COMMISSIONS WATCH 1/2020
ZIMBABWE MEDIA COMMISSION
[10th February 2020]
Parliament Invites Public to Nominate Candidates for Appointment
to the Zimbabwe Media Commission
The Constitution, in section 248, tells us that there is a Zimbabwe Media Commission known as the Zimbabwe Media Commission consisting of:
- a chairperson appointed by the President after consultation with Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders; and
- eight other members appointed by the President from a list of not fewer than twelve nominees submitted by the same Committee.
In fact, however, the Commission has had neither a chairperson nor any other members since the 31st December 2014, when the terms of office of the previous chairperson and members expired. The staff of the Commission, including its Chief Executive Officer, Dr T. Mahoso, have continued to carry out at least some functions of the Commission, such as accrediting journalists.
At long last steps are being taken to remedy this unsatisfactory and unconstitutional state of affairs, probably because the Government’s Bill to operationalise the Commission currently awaiting attention by Parliament: the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill [link]. A few days ago the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders published advertisements in newspapers calling on the public to nominate persons for its consideration for inclusion on the list of twelve nominees to be submitted to the President. The full advertisement is set out below, but important points to note are:
- there is a deadline – nominations must be received at Parliament before end of business hours on Friday 28th February 2020;
- an official nomination form must be used – this may be obtained from Parliament [details in the advertisement] or can be downloaded from the Veritas website [link].
CALL FOR PUBLIC NOMINATIONS FOR PERSONS TO SERVE ON ZIMBABWE MEDIA COMMISSION
The Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO) of the Parliament of Zimbabwe is mandated in terms of sections 237 and 258 of the Constitution, to nominate candidates for appointment by His Excellency, the President, to serve as Commissioners on the Zimbabwe Media Commission provided for in Chapter 13 Part 5 of the Constitution.
Vacancies have arisen in the Zimbabwe Media Commission after the expiry of the term of office of the Commissioners.
Accordingly, the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders is hereby calling on the Public to nominate persons to be considered for appointment to this Commission.
The functions of the Commission and the person specifications are given below.
Functions of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (section 248 of the Constitution)
“(1) The Zimbabwe Media Commission has the following functions —
- to uphold, promote and develop freedom of the media;
- to promote and enforce good practices and ethics in the media;
- to monitor broadcasting in the public interest and, in particular, to ensure fairness and diversity of views broadly representing Zimbabwean society;
- to encourage the formulation of codes of conduct for persons employed in the media and, where no such code exists, to formulate and enforce one;
- to receive and consider complaints from the public and, where appropriate, to take action against journalists and other persons employed in the media or broadcasting who are found to have breached any law or any code of conduct applicable to them;
- to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe have fair and wide access to information;
- to encourage the use and development of all the officially recognised languages of Zimbabwe;
- to encourage the adoption of new technology in the media and in the dissemination of information;
- to promote fair competition and diversity in the media; and
- to conduct research into issues relating to freedom of the press and of expression, and in that regard to promote reforms in the law.
(2) An Act of Parliament may confer power on the Zimbabwe Media Commission to—
- conduct investigations and inquiries into¾
- any conduct or circumstance that appears to threaten the freedom of the media; and
- the conduct of the media;
- take or recommend disciplinary action against media practitioners who are found to have breached any law or any code of conduct applicable to them.
(3) An Act of Parliament may provide for the regulation of the media.”
Members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission must be chosen for—
- their integrity and;
- their competence in administration and;
- their knowledge and understanding of human rights issues and ;
- their knowledge of the best practices in media matters.
Nomination material must consist of a typewritten submission of no more than two A4 pages long stating why the person nominated is a suitable candidate together with a completed nomination form which can be obtained at Parliament Offices (Counsel to Parliament – 3rd Floor Room 306 or Human Resources – 4th Floor Room 405) or downloaded from the website: www.parlzim.gov.zw
Nominations must be addressed to the Clerk of Parliament in sealed envelopes clearly marked with the name of the Commission. These may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, posted, or hand delivered to:
The Clerk of Parliament
Parliament of Zimbabwe
Cnr. K. Nkrumah Avenue and Third Street
P.O. Box CY 298 Causeway Harare
Closing date for the submission of nominations is end of business hours on Friday 28th February 2020.
Other Relevant Points for Would-be Candidates and their Nominators
Ineligible persons [Constitution, section 320(3)]
The following persons are not eligible for appointment: members of Parliament, members of provincial or metropolitan councils, members of local authorities [city and town councillors, local board members, rural district councillors] and members of government-controlled entities [board members of parastatals and government-controlled companies].
Commission members to be non-political [Constitution, section 236]
Commissioners must not, in the exercise of their functions, act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause, prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause, or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
A member of a political party or organisation may be appointed to the Commission, but must without delay and in any event within thirty days of appointment relinquish the membership – failure to relinquish within 30 days means automatic and immediate forfeiture of the appointment. If a Commission member becomes a member of a political party or organisation, he or she immediately ceases to be a Commission member.
Term of office and remuneration [Constitution, section 320)
The term of office is five years, renewable only once. Remuneration, allowances and other benefits are fixed by or under an Act of Parliament. The current – and unsatisfactory – Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill states that Commission members, other than the chairperson, must not be full-time, but does not make provision for fixing remuneration or allowances.
What Happens after Parliament Receives Nominations?
Section 237(1) of the Constitution spells out what must happen after the Committee receives nominations. The procedure is the same for all five Chapter 12 independent commissions.
Once nominations have been received from the public, the Committee will have to conduct public interviews of prospective candidates, prepare a list of at least twelve nominees for appointment, and then submit the list to the President.
The President can choose any eight appointees from the list submitted but his choice is restricted to the persons on the list – and there is no provision allowing the President to request the Committee to compile a fresh list.
In the light of the five-year delay that has already occurred, it seems appropriate to remind all involved that section 324 of the Constitution lays down that all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay.
Appoint of Commission Chairperson
The procedure for the appointment of the chairperson of the Commission is separate and different. It is a matter for the President’s discretion but the President’s decision must be made after consultation with the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders. Section 339(2) of the Constitution stipulates how this consultation must be conducted but leaves the final decision to the President, who is not obliged to follow any recommendations made by the Committee.