- Zimbabwe's principal opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has again been denied access to state media. Political ads from the party were refused by the state broadcaster because they were "criticising the government."
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi protested the decision taken by state broadcaster ZBC to ban party political advert for the opposition. ZBC's refusal was "in contravention of SADC principles governing the conduct of elections in member countries," said the spokesman, referring to recent agreements in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), where Zimbabwe is member.
The MDC had submitted the advert to the state broadcaster for transmission on national radio in early December, together with a guarantee of payment. ZBC however refused to air it. "We submitted this advert with the view to having it broadcast by ZBC radio," said MDC spokesman Nyathi.
- ZBC radio refused to flight it on the basis that it has some offensive reference to [the ruling party] ZANU-PF, added Mr Nyathi. "We don't believe that it was turned down because of its content."
The opposition party said it believed that the problem was simply that Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and the ZANU-PF party "simply refuse to adhere to the SADC Mauritius protocol." One of the electoral principles contained in that SADC protocol provides for "equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media."
The Zimbabwean government undertook to abide by the protocol at the SADC summit in Mauritius in August this year. According to the MDC, however, opposition access to sate media is "still far from reality."
ZBC officials at the state broadcaster's commercial offices in Mbare had used less than half an hour to take the decision to refuse to transmit the advert, saying that MDC adverts should not criticise the government, or make any reference to the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.
This "in effect prevents any campaigning on national radio by opposition parties as they are unable to challenge the ruling party's record," noted the MDC spokesman. The opposition is to focus much of its campaign on the government's economic policies, which have led to a collapse of the economy in Zimbabwe.
The MDC however is not letting the decision by the pro-government ZBC officials stop the party from airing its message to Zimbabwean voters. The banned advert was broadcast on 'SW Radio Africa', which broadcasts to Zimbabwe, and on South Africa's 'Radio 702' this week.
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