Govt dismisses Majome licence fees application


Jessie Majome

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
GOVERNMENT has described the constitutional application by Harare West legislator Ms Jessie Majome contesting payment of listener’s licence fees to ZBC, as mischievous saying the obligation to pay the fees was the same as that of paying tax.Ms Majome last year filed the application arguing that ZBC’s television station and four radio stations were biased towards Zanu-PF and that they did not give MDC-T enough airspace in the election campaigns.

To that end, the politician argued that ZBC had lost its status as a public broadcaster as it only served the interests of a portion of the country’s population and that it should not continue receiving licence fees.

In the heads of argument filed at the Constitutional Court by Mambosasa Legal Practitioners on behalf of the Attorney General, Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, ZBC and the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, it is argued that Ms Majome’s claims of bias had not been proven and that it was only her own belief that the national broadcaster was biased.

“In other words, if the political programming of first respondent (ZBC) met her standards of objectivity, then they would be constitutional. The argument is akin to saying if one is not satisfied with the performance of the civil service, then one would withhold payment of taxes and argue that payment of taxes under those circumstances, is ultra vires one’s constitutional property rights.

“Pure mischief,” read the heads of argument.

According to the heads of argument, ZBC was a national broadcaster and licence fees were permissible at law.

“It is respectively submitted that first respondent’s operations are compliant with provisions of Section 61(4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. If applicant has issues with political content featured on first respondent’s two television channels and four radio stations, she simply needs to articulate her case without seeking to stifle or cripple a national institution,” read the papers.

It is Government’s contention that Ms Majome was approaching the court with dirty hands by openly refusing to pay the listener’s licence fees for two years.

“It is mischievous on applicant’s part for her to approach this honourable court after openly violating the law for close to two years, hands dripping of stinking dirt and petition this court to give a partisan order compelling first respondent to broadcast its programmes only to people associated with the ruling party, yet at the same time beg this court to rule that she has a right to air her views through first respondent’s media of communication,” read the papers.

The lawyers urged the court to dismiss the application with costs on a higher scale saying courts must not be abused by politicians as a platform to gain cheap publicity or to score political points.

It is also argued that if Ms Majome feels ZBC was failing to deliver on its mandate as provided by the Broadcasting Services Act, she could make a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.

If she does not get any joy, she could then approach the court instead of pre-maturely rushing to the Constitutional Court.

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  • mukwerekwere

    She has a very good point….this law needs to be amended.

  • Chitavati

    Statistics covering pro-Zanu-PF and anti-any-other-party of ZBC emissions are widely available, completely vindicating Ms Jessie Majome’s constitutional application. The only ‘mischievous’ thing here is Zanu-PF pulling the supposedly independent strings of justice behind the scenes, contrary to precepts of separation of powers, the constitution and the wishes of the people, that their elected representatives should be demonstrably first in line to fight for.

  • observer

    Majome has a point . If ZBC wants licence fees , what of ZiFM and StarFM ?

    How many licences should one end up paying for ? George Charamba hinted not so long ago at Nyanga that this piece of legislation is now archaic and has outlived its purpose . It was designed with the ZBC as a monopoly . Now times have changed and it has become anachronistic .

  • Fairplay

    She has a point, it is not a secret that ZBC is biased

  • KingZaka||

    Why is it that ZBC is collecting those fees when we have got other private and semi-private stations operating in this country. I will pay only if a board is created that disperse these fees fairly. ZBC and its mediocrity should not be protected by these partisan lawyers who passed this judgement.

  • Chokwadi

    Jessie has a point. These lawyers are not addressing the matter with professionalism and the maturity it deserves. Mrs Majome is challenging the constitutionality of this law that binds us to pay licence fees to an institution (ZBC) that does not exist as a monopoly. What of Zi FM, Star FM? Further, it does not need a rocket scientist to prove that the national broadcaster is biased-the BAZ has proven that it cannot do anything about it. Mrs Majome’s attack is not solely on the bias but the basis of paying to ZBC our hard earned cash when we cannot get our desired programming.There are other private broadcasters who do not survive on handouts so why ZBC? As for the example of taxes that these so called learned lawyers used, I think they fell short on comparisons. If we were to compare Mrs Majome’s actions to the issue of taxes-I think the set up would be like this> Mrs Majome would be refusing to pay taxes because she believes they are not being directed to the fiscus but instead to rallies and campaign materials of a certain party-I think as a taxpayer I’d be justified not to pay taxes. Next time these lawyers should try and compare apples to apples.

    As for the fact that it is law-hello, we have a new constitution that renders certain laws invalid. She has every right to challenge the constitutionality of these suppressive laws. Wake up Mambosasa-your arguments really lacked professionalism-I think you should try politics where a simple lie is more acceptable than a complicated truth.

  • maita

    In this time of technology ZBC must incrypt its signals and those who want to listen can pay. I don’t remember a day I have tuned to ZBC. All the way to Bulawayo, Hwange, Beitbridge, Mutare, home I will be playing my music then watch my soccer on DSTV, I buy newspapers for news so I should buy airtime to listen to ZBC but not forced to pay.

  • Jambanja paSalisbury

    This is equivalent to rape! Take this into perspective, most pple now have cell phones phones that receive TV, fm/sw broadcasts…..hw are those to be levied? That shows you hw archaic this cited law is!