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US ambassador’s analysis of Media Commission members

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced a new Media Commission on 23 December 2009 with former broadcaster Godfrey Majonga as its chairman.

This was one of the major moves to implement some of the outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement, but like everything about Zimbabwe, the move was viewed with a lot of suspicion, especially on how many people the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front had sneaked in?

Questions were raised about Majonga because he was the deputy director of Danhiko Project an organisation where First Lady Grace Mugabe was patron.

Henry Muradzikwa, Matthew Takaona, Millicent Mombeshora, Chris Mutsvangwa and Lawton Hikwa all had links one way or the other to ZANU-PF or the government.

Nqobile Nyathi, a former editor of the Daily News and the Financial Gazette and now a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology reported to Hikwa.

The chain goes on.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 10HARARE44, ZIMBABWE ANNOUNCES MEMBERS OF NEW MEDIA COMMISSION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

10HARARE44

2010-01-22 11:37

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000044

 

SENSITIVE

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STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM KPAO ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE ANNOUNCES MEMBERS OF NEW MEDIA COMMISSION

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) The GOZ has named members of the Zimbabwe Media

Commission (ZMC), a regulatory body that will receive and

process applications for media publishing licenses. Media

groups view this development as an opportunity to democratize

the media environment in Zimbabwe. However, they question

the independence of the regulatory body and have expressed

fears that the ZMC might be paralyzed by the diametrically

opposed viewpoints of the commissioners. Appointments to the

other three new constitutional commissions — electoral,

human rights, and anti-corruption — have yet to be either

fully disclosed or determined. END SUMMARY.

 

—————————————-

Media Commission a Product of Compromise

—————————————-

 

2. (U) On December 23, 2009, at a joint press conference,

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

named Godfrey Majonga as chairman and Nqobile Nyathi as

deputy chair of the newly constituted Zimbabwe Media

Commission (ZMC). Other members of the nine-member

commission are Henry Muradzikwa, Matthew Takaona, Millicent

Mombeshora, Chris Mhike, Chris Mutsvangwa, Miriam Madziwa and

Lawton Hikwa. The Commission will receive and process

applications for publishing licenses and other functions as

directed by Parliament.

 

3. (SBU) Majonga is currently Deputy Director of Danhiko

Project, a Harare-based NGO focused on delivering benefits to

disabled Zimbabweans. First Lady Grace Mugabe serves as

Danhiko’s patron and her visits to the center have been

extensively covered by the local media. Little is known

about Majonga’s predisposition in terms of media freedom

issues except that he worked as a TV presenter for the

state-controlled monopoly broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting

Corporation (ZBC). ZBC is known for its positive coverage of

ZANU-PF. It is likely that Majonga, along with former ZBC

Chief Executive Officer Muradzikwa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe

Divisional Head Mombeshora, former diplomat Mutsvangwa and

National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Dean

Hikwa, all favor ZANU-PF.

 

4. (SBU) Deputy Chairperson, Nqobile Nyathi is a media

lecturer at NUST and reports to Hikwa. She was previously

editor of the Daily News when it was shut down in 2003 by the

now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC). She also

worked for the Financial Gazette, before it transferred

ownership to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono in 2003.

Along with media lawyer Chris Mhike and journalist Miriam

Madziwa, Nyathi is seen as a reform-minded individual with

vast knowledge of the journalism profession. She is close to

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and sources at NUST say

she has authored several speeches for her.

 

5. (SBU) Takaona, who served for ten years as President of

the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), and Hikwa, an IV

Alum (2000), have worked in the government-controlled

QAlum (2000), have worked in the government-controlled

Zimbabwe Newspapers Group, publishers of the only dailies in

the country (the Herald and the Chronicle), as journalist and

board member respectively. They supported government actions

against independent media, including defending the legality

of the MIC when it was challenged by independent media

journalists. ZUJ President Takaona campaigned for media

reform and was part of initiatives to form a self-regulatory

 

HARARE 00000044 002 OF 003

 

 

body, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), but he

also, in stepping down as President, participated in

anti-democratic ZUJ elections that assured him a continued

role as consultant to the Union. Hikwa’s resignation from

the Zimpapers board has never been explained publicly and was

viewed by some as an act of independence; however, he is

close to Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, and is said

to be a defender of ZA

NU-PF policies.

 

——————————————— —

Free Media Advocates Prepare for Disappointment

——————————————— —

 

6. (U) In a statement released January 15, leading media

advocacy group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

said the commission was “a potential vehicle to democratize

the media, long shackled by political controls.” MISA was

skeptical, however, of the independence of the new media

regulatory body to promote diverse and plural media. MISA

said ZMC would operate under the very same repressive legal

instruments that had decimated the private media and hindered

the proliferation of alternative sources of information.

Andrew Moyse, head of independent media monitoring group,

Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), was quoted in

the media saying the ZMC “might be paralyzed by the

diametrically opposing viewpoints of the commissioners. The

ZANU-PF elements in the commission will resist reform. It is

a bit of a mixed bag, but we understand because this is a

product of heavy compromises everywhere.”

 

7. (SBU) There has been little information about when the

ZMC will begin receiving and processing applications for

licenses from prospective publishers. Deputy Minister of

Media, Information, and Publicity Jameson Timba said there

were still a few issues that had to be addressed before the

commission begins its work. He said the ZMC was already

defined in terms of the Access to Information and Protection

of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and therefore did not need any law to

formalize its operations. There is no provision requiring

the taking of oaths — whether in the Constitution or in the

relevant Act — for the new commissioners. Mutsvangwa

reportedly told a meeting convened by the Dutch Embassy that

all the ZMC required to begin its work was an official

publication in the Government Gazette formally announcing the

commissioners. Takaona and Mhike said they still have not

received formal communication from the government regarding

their appointment to the ZMC on January 20.

 

———————————–

Other Commissions Not Yet Completed

———————————–

 

8. (SBU) The three other constitutionally-mandated

commissions have lagged behind the ZMC in terms of

appointments. The government has announced commission

members for the electoral commission and human rights

commission, but has not disclosed who will chair and deputy

these commissions.

Qthese commissions.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

9. (SBU) With the announcement of the ZMC, organizations

such as the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ),

publishers of the banned Daily News, and the Zimind

Publishers — which has announced plans for a daily newspaper

— have some hope that their publications will be licensed.

 

HARARE 00000044 003 OF 003

 

 

But questions remain as to how independent the ZMC will be,

and AIPPA poses a continuing threat to press freedoms. There

are high hopes for enhanced press freedom under the new media

commission, but we will wait to see how events develop before

drawing conclusions. END COMMENT.

 

RAY

(53 VIEWS)

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