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.