Did the First Lady pay ZBC for live coverage of meet the people tours?

By Daniel Chigundu

BINGA NORTH legislator Prince Dubeko Sibanda has asked the Deputy Minister of Media Information and Broadcasting Service Thokozile Mathuthu to inquire and report to Parliament whether the First Lady Grace Mugabe paid ZBC for the live coverage she got for her various rallies across the country.

The resource constrained state broadcaster  gave live coverage to all of the First Lady’s political rallies dubbed  “meet the people tours” which were held in all of the country’ s 10 provinces from late 2014 before being stopped early this year.

According to ZBC Audit report conducted by KPMG Chartered Accountants, ZBC was let down by poor corporate management which resulted in it making losses and being fleeced of US$25 million by its board members and executives some of which are still answering charges in the courts of law.

Speaking during a question and answer session in Parliament recently, honourable Sibanda said ZBC continue to operate in the same manner which was discouraged by in the audit and that it was important that the house be appraised on whether the broadcaster was getting revenue live coverage events.

“The Minister in her response indicated that the major problem that was being faced by ZBC had to do with poor corporate management. My understanding of poor corporate management includes not only the content aspect but also includes how the business is conducted in an organisation.

“We have continued after the KPMG audit to see ZBC following certain events. I am not sure and I need to be appraised by the minister whether those events are paid for. For example, wherever the First Lady goes, ZBC also goes.

“Is ZBC gaining revenue out of those live broadcasts that are done on an individual? We have not seen the ZBC doing live broadcasts on other important national events, for example where national leadership will be in attendance. However, we have seen it following the wife of the President. Is that generating income to ZBC?” Honourable Sibanda quizzed.

In her response the Deputy Minister Mathuthu said anyone is free to invite ZBC for coverage and they will gladly attend provided their equipment is not engaged elsewhere.

“I want to thank the Honourable Member for that important question and observation. I can assure you that the duty of ZBC is to broadcast. If invited to a specific event, ZBC will attend where resources are available.

“If other national leaders are holding meetings and cameras are engaged elsewhere, it may not be possible at that time to follow them and broadcast live. I can assure the Member that the challenge with ZBC is content. We need content so that we broadcast what the public wishes to view,” Mathuthu said.

The Binga North legislator however raised a point of order that his question had not been fully by the Deputy Minister.

“Madam speaker my question was not fully answered, is the First Lady paying for all those live broadcasts and why is it that every time the First Lady has got an activity, ZBC appears to have resources to follow her,” he said.

Deputy Minister Mathuthu however said she could not answer the question and asked that it be put in writing so that she can go and research on the matter.

“I want to thank the Honourable Member once again and apologise for not attending to the other part of your question. I want the Honourable Member to put the question in writing so that I check whether it has been paid,” Mathuthu said.

This however is not the first time that the First Lady’s activities have been questioned in Parliament, earlier in the year another legislator Eddie Cross wanted to know whether it was treasury that was financing the “meet the people tours”.

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