Ask Takudzwa 31 – Time Capsule to “Cornelius Press”

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Takudzwa Mazwienduna is the informal leader of Zimbabwean Secular Alliance and a member of the Humanist Society of Zimbabwe. This educational series will explore secularism in Zimbabwe from an organizational perspectiveand more. Here we talk about Article 61(3) of the Zimbabwean Constitution.

*Interview conducted on July 20, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Article 61(3)(a) of the Zimbabwean Constitution (2013) states, “Broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures that…” I want to break some of this down some more. What are the main forms of “electronic media of communication” in Zimbabwe?

Takudzwa Mazwienduna: These would include radio stations that were once underground because they wouldn’t get licenses and online news publications.

Jacobsen: What does “freedom of establishment” mean here?

Mazwienduna: It means the right to get a license and legally exist as a media company in Zimbabwe. This was impossible before the 2013 constitution making process.

Jacobsen: How were “electronic media” and the “freedom of establishment” important for the foundation of Cornelius Press and for the media relevant to the Zimbabwean Secular Alliance and the Humanist Society of Zimbabwe?

Mazwienduna: We started Cornelius Press in South Africa which is a lot more liberal when it comes to media policy than Zimbabwe.

Jacobsen: Article 61(3)(a) of the Zimbabwean Constitution (2013) states, “…are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution; and…” If the government is a military state, what does “regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution” mean in Zimbabwe? How are the rights and freedoms of expression curtailed in the context of a military state and then in a country with a renewed constitution (2013) as an effort to escape its colonial history?

Mazwienduna: The Zimbabwean military seldom respects the law. This regulation is one of those loopholes that the government loves pointing to after abused journalists take it to court.

Jacobsen: If still leaving the colonial history, what does this mean for the differential application of military force against protesting white Zimbabweans and black Zimbabweans if at all?

Mazwienduna: The 2013 constitutional reforms were a sham for the most part. They respect military force in Zimbabwe now rather than the law. Even the soldiers usually let you know when you try to refer to the constitution while they are abusing you, “The law doesn’t work here. You go to the police if you want to talk about the law, not here.”

Jacobsen: Article 61(3)(b) of the Zimbabwean Constitution (2013) states, “…are independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests.” Regarding (61(3)(a) and (b), how are the “State licensing procedures” fair and unfair?

Mazwienduna: The bureaucracy and corruption surrounding the licensing process make it very unfair. Nothing is that straight forward with the Zimbabwean government.

Jacobsen: What do you see as a way forward to bring the reality closer to the constitution of 2013?

Mazwienduna: Civic awareness should be raised and Zimbabwean citizens should unapologetically inquire about constitutionalism with every government policy or operation. They should pressure government institutions to be accountable and daily atrocities by the military should be reported and condemned

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Takudzwa.

Mazwienduna: It’s always a pleasure Scott.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

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Image Credit: Takudzwa Mazwienduna.

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