13 June 2018
Justice Priscilla Chigumba
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
Nelson Mandela Street
RE: ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MEDIA MONITORING COMMITTEE
MISA Zimbabwe writes this letter to express its concerns about the Media Monitoring Committee.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has a mandate in terms of Section 160K (1) of the Electoral Act to monitor media coverage during election periods. According to the ZEC Roadmap for 2018 Harmonised Elections, this will be through the Media Monitoring Committee that was scheduled to be established on the 10th of June 2018.
In terms of Section 160K (1), the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) as well as the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), may at ZEC’s invitation, participate in media monitoring during the election period. Despite this discretion, it is advisable and desirable for ZEC to invite BAZ and ZMC to participate in media monitoring.
One reason why it is advisable for ZEC to collaborate with other stakeholders in media monitoring is based on the fact that ZEC has no specialised knowledge of media related issues.
In view of the above, MISA Zimbabwe’s concern is that currently, both the BAZ and ZMC cannot participate in media monitoring even if ZEC were to extend an invitation to them. This is because neither BAZ nor the ZMC have any Boards comprising sitting board members or commissioners, respectively.
The absence of a valid BAZ Board was acknowledged in September 2017 by the High Court in the matter between Dr Dish v Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and Obert Muganyura, HH 598-17. In that matter, the court unequivocally stated that BAZ has no Board. The ZMC is in a similar predicament after the terms of ZMC’s previous commissioners expired in 2015.
Although interviews to replace the commissioners were held no appointments were made. No reasons have been given for the delay in appointing commissioners to the Board. In the meantime, and to the best of our knowledge, no appointments have been made since then.
Section 160K (3) states that ZEC’s media monitoring role does not exclude any other entities from monitoring media coverage during election periods. This section acknowledges the existence of other stakeholders who can assist in monitoring media coverage during elections.
MISA Zimbabwe therefore, takes this opportunity to urge ZEC to consider partnering with stakeholders from civil society that have the experience and expertise to monitor media coverage during election periods. Such a partnership would enhance ZEC’s abilities, boost public confidence and transparency of the media monitoring process during this year’s elections.
MISA-Zimbabwe appreciates your co-operation in this matter.
Golden Maunganidze (Mr)
cc: Speaker of House of Assembly, Advocate J.Mudenda (MP)