Chamisa court case broadcast commendable, but ...

Chamisa court case broadcast commendable, but ...
Published: 20 August 2018 (430 Views)
THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deserves a pat on the back for allowing State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to provide a live broadcast of proceedings on opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa's presidential petition at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Wednesday, as this allows for all and sundry to closely follow the arguments, given the importance of the matter.

However, given the capacity issues bedevilling the State broadcaster and general lack of trust in its impartiality, the JSC should have allowed the international media access to broadcast the events live without resorting to what will likely be a poor quality ZBC feed.

Experience has taught us that when covering parliamentary debates live, the ZBC has conveniently cut off feed when critical issues that put the establishment on the spot are being debated.

There is an uneasy feeling that the ZBC could once again "play games" at critical moments on this once-in-a-lifetime event.

ZBC has been accused in court papers of supporting Zanu PF, one of the interested parties and the temptation that they will cut off argument from Chamisa's lawyers can be compelling.

For the need of establishing maximum transparency that will ensure long-term peace, some private broadcaster seen as neutral should be given the same right to broadcast live. If the case is not handled well in the court of public opinion, there is nothing that can rule out the possibility of violence after the court case because stakes are high.

Given that the JSC has okayed live broadcasting, had they refused to do so, it would have created the impression that there was something to hide, or that they would have joined hands with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to ensure that the public would never really know the whole truth of what transpired during the July 30 elections.

This is also important, considering that Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba, who will be in the grilling line, is part and parcel of the country's judiciary system and they had been fears that the judges on the ConCourt bench would sympathise with her as one of their own.

The national broadcaster will distribute the live signal feed to other broadcasters who may be interested in covering the court proceedings live.

Chamisa's petition is of national, if not international, interest. Most people in Zimbabwe and the Diaspora will likely closely follow the case as it has a bearing on their future.

There have been calls from various quarters to have live broadcasting and streaming of the matter for various reasons.

The live broadcasting of the proceedings is in the best interest of the country as it helps demystify some half-truths likely to be spewed by social media pundits bent on whipping people's emotions to satisfy their own selfish political ends.

This will also be a demonstration that the judiciary is not embedded in Zanu PF, which is an interested party in this legal saga.

Transparency is very crucial for national security. The post-July 30 election violence that rocked the country and led to the death of seven people after soldiers opened fire in the crowded streets of Harare should provide a sharp lesson.

The post-election violence could have been avoided if the Zec had been acting in a transparent manner and avoid hiding behind the cover of national security.

Opposition political parties made several demands, ranging from the biometric voter register, disclosure on the number of ballot papers, a demand to have them tested, among others, but all these fell on deaf ears and the lack of trust that followed partly caused the post-poll chaos that led to needless loss of lives.

The live broadcast will also put judges under pressure to make pragmatic judgments, well knowing the world will be watching and this will be a positive move in the interest of justice.

But while the granting of ZBC is a noble idea, a lot could have been made to allow international media organisations to broadcast live the court proceedings.

ZBC has been accused in court papers of supporting Zanu PF, one of the interested parties and the temptation that they will cut off argument from Chamisa's lawyers can be compelling.

- newsday

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