The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has described the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)'s issuance of six commercial television broadcasting licences as a façade as the beneficiaries have been exposed as Zanu-PF sympathisers.
BAZ Friday awarded six national commercial television station licences to operate in the country, breaking ZBC's 40-year monopoly as the sole broadcaster in the country.
The six companies awarded the controversial licences are; Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), owned by a state-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers, Rusununguko Media owned by a Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) company, Jester Media with links to Harare Minister Oliver Chidawa, Acacia Media Group owned by a known Zanu PF politician, Sharon Mugabe, Fairtalk Communications, partly owned by the ZNA, and Channel Dzimbahwe, owned by war veteran and former ZBC chief executive Happison Muchechetere.
The six television stations have 18 months to roll out operations.
However, in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, MISA Zimbabwe director Tabani Moyo said the licensing of the new players was an indication the government was unwilling to genuinely liberalise and open the airwaves.
"What we have seen is that this is a consolidation of the ruling elitists' voices in the sector under a false pretence they are opening it up to hoodwink the international community that there are taking steps of opening up the media space," he said.
"You see that this is a false façade in a way because the licences have been given to soldiers, liberation war veterans, people with close links to the government and the ruling party, Zanu PF."
The MISA director argued the new broadcasting licences will entrench Zanu PF's grip on the broadcasting sector in the country.
"So we are in a process of the widening of the stronghold of the ruling elitists in the industry and shutting down any prospects of those holding dissenting views ever having a chance to be licensed to express and broadcast in the country. This is a sad development in our country," said Moyo.
He also accused the government of deliberately failing to amend the Broadcasting Services Act in order to protect the ruling party honchos.
"That is why the government is not eager to finalise the amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act. They are preferring to partially open the airwaves through government executive orders such as statutory instruments so that they can protect ruling party elitists' interests in the industry rather than liberalise the sector," he said.
Eight other applicants were rejected.
They included Heart and Soul TV owned by media mogul, Trevor Ncube, as well as AB Communications owned by another media entrepreneur Supa Mandiwanzira. The two are also former journalists.