Police detain motorist over ZBC licence

Police roadblock in Zimbabwe

By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
18 March 2014

A motorist was briefly “detained” by Mutare police on Tuesday for failing to display a radio listener’s licence, according to a lawyers’ group.

Irimayi Mukwishu was driving along the Mutare-Masvingo highway when police stopped him at roadblock and demanded to see his ZBC licence, according to the Zim Lawyers for Human Rights.

When Mukwishu failed to produce the document the police slapped him with a fine which he refused to pay, leading to the arrest.

Officers then impounded Mukwishu’s vehicle and took him to Mutare Police Station where they formally charged him.

His lawyer Blessing Nyamaropa said police accused his client of possessing a receiver without a licence, in breach of Section 38 of the Broadcasting Services Act.

Mukwishu denies the charge and, according to his lawyer, this is because he feels that compelling him to have a licence for a station he does not listen to violates his rights.

“There are other stations broadcasting in the country and a radio receiver does not mean that one is listening to the ZBC.

“My client feels that linking his radio receiver to the ZBC denies him his right to freedom of choice,” Nyamaropa told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday.

The police released Mukwishu and indicated that they will proceed by way of summons. However his lawyer said he was confident that Mukwishu will be vindicated.

“There are pending cases in higher courts where other Zimbabweans are challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the same section of the Broadcasting Services Act under which Mukwishu is being charged.

“The provisions violate people’s rights and I think we need to move past policies that curtail people’s rights. People should be able to pay for what they listen to or view through pay-per-view schemes,” Nyamaropa added.

Last year, lawyer and MDC-T legislator for Harare West Jessie Majome appealed to the Constitutional Court to try and force the State broadcaster to encrypt its signals so that only those who wished to access its “biased programmes” can do so.

Majome refused to pay her ZBC licence. She argued that sections of the country’s broadcasting laws infringed on her rights by providing a legal framework for ZBC’s monopoly over the airwaves. The ConCourt is yet to rule on the matter.

Earlier this year the government announced plans to scrap the controversial listeners’ fees that are being indiscriminately charged to anyone with a receiver.

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