Media in Zimbabwe Assignment II

Konrad Ishia Ndhlovu


Lecture: Blessing Jona“Censorship and harassment of the media were central to the RF’s political survival. Laws were repeatedly tightened to restrict reporting which did not support the RF and its ‘official’ view of events. Most of these laws remained after 1980,” (Saunders, R: 1999; 8). Critically evaluate the validity of this assertion by Saunders.

[25 Mark]

Due Date:27 June 2019

African countries have suffered and still suffer from the barbaric colonial systems that were put in place by the colonizers to favor the interests of the white minority rule at the expense of the Black majority. Zimbabwe is one perfect example of these African countries that have fallen victim to these illegitimate legitimized statutes and one of the most affected, being the critical pillar of democracy, which is the media. The Zimbabwean media landscape is popularly known to be limited by the country’s draconian laws inherited from the colonial systems and sad enough being enforced by the native government in power, just like in the colonial period, to serve the interests of the ruling party at the expense of citizens’ democratic rights.

This regime assumed the laws and simply rebranded them to qualify as a restrictive measure against any criticism of the leadership of the country. Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe Act (BAZ) are some of the instruments the government has put in power to influence the flow of information.

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Unmasked, these laws can be directly linked to the Rhodesian Front’s Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) and Rhodesia Broadcasting Service Act (RBSA) among others, giving value to Sunders’ assertion that these laws censor and harass the media in the same way. This essay validates this statement by Sunders.

Way back in the 1930s when we saw a more composed establishment of the media in Zimbabwe, the then Rhodesia, it was enacted to subject all those under the British South African Company’s (BSAC) administration to Cecil John Rhodes’ hegemony. Mazula (2003) cites that the media was designed to promote the cause of the white minority. Similarly, the native government has adopted the system and is seen seating comfortably in those structures that manipulate journalists’ way to convey critical information. Thus; the ruling party then replaced the Rhodesian Front (RF) and enjoys these benefits at the expense of democracy through censorship laws that serve the same purpose but in different eras.

The white minority passed the Rhodesian Broadcasting Act (RBA) in 1933 and 1957 to oversee and monopolize the media. This development gave growth to The Rhodesian Herald (The Herald) and The Bulawayo Chronicle (The Chronicle the newspapers that were, and still are, highly censored and closely monitored by the administration. Monopoly emerged even after the rise of the black press of the 1930s as we saw the same censored white minority administration’s approved printing house the Rhodesian Printing and Publishing Company (RPP) being the one in action as a scapegoat to silence black nationalist to think that there are being considered too. For example, The Native Mirror. (Saunders, 1999). The same has been repeated by the native government over years as we have seen the politically and the economically useless newspapers being printed by the Zimbabwean Newspapers (Zim Papers), namely; the Matabeleland’s Umthunywa and B-Metro and the Mashonaland’s Kwayedza and H-Metro. The restrictive effect of these laws goes to an extent of altering the media content through censorship this has been afforded through a tendency by both the governments to publish less important subjects which do not promote critical thinking such that people start asking a lot of why questions in day to day life. The government of the day has assumed the oppressive nature of the RF’s rule by not doing justice in the amendments of these statues, therefore; Sunders statement is justified.

Regardless of the provision of the Lancaster House Constitution which affords citizens the right full right to freedom of expression, this instrument has been ignored in Zimbabwe. Muhena, (2013) says: “What is disheartening; however, is that thirty-two years after independence, freedom of expression continues to elude the majority of Zimbabweans, regardless of the fact that the Lancaster Constitution which gave birth to Zimbabwe has been amended several times.” The 1980 government only changed this act’s name to Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe Act (BAZ) after independence. The effects of this act in the media are seen to be the same as during the RF’s administration. It is through this act that today’ state-owned media enjoys the monopoly in broadcasting. Some of the provisions of the BAZ are that ZBC shall remain the only public broadcaster. Under the Broadcasting Services Act, Chapter 12:06 (Part III) is stated that:

9. Restrictions in relation to the issue of certain licenses

(1) Only one license to provide a national free-to-air radio broadcasting service and one license to provide a national free-to-air television broadcasting service shall be issued in addition to the national broadcasting services provided by any public broadcaster.

(2) Only one signal carrier license shall be issued to a person other than a public broadcaster.

Under a democracy, such provisions leave a lot of questions unanswered. Questions like: How can a nation guarantee diversity in the media with one Official broadcaster? And how do we achieve freedom of expression when they are not enough platforms to express oneself? Just like in the colonial era, it is very difficult if not impossible to answer these questions due to these repressive laws at work, thereby giving value to Sunders’ claim.

