Zimbabwe Media Hangman Back At The Gallows

Dr Tafataona Mahoso has been appointed the CEO of Zimbabwe's new Media Commission, despite having vied for the Chairmanship of the same body, losing out to Godfrey Majonga. Mahoso is known as the "Media Hangman" because he ran the previous Media and Information Commission which presided over teh closure of several newspapers in Zimbabwe as well as the banning of several journalists from practising their craft.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 May 2010

If proof was needed that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T are just passengers in the so-called Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe, then it was provided this last week by the appointment of Dr Tafataona Mahoso as the Chief Executive Officer of the new Zimbabwe Media Commission, which was supposed to usher in a new era of media plurality and democracy in Zimbabwe.

Mahoso is accused by his detractors of being a "media hangman"in his previous incarnation as Chairman of the now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC), which presided over the closure of such publications as The Daily News (whose offices were at one time reduced to rubble by a bomb explosion), The Tribune and others. Several journalists were also blocked from practicing their craft and some were deported (Andrew Meldrum of the Guardian being one of them).

The MDC-Tsvangirai, especially, is known to be vitriolic in its opposition to Dr Mahoso's presence anywhere near anything to do with the media. Mugabe, taking his cue from the MDC-T opposition, has come out frequently in support of the "hangman"and Mahoso is a frequent visitor to State House. (In fact, on one occasion, he was mugged and robbed as he made his way from State House on his bicycle and Mugabe promptly gave him a driver and car to ensure this never happened again).

Nelson Chamisa, the largely incompetent Minister of Information Technology in the Inclusive Government and Spokesman for the MDC-T, is quoted as saying that Mahoso is not even qualified to run a burial society."

It is all hot air, unfortunately, because Mugabe is not going to reverse this appointment.

Questions have also been asked (mostly by the ignorant) regarding how Mahoso can be appointed CEO of the ZMC when he is also the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority.

The answer is that Mahoso's chairmanship at the Broadcasting Authority is non-executive. He was put there, obviously to make sure that no new radio stations and no new television stations come out of the woodwork to haunt ZANU PF.

Mugabe is actually much more concerned about radio stations and TV stations that he is about the print media. This is why, to this very day, ZANU PF insists that the existence of radio stations broadcasting from outside Zimbabwe is an outstanding issue under the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Still, the fact remains that Mahoso is now back at the "gallows"(if you are to follow the analogy of his being a hangman).

There is nothing the Prime Minister can do about this. There is nothing the MDCs can do about this. It just goes to show yet again where true power lies in this so-called Inclusive Government.

Despite the outcry over the appointment of Mahoso as CEO of the new Media Commission, the man is unlikely to go anywhere. The new people running Commission have already said that people should shut up about Mahoso's appointment because it was "a purely administrative role". They insist that he will not be deciding who gets a licence and who doesn't.

What they forget, of course, is that the laws that governed the old MIC are still intact (with Simba Makoni saying last week that these laws are now being presided over by an MDC-T Minister, Jamieson Timba).

With AIPPA and POSA still active and even the MDC-T making no moves to have these laws repealed (not even making noise about them anymore), the basis upon which Mahoso acted in his past life as Chairman of the MIC is still in place. Mahoso used to argue that the media should not look to him because he was simply enforcing laws that were on the books. The media, he insisted, should instead look to parliament and politicians to see that they repealed the laws, which would have made the MIC redundant.

What it means, therefore, is that there is the very real possibility that the media landscape in Zimbabwe will only change temporarily. Should Mahoso decide to enforce AIPPA and POSA, then we would all be back to square one.

Remember that the Permanent Secretary in the Information Ministry and Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, still insists that journalists need to be accredited to cover government events and functions. This is a requirement of POSA and AIPPA and the laws remain valid, with the tacit consent of the MDCs in government.

The more things change......



  1. Dr Tafataona Mahoso, loath him or love him, he has done right and wrong.Parliamentarians make the laws and he implements them. Should he be crucified for that.He is not the media hangman, it is the parliamentarians who are media hangman.Parliamentarians on the other side have little option, if the media behaves like a loose canon, they have to guide it by way of legislation. The media should inform, educate and entertain, the moment the media is hell bent on causing arnachy and despondency by reporting alarming lies and fiction, such legislation becomes more than necessary.I think Mahoso is just being demonised by the media.He is not a parliamentarian, he did not preside over the closure of newspapers out of his desire or wish, but because there was legislation that required to be enforced.Lets interrogate what necessitated such legislation and how we can avoid such draconian legislation, if one chooses to call it that.


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