In the event of a licence being issued, section 11(1)(a) of the BSA empowers the Minister of
Information to impose different terms and conditions to different licensees, meaning that the
Minister is at liberty to impose impossible conditions to those licensees the Minister may not
like for any reason. There is nothing to prevent the Minister imposing certain onerous terms
and conditions on any particular licensee.
Section 11(2) states that these conditions are binding and their violation is enough grounds
for the Minister to revoke the licence. In addition, the Minister may impose the conditions at
any time during the tenure of the licence. The discretion of the Minister is therefore not
restrained. This is certainly more than necessary for the technical administration of the
electronic media.
Further, all licensees are required by law to make one hour cumulatively per week of their
broadcasting airtime available for the purpose of enabling the Government to explain its
policies to the nation (section 11(5). In addition to these burdensome licensing conditions,
there are also specific conditions for community and commercial broadcasting. These are
discussed briefly below.
Community broadcasting:
Part IV of the BSA states that it is illegal for a community broadcaster to broadcast “any
political matter” (Section 10(1)(a)). Without a universally agreed legal definition of what
constitutes a “political matter”, this clause exposes all community broadcasters to the caprices
and whims of the Minister of Information, who has the discretionary power to determine what
is political and what is not political.
For example, a programme on prices hikes in the transport sector or a programme of the
deteriorating economy can easily fall into the ambit of “political matters” since eventually
government policies are going to be scrutinised. This means that community broadcasters are
in fact gagged even before they go on air, and this constitutes an abridgement of individuals’
rights to freely express themselves as guaranteed under Section 20(1) of the Zimbabwean
The phrasing of this section seems to be intended to ensure that the Minister of Information
has sweeping powers in terms of terminating community licences against communities that
dare broadcast any matter that the government may not like. Unless these provisions are
removed or the wording clearly defined, it is most unlikely that community broadcasters will
survive under such regulations.
Commercial broadcasting:
According to the regulations, a commercial broadcasting licence is valid for two years and is
only renewable at the instance of the Minister of Information. This impractical licence period is
clearly unconstitutional in that it violates section 20 of the Constitution by unduly restricting
the exercise of the right to receive and impart information, views and opinions for citizens.
The restriction seems directed at ensuring that only a few people, if any, will apply for
licences. Further, like with community radio licence restrictions, the two-year long licence
terms have a negative impact in encouraging people to invest in broadcast media in the
country for several reasons.
Firstly, broadcasting equipment and programme production can cost billions of dollars. If a
commercial broadcaster is to invest in these, they have to be assured that they will be able to
recoup their investment capital and in a poorly performing economy such as Zimbabwe’s, this
can take up to five years. Clearly, the two-year license period, whose renewal is uncertain
and based on the goodwill of the Minister of Information, makes broadcasting a particularly
high-risk investment venture. For example, the only television service in the country, the
Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) has not made any profits since independence although it
operates in a monopolistic environment and is subsidised by taxpayers!


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