ZIMBABWE'S first  public Parliamentary hearing on the role of the
public media turned rowdy with the public accusing the Herald and ZBC
editors of fuelling hatred, writes a journalism.co.za correspondent.

The public hearing was conducted last weekend by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology with the aim of gauging views on the state of the public media.

A packed Parliament heard jeers and angry remarks by the public, berating Herald Editor-in Chief Pikirayi Deketeke and the paper’s deputy Caesar Zvayi, for  “fanning divisions, sowing hatred and lying”.

Zvayi, a former geography teacher with just four years of journalism under his belt, pens a vitriolic column in the Herald every Saturday where he pours scorn on ministers from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

He assumed the deputy editor’s post recently after being deported from Botswana and slapped with travel restrictions by the European Union.

“Caesar Zvayi should be stopped from feeding the nation with crap. We are sick and tired of Zvayi’s propaganda. We need change and change must be effected at The Herald and ZBC.

“It (The Herald) is the only newspaper in the world that accepts such rubbish. Parliament should cause some changes at The Herald and ZBC. These people should be removed because they are not serving the interests of the nation,” said Paddington Japajapa in his presentation.

Media groups and civic society organisations expressed disappointment at the continuing hate language in the state media which they said was in clear violation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA Article 19) which brought a unity  government in February.

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) said it was disturbed the continued use of hate language, use of unnamed sources and unbalanced news coverage that does not allow for divergent ideas to reach readers.

“Statutory regulation of the media, especially through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act  (AIPPA), has resulted in a media that is not accountable to the public but to individuals and open to interference and influence from outside the industry,” said John Gambanga of the VMCZ.

The Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity was also found to be culpable by continuing to meddle in the editorial matters at both Herald and the ZBC.

Meanwhile, the ZBC has banned a live television phone-in programme, The Legislator.

Sources said the ban followed complains by Zanu PF politicians who felt the programme was favourable to opposition supporters as shown by the heckling of former Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga during a discussion with a high-ranking MDC legislator, Gift Chimanikire.

“The programme was supposed to have been aired on Thursday night before the evening news bulletin but the producers were told that the programme had been terminated. I don’t think it will be shown again on ZTV,” said the source.  “It was felt that Matonga was exposed and the anchor failed to protect him from insults from the people who phoned in to contribute,” said the source.

The Legislator was presented by former ZBC staffer Shephard Mutamba who was fired from his post of Editor-In -Chief by the then Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

It was sponsored by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), a development partner to Zimbabwean Parliament.

Mutamba confirmed The Legislator had been terminated. “I was called on Wednesday morning and was advised that the programme was no longer going to be aired. They didn’t give me any further details".

During the programme, the public would be allowed to make contributions or ask the MPs to articulate issues they felt needed clarity. Issues discussed include politics, media, constitution, human rights, corruption and gender.