The Zimbabwe government has changed the membership of the Media and Information
Commission (MIC) to allow it to consider an application to reopen the
country's largest private newspaper, The Daily News, four years after
it was banned, writes Torby Muturikwa.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said the government was replacing the commission which had rejected a licence application for Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe's (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.

However, Ndlovu has retained the chairman of the Media and Information Commission (MIC) Tafataona Mahoso, who was declared biased against the ANZ’s bid for a licence.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the ANZ was publishing its two titles outside the law after it chose not to register with the MIC following the media legislation introduced in 2002 by Mugabe's government.

In May this year a High Court judge ordered the MIC to consider a fresh application for the newspaper.
Ndlovu said: "In my consultations, I paid particular attention to the disablement of the regulatory authority, MIC, by earlier court rulings. This reconstituted MIC board deals with the aforesaid application of the ANZ, paying particular attention to the law and parameters set by all court rulings on the matter.”

The new members of the MIC board are Chinondidyachii Mararike, Charity Sally Moyo, Edward Dube, Tendai Joseph Chari, Ngugi Wa Mirii and Pascal Mukondiwa who was retained.

There was no place on the new board for Rino Zhuwarara, Alphios Makoni, Sephat Mlambo and Jonathan Maphenduka who quit in protest at the handling of the Daily News case.

The Mugabe government has often been accused of stifling democracy through its crackdown on private media. This concession is a result of ongoing talks between the ruling Zanu PF party and the splintered opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who are negotiating to resolve the Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is brokering the talks at the request of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The MDC has demanded the repeal of the draconian media laws before next year's election.
The Daily News — which began publishing in 1999 — was critical of Mugabe's government. At one time it recorded what was to be the country's largest circulation of 94 000 copies on the back of fearless coverage of Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis.

Mugabe's government accused the newspaper of being a mouthpiece of the MDC.