Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has fired off a broadside at Information Minister Webster Shamu following an announcement by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe that it will issue two commercial radio licenses to groups aligned with the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, challenging BAZ's legitimacy.
The Broadcasting Authority on Thursday announced that it would issue licenses to state publisher Zimpapers and AB Communications, an organization controlled by former state broadcasting journalist Supa Mandiwanzira, who has close links to ZANU-PF.
Mr. Tsvangirai accused Shamu of defying orders from the three principals in the national unity government - himself, Mr. Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - regarding the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. His Movement for Democratic Change formation maintains that Shamu improperly named the BAZ board.
Mr. Tsvangirai in a statement said Chief Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda wrote to Shamu in May instructing him to act in accordance with the decision by the government principals. But Mr. Tsvangirai said Shamu has not complied with that order so the broadcasting body has operated illegally in issuing the radio licenses.
Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC says the appointment of former Media and Information Commission chief Tafataona Mahoso as BAZ chairman was meant to ensure that licenses were not fairly awarded. Mahoso as MIC head closed the Daily News in 2003, among other actions, earning him the nickname of the "media hangman" of Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the issuance of the licenses to ZANU-PF aligned entities has stifled media plurality.
VOA was unable to obtain comment from Shamu, who did not answer his phone. But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Mr. Tsvangirai's party is always crying foul when decisions do not go the way it wants them to.
Media lecturer Zenzele Ndebele of the National University of Science and Technology told Ntungamili Nkomo that the MDC should not accept the BAZ decisions.