Controversy has swirled around the parliamentary process of interviewing and recommending members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and particularly the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, when vacancies on the latter were not advertised, writes Zvamaida Murwira in The state-owned Herald.

Zvamaida Murwira writes in The Herald:

THE selection of people to sit on independent commissions continued to be questioned with some stakeholders and observers accusing the parliamentary committee of subverting the law for the sake of political expediency.

Many people have continued to question the rationale of not inviting certain applicants whom they felt were better qualified than those called. This has also fuelled anxiety on how the remaining independent commissions, which have since been advertised and applied for, would be handled. These are the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter has also joined the chorus as it has questioned the logic by the Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee to interview people for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe when the committee had flighted advertisements for the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

By proceeding to interview and select people for the BAZ, that would effectively exclude filmmakers and broadcasters who had not applied, waiting for the BAZ advert, said observers last Thursday.

Some people have questioned the prudence of the strictness applied by SROC and its shadowy team of experts not to invite certain applicants on the spurious grounds that they had not supplied letters of motivations and had not submitted certificates.

Others have been wondering why Members of Parliament sat on the interviewing panel when they had already "outsourced" a team of "human resources experts".

Veteran filmmaker Olley Maruma, former ZBH broadcaster Robson Mhandu and media trainer Dr Obediah Mazombwe were not invited on the basis that they had no copies of certificates and letters of motivation while veteran journalist Alexander Kanengoni was not called because he had not a submitted curriculum vitae.

Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma said last week that the decision to select people for BAZ was taken after realising the need to comply within the timeframe set out by the law.

"I am not saying the people who were interviewed were the best and those who were left were unsuitable. They were probably the best but the presiding officers looked at the deadlines and timeframe within which these should be constituted and that the qualifications and experience required was more or less similar with ZMC.

"The committee then decided that it was prudent to take this opportunity to take this route but the question should not be whether this was right or wrong but whether the SROC acted within its mandate," said Mr Zvoma.

He said hiring experts to do a specified advisory job as the SROC did, was not unique. "It's not unusual for someone to hire other experts that will facilitate the execution of that mandate and this was done on the basis that the experts were professional people. What is important is that a person receiving advice is free to either accept or reject it. There are certain decisions that you can never have a consensus on, but what is important is whether the SROC acted within its mandate," he said.

In a letter to Speaker of House of Assembly, Mr Lovemore Moyo, MISA Zimbabwe Chapter chairperson Loughty Dube said there was nothing in the advert flighted by SROC in June this year that suggested the interviews for prospective candidates would include BAZ.

"Our reasonable assumption was that the call for applications was largely for constitutionally established commissions and not necessarily statutory boards," argued MISA.

"In view of the above, it is trite to note that the procedures relating to the BAZ and those relating to ZMC are different primarily because of the establishing laws, i.e. the Broadcasting Services Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe respectively."

While the SROC had a role in their appointments, the selection criteria differed significantly as appointment to BAZ specifically mentioned the need for one to have technical know-how in the field of broadcasting technology, something that was not mentioned in the adverts.

"Within the context of the contents of this letter to your good office, it is MISA Zimbabwe's well considered view that the SROC erred in considering applications for BAZ.

"It is our considered view that Zimbabweans with an interest in serving on the BAZ would hitherto not have submitted the requisite applications as no such specifications for the particular body in question had been indicated in the media advertisements for the ZMC," said Dube.

* This article first appeared in The Herald on 12 August 2009.