GOVERNMENT is using underhand means to force exiled telecommunications magnate Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Media-owned Kwese TV into a partnership with either Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) or Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), papers at the High Court claim.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Independent satellite broadcasting firm, Dr Dish, represented by Masiyiwa’s associate, Tawanda Nyambirai, on Tuesday made an urgent chamber application demanding that the High Court reverses a decision by Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) chief executive officer, Obert Muganyura to cancel its licence.
According to the application, Muganyura’s actions, without board approval, are ultra vires the powers vested in him, and this has threatened over 1 600 jobs and about $4 million in projected income.
BAZ and Muganyura are listed as first and second respondents respectively.
“Monetary loss exceeding $1,4 million including staff costs at the rate of $979 500 per month. Loss of projected revenue for the months of August and September amounting to $2,4 million at the rate of $88 000 a day. The risk of
1 635 jobs (and) the risk of a write-down of more than $4,1 million already incurred in the purchase of set-top boxes (as well as) great inconvenience to the 24 145 customers, who were enjoying the service and 7 259, who had applied,” Dr Dish executive chairman Nyasha Muzavazi said in his founding affidavit.
Amid reports that Econet Media was in discussions with Zimpapers and ZBC for a possible partnership, Dr Dish was left with no option, but to speculate that the “purported cancellation” was a ploy to force Kwese TV to conclude negotiations with either Zimpapers or ZBC and “dump the applicant”.
Dr Dish also argued in the application that Muganyura’s actions without warning were a violation of the applicant’s and ordinary Zimbabweans’ freedom of expression and the media.
Muzavazi said Muganyura had no authority to either demand a show cause or withdraw his company’s licence because the tenure of the Tafataona Mahoso-led board, appointed in September 2009, expired in March 2015, 10 months before the BAZ boss’ initial letter on October 12, 2016.
In his letter cancelling Dr Dish’s licence, Muganyura argued that the company had ceased to provide the service it was licensed for.
But Muzavazi further argued that the terms and conditions prescribing award of licence were given to the BAZ board under section 46(2)(h18) and (h31), but would only have effect when “approved by the minister and published in the (Goverment) Gazette”.
“I contend that these terms and conditions never came into effect and thus could not be the basis on which applicant’s licence could be terminated. Even if the terms and conditions attached to the licence were valid, I contend that MY TV Africa was merely a provider of content and not the service applicant was licensed to provide.
“Applicant was entitled to replace the content provider or to have more than one content provider, provided that the content providers were listed in the particulars or information furnished to first respondent when applicant applied for a licence,” Muzavazi said, adding: “Applicant gave notice to first respondent on October 21, 2016 (as required by section 17 of the Act) and this notice was accepted and that acceptance was never revoked.”
Muganyura asked Dr Dish to show cause why its licence should not be cancelled after defaulting on its fees due to BAZ on October 12, 2016.
The company responded four days later indicating that its original content supplier, MY TV Africa (Dubai), had pulled out after losing its rights to the Zimbabwean territory.
In the same letter, Dr Dish gave notice to BAZ that it had engaged Econet Media (Mauritius) to take over as content provider, which was acknowledged by the authority, according to court papers.