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ZBC's Right to Demand License Fees Challenged in Supreme Court

The case of a Harare businessman Bernard Wekare, who is challenging the constitutionality of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s licensing fees, has been referred to the Supreme Court.

Harare magistrate Don Ndirowei referred Wakare to the Supreme Court after the businessman filed an application late July challenging radio and television license fees required by the state broadcaster.

Wakare was summoned to court for his failure to pay the fees and in his application claimed that the ZBC violated his constitutional rights.

Under the Broadcasting Services Act and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, ZBC is authorized to report to the police anyone without valid licenses.

Zimbabweans who fail to appear in court can be arrested or have their television sets and radio receivers impounded by the state.

Some end up paying fines to avoid being dragged to court for failing to pay licenses.

Wakare’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo the case has raised a number of constitutional issues.

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"We have raised a number of constitutional issues including a violation of his religious rights because we are saying ZBC does not offer a wide varity of stations," said Mtetwa.

Under the Broadcasting Services Act, the ZBC has the authority to demand license fees from owners of radio and television sets regardless of access to its channels.

Radio licenses cost more than $20 while television licenses are pegged at $50.