
Successful applicants were Jester Media trading as 3K TV, which is reported to be owned by the Daily News; Rusununguko Media owned by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA); Acacia Media Group, owned by Sharon Mugabe.
Mugabe once contested and lost in the Zanu PF primary election for Goromonzi South.
Other successful applicants were Fairtalk Communications reportedly partly owned by the ZNA, and Channel Dzimbahwe owned by former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive Happison Muchechetere.
The new broadcasters were selected from recent interviews held on 14 potential TV owners last month.
ZBC was the only TV broadcaster in Zimbabwe and the latest development shall end its 40-year-old monopoly.
“The new licences gave 18 months to roll out their plans and go on air, in line with section 11 (7) of the Broadcasting Services Act. In the event of failure to broadcast, the licences will be availed to other aspirants through a similar process,” BAZ chairperson Charles Manzi Sibanda said in a statement.
“The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe would like to express appreciation to all those who showed interest and indeed the general public for actively participating in this historic process of facilitating the opening up of broadcasting airwaves for multiplicity in television services.”
Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, MISA Zimbabwe said although it was a welcome development, the process lacked diversity in the granting of the licences.
“The new TV licence holders either already hold print or broadcasting licences or are linked to the government or the governing party. With this scenario, the country risks having a homogeneity of news and view, an anathema to democracy,” it said.
“MISA Zimbabwe notes that the BAZ will soon start the process of licensing community radio stations and is worried that if this trend continues, only players with links to the government will be granted licences. MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, calls for the genuine liberalization of the airwaves, where diversity and pluralism are the guiding principles in the granting of licences.”