As the nationalist movement intensified in Rhodesia the period 1960s to 1970s, when Ian Smith illegally declared the independence of the colony from Britain by the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the Smith regime enacted several acts that were meant to victimize and criminalize institutions of disseminating information, reporters and its correspondents. Sunders (1999). Journalist and nationalist leaders were the most targeted individuals that fell victim of these state-orchestrated unethical laws. It is in this period when these draconian laws were passed. Law and Order Maintenance Act of 1960 (LOMA), Emergency Powers Act, (1964), Censorship of Publications Order of (1965), African Affairs Act (1965) and the Censorship Entertainment Act (1965) amongst others, were some of the laws that the RF enacted to curtail any ideas that seem opposed to the views of the RF. Just after the independence, the native government took over all instruments that favored the white supremacy diverted to favor the interest of the black political power. The new government saw it favorable enough for them to keep the old unpopular system of the colonization even long after independence there is residual legislative measures in play, only this time around, they have been engineered to favor the ruling party and its interest at the expense of everyone that opposes it. MISSA, (2001) submits that ZBC only shifted from promoting the white superiority to the blacks in power. There was the enactment of laws identical to those of the RF. There wasn’t much that the government did to repeal these laws like the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) and the Official Secrets Act (OSA) that remained for quite some time after the independence, till this day some of these laws are still being quoted in court under the different name that is the POSA in place of LOMA and AIPPA in place of OSA. It is under this POSA in March 2019 that necessitated the arrest of Zenzele Ndebele, a journalist and prominent filmmaker known for his Gukurahundi documentary which faced various restraining orders before it was published. These notable residues of these acts make Sunders’ assertion a highly valid claim.

The Ministry of Information (MOI) is another government tool that was put set to monitor the media in the RF’s regime and also being implemented by the new government that came into power. This ministry was formed by Smith administration when he came in power upon realizing that there was no board that was in total control of the media. The ministry was set to bring all media stakeholders to control. Moyo, (2003) in The Encyclopedia of International Media bout the RF regime forming introducing the MOI cites that:

When the RF came to power, they discovered that previous governments had done very little in terms of formulating an information policy framework within which the media could operate. As a result, the new government formed the MOI whose prime obligation was controlling the media through laws, policies and other strategies

It is then through the establishment of this ministry that the Rhodesian government started enacting new laws in favor of the government in power. The new government after 1980 also assumed this instrument and has been seen structuring the hierarchy of this ministry in such a way that favors the ruling party and its interest. The president is armed with executive powers to appoint and dismiss upon his will. This restricts the flexibility of this ministry to cater to all sectors. The ministry up being the main center of censorship and harassment throughout all information dissemination structures. To ensure the total control of this sector by the RF the appointment was based upon loyalty to the RF. Same as in the RF regime the 1980 government adopted the same system. Moyo, (2003) submits that, “Pieter van der Byl, a right-wing extremist from South Africa, was appointed to run the MOI while Harvey Ward, an RF ‘praise poet’ was given the directorship of the RBC” in that same manner was Jonathan Moyo appointed by Robert Mugabe as the Minister of information, he is however in exile to date because he could not be trusted to keep the interest of the incoming government after government change in November 2017.

Sunders’ statement that censorship of the media and harassment of the practitioners was introduced in the colonial systems and inherited the days’ government is highly valid. What validates it is the uniform establishment of rigorous laws by both eras. The latter government cloned the earlier one’s regulatory statutes to subject all those that fall under these administrations to a hegemony.

Ndlela, N. (2003). Critical Analysis of Media Law in Zimbabwe. Harare: Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Mazula, R., Hussein, T., Mararike, C., Deketeke, P & Mandigora T. 2003. “National Survey on Broadcasting in Zimbabwe: A Report on a Survey carried out by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe”. Harare: BAZ.

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, (2002): Zimbabwe Government. Harare. PrintflowChari, T.J., Bvuma, T.S & Maputsani, C. (2003). Media and Communication in Zimbabwe and Africa. Harare, Zimbabwe Open University.

Saunders, R. (1999). Dancing out of tune: The History of the media in Zimbabwe. Harare: Brylee Printers

[Accessed 22 June 2019]Nqobile, T. (2019). Journalist Ndebele arrested The Chronicle, [Accessed 22 June 2019]

The Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013. As Amended at 22nd May 2013 (including the amendments made by the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No19): Available at: [Accessed: 21 June 2019].

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