ZBC Bars Makoni Interview

An in-depth and very eloquent interview with Simba Makoni has been barred from airing on Zimbabwe Television. It was explicitly communicated to me that the "top people" at ZBC had said the programme was not be aired until they had seen it. They then made sure that they did not see it until the time it was due to be broadcast. I suppose this is what Prime Minister Tsvangirai means when he says the dictator Robert Mugabe is "The Solution". We do not need such a "Solution" in this country. We need real change, which neither MDC-T nor ZANU PF are capable of ever delivering. Ever.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 6 November 2009

Zimbabwe Television yesterday barred the airing of a 30-minute interview with Simba Makoni, conducted by Supa Mandiwanzira last week for his program Talking Business.

The interview was scheduled to air at 9:00p.m., which is basically prime time in Zimbabwe.

I got a call just after six in the morning telling me that ZBC personnel had just informed Supa's people that the "top people" at ZBC had given the instruction that the program was not to be aired before it was seen by them (the "top people"). 

I asked who the "top people" were and I was informed that this usually meant only the people within ZBC itself, specifically Executive Chairman Happyson Muchechetere. It was also explained that if the programme was not aired, it would then find a spot on Saturday at 7:30 in the morning, when everyone would still be very much asleep. But even this was also dependent on the "top people" watching the program and clearing it to air on Zimbabwe Television.

At the time of the call to me, Supa's staff (he runs his own studio and records his own programs independent of ZBC) were frantically trying to edit another programme in order to have a "stand-by" if the Makoni interview had not been cleared by the time 9:00p.m. came up.

At nine, ZTV started showing an American comedy instead of Supa's programme. The program then never aired last night.

You will recall that during the presidential elections in March last year, ZBC conducted a panel interview as required by our electoral laws and Makoni was part of the panel. John Nkomo, who was supposed to represent ZANU PF, ran away and refused to go head to head with Makoni. The interview went ahead with members of the other party present.

Muchechetere, who is now the head of ZBC, was just a journalist at that time and he conducted a very bad interview, never allowing Makoni to finish answering a single question, cutting him off every time he tried to make a point. He clearly was under instructions to make sure that Makoni's points never got communicated.

Now that he is head of the broadcasting company, he is using his position to frustrate the same man.

It remains to be seen whether the program will air on Saturday. But even if it were to air then, it will not be watched by anybody at all because it will be very early on Saturday morning, the day most people sleep in and rest after a week of work.

This is the main reason we require media reform in Zimbabwe, an agenda that the other party in the government, MDC-T has failed to push at all, even though they have a deputy minister in place at the Ministry of Information and Publicity (controlled, of course, by Mugabe).

We need even more television stations and newspapers on the streets and in the homes of Zimbabwe. But, we all know now that Tafataona Mahoso, the media "hangman" and Mugabe ultra-loyalist, has now been put in charge of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, which is charged with issuing licences to people seeking to establish radio and television stations.

There is no likelihood that any new television and radio stations will be licenced to operate any time soon. Mugabe and ZANU PF will not allow it and it appears not to be a priority for the MDCs in government.

Bottom-line, though: the establishment is very afraid of giving exposure and space to Simba Makoni. The articulate and intelligent former Finance Minister is widely popular in Zimbabwe and his party, in terms of the numbers of members (membership) is now the largest party in Zimbabwe, even with things like this going on.

He will shock them all at the next election. Of that you can be certain.

Pleas keep in mind that this interview focused on the "disengagement" by Tsvangirai. Makoni is very critical of the move, mostly on the basis that the MDC is not fighting for substantive issues (such media and economic reform and policies that can transform people's lives). The banning of this interview protects the MDC-t more than it protects ZANU PF.

I can only assume that the MDC-T and Morgan Tsvangirai are very happy today that ZBC has denied Makoni a right to speak to the nation on this very important issue.


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