THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) yesterday reserved judgment in a matter where Harare West MP Jessie Majome (MDC-T) is challenging the constitutionality of compulsory payment of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) licences.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Majome approached the court seeking to enforce her rights after ZBC licence inspectors visited her home sometime in July last year whereupon they requested her to produce a TV licence. After failing to do so, Majome was then ordered to produce one within seven days or risk prosecution.
Majome’s lawyer Advocate Ray Goba told the full bench headed by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, that his client’s rights were being infringed by ZBC because of the compulsory buying of its licences.
Goba said ZBC was using its monopoly in the licensing of televisions and radios as a way of collecting cash from the public but at the same time failing to account for the collected cash.
The lawyer said ZBC was a private company and would continue to operate in that manner and as such was mandated to operate in terms of the regulations.
“Who is in charge of ZBC.Those who control it should find other means of funding it not to ask the public (through licences) because it is a private company,” Goba said.
After being asked by Justice Paddington Garwe whether Goba was saying the idea of having a public broadcaster was unacceptable, Goba said: “No, we are not saying that, that’s why the airwaves were opened and any broadcaster can still broadcast for the nation, but it must not be funded by the public.”
“The public should have a choice of selecting a broadcaster of their choice just like what happens with those that subscribe to DStv.”
Goba further said ZBC should encrypt its signal and make it available only to those that would have subscribed to watch it.
Responding to the application, ZBC’s lawyer Tazorora Musarurwa urged the court to dismiss Majome’s application saying she had approached the wrong court for recourse.
“The applicant [Majome] should not have approached this court as a court of first instance, this matter could have been taken to the High Court and be heard by a single judge,” Musarurwa said.
“This is a matter where oral evidence ought to have been led in order to consider such issues as encryptions that have been referred to and that cannot be done here.”
Musarurwa further said if Majome was not pleased by the manner ZBC was running its affairs, she was supposed to approach the relevant authorities and launch a complaint with them as opposed to approaching the ConCourt.
The other related matters involving Musangano Lodge, Benard Wekare and African Open Media Initiative were also heard. The three were represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu and Advocate Webster Chinamora.