THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) is divided over whether or not to retain former chairman of the disbanded Media and Information Commission (MIC) Tafataona Mahoso as chief executive officer, with veteran journalist Henry Muradzikwa threatening to resign if he is appointed.
Different views have emerged among commissioners interviewed by the Zimbabwe Independent with one group aligned to Zanu PF saying the issue was concluded last week after ZMC agreed in a “democratic consensus” to retain Mahoso, while others are adamant that the commission is still to decide on the issue.
Those opposed to his appointment feel that Mahoso, who journalists refer to as a “media hangman”, cannot be part of a media reform agenda. The group told this paper that they did not recognise Mahoso, whose current appointment they said was still temporary until the commission comes up with a new organogram.
“In the meantime, there are those who choose to recognise him and there are also those people in the commission who do not recognise him,” said one commissioner, who preferred not to be named.
A commissioner in the pro-Mahoso group said: “The issue was concluded last week. We inherited a secretariat and that includes Mahoso and we are continuing on a full-time basis with that secretariat. He should not be punished for past deeds and why would we want to do that?”
In a heated debate last week at the ZMC strategic meeting, commissioners were deeply divided on the issue with some arguing that Mahoso should be given that post “in the spirit of inclusivity”.
Chris Mutsvangwa, who was the most vocal in support of Mahoso, accused other commissioners at the meeting of witch-hunting while Muradzikwa, prominent lawyer Chris Mhike and another veteran journalist Matthew Takaona strongly opposed his appointment.
“Zanu PF is saying that since we are now in an inclusive government, we should make Mahoso CEO in the spirit of inclusivity. He accused us of witch-hunting. But we are saying that we are serving the common good by firing him,” said a commissioner in the anti-Mahoso group.
Confirming this view, the pro-Mahoso commissioner said as a commission they should not focus on the past but should concentrate on ensuring a plural and diverse media.
“People have a gripe with him but these are historic issues. If he does not do what we say, then we deal with him as commissioners. We should be focusing on constructive issues and strong opinions can divide, diverse views are good and we don’t want sponsored views — we don’t want to go back to the acrimonious past,” he said.
Those opposed to his appointment pointed out that Mahoso could not be part of the commission because he represents the opposite of what ZMC seeks to achieve as outlined in the global political agreement.
They said appointing Mahoso would discredit ZMC and its media reform agenda and would be a contradiction to the global political agreement and Section 100P of Constitutional Amendment No 19.
According to Section 100P of Amendment No 19, ZMC should uphold and develop freedom of the press and promote and enforce good practice and ethics in the press, print and electronic media, and broadcasting.
“Mahoso does not inspire public confidence or confidence of stakeholders and for that reason we cannot give him that post. There is also the issue of conflict of interest — he cannot be chairman of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and CEO of the Zimbabwe Media Commission,” the commissioner said.
“ZMC is supposed to be independent and impartial and Mahoso is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. He is biased and has taken a certain political position and this is evident in his articles and comments in which he uses hate language in the state-run media.”
According to the commissioners, Muradzikwa threatened to step down at the meeting if Mahoso is given the post because he would not be part of a commission whose secretariat is headed by a person who writes articles filled with hate language and was also responsible for closing down five newspapers.
However, the pro-Mahoso commissioner said it would be wrong to censure him for writing on an academic basis on issues outside the commission.
The anti-Mahoso commissioner said the issue would only be resolved at their next meeting to be held before the end of June, where a new structure would be presented for approval.
He said the chances are slim of having a CEO in their structure but they are likely to opt for an executive secretary to head the secretariat.
“ZMC is not succeeding MIC because they have different mandates. While ZMC is a constitutional body, MIC was a statutory body. There is no regulatory body all over the world that has a CEO, they have executive secretaries because these people are not given so much power,” he said.
“A CEO position is an all powerful position and regulatory bodies are run on consensus. We will seek professional advice on the issue but I foresee that after we come up with an organogram such issues will fall away.”
In contradiction, the commissioner supporting Mahoso’s appointment said: “We agreed on that issue and there were no issues arising regarding him. We had a healthy debate and there are no disagreements in the commission. It was a democratic consensus just like other agreements reached which I was not happy with.”