Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo’s revelations that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was fleeced of $24 million by top management did not come as a surprise, but the solution that he proffers smacks of disdain for long-suffering taxpayers.
Moyo told the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services on Monday that ZBC was technically insolvent and was not in a position to pay for content for its television and radio services.
He said the $24 million was siphoned through allowances for top management and the former ZBC board led by fired Zimbabwe Football Association president Cuthbert Dube.
Interestingly, Moyo revealed that some managers found to have benefited from the malfeasance that has milked the corporation dry have been allowed to return to work.
The minister says the courts should be allowed to deal with those implicated in the ZBC audit for pilfering funds.
Previous cases would not give Zimbabweans any confidence that those who looted the State institution would be brought to book.
The cases would be swept under the carpet like many others before them because the culprits have always enjoyed political protection from the ruling party.
However, what we find inconsiderate is Moyo’s plea to legislators to support his plan for the government to take over the ZBC debt the same way it did with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
Zanu PF MPs recently voted overwhelmingly to pass the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill that will see the State taking over the central bank’s staggering $1,3 billion debt.
The debt largely accrued through the central bank’s quasi-fiscal activities that saw the RBZ dishing out loans, farm inputs and even groceries to a few connected to the ruling party. RBZ debts, just like the ZBC debt, did not benefit the majority of Zimbabweans to warrant them being made a burden of the State.
To make matters worse, ZBC has refused to service the majority of the population and stubbornly stuck to its arrogant stance of serving as a Zanu PF megaphone.
ZBC currently survives on licence fees that are imposed on Zimbabweans who long stopped listening to or watching the corporation’s partisan radio and television stations.
As the audit reports have revealed, the little money that ZBC raises through these licences forced down people’s throats is abused with impunity.
It would be totally unfair for Moyo to expect taxpayers, who are increasingly struggling to put food on the table, to fund the opulent lifestyles of the same ZBC executives who treated them with disdain.
ZBC has abused its monopoly to dish out Zanu PF propaganda at the exclusion of other voices.
The repugnant content has also driven away listeners, viewers and advertisers leading to the losses that are threatening to bring the corporation to its knees and again this could not be the fault of taxpayers.
Moyo should be pushing for professionalism at ZBC and the recovery of money from those exposed by the audits as the beneficiaries of the looting.
Zanu PF could use its majority in Parliament to railroad another law to take over the ZBC debt, but sponsors of that law should live with the guilt of covering up for criminal activities.
Zimbabweans must stand up and say enough is enough.
The country already has an unsustainable debt overhang and it does not make sense to keep accruing debts that will not put the economy back on the recovery path.