Just a day after the launch of Kwese TV in Zimbabwe, the government was quick to dismiss claims that Kwese had been given an operating licence, which was much to the displeasure of many a Zimbabwean.
Many Zimbabweans took to social media to express their anguish when the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe refuted claims that Kwese had been given an operating licence. Many Zimbabweans suspected a political factor in such a decision, as Kwese is widely viewed with no doubt as the only competitor to DStv which is owned by Multichoice.
Kwese TV, which is owned by Econet Media, was suspended by Econet after the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe issued a statement saying that Kwese did not have a valid satellite TV operating licence. Dr Dish, a company licenced to provide pay satellite TV issued a statement saying that it had partnered with Econet Media to enable the latter to issue Kwese TV services in the country, before BAZ watered down the claims.
Many Zimbabweans have already accused the government of clamping down on press freedom as some suggest that Kwese TV may enable repressed voices to be heard. A big factor has also been the fact that Zimbabwe’s government has a stake in Multichoice Zimbabwe through their company Transmedia, which essentially means DStv in Zimbabwe is owned by the government. Therefore Zimbabwe’s government is seeing Kwese TV as a competitor and not as an investor with the huge potential of creating many opportunities and employment for journalists, technicians, filmmakers and so forth.
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Any government is supposed to facilitate the creation of investment opportunities in its respective country but as can be seen in Zimbabwe, refusing to grant Kwese a licence is a mere move to maintain the monopoly of DStv. Most probably, one of the main reasons why the government acquired shares in Multichoice Zimbabwe was to ensure that they maintain a repressive hand in the media space.
The Zimbabwean government has been infamously known for fearing media fall into the hands of private companies. Only government owned companies or those owned by politicians have been granted licences by the ZANU-PF led government, and also there has been only one broadcaster in Zimbabwe, something which tells us of how the government in Zimbabwe does not want private companies to be in charge of the media.
The government hence sees Kwese TV as a threat to freedom of expression. The media in Zimbabwe has been tightly controlled by the government, somehow betraying a retrogressive government. A prominent lawyer in Zimbabwe, Fadzayi Mahere, wrote on her Twitter account that if the ZANU-PF led government was true to its message of creating employment and harnessing indigenization skills, it would not have any problem in granting a licence to Kwese TV. Kwese can be a huge game-changer in terms of content in Zimbabwe, but seemingly the government is wary of the impacts on independent TV in a country where freedom of expression is only on paper.
From the recent events, it would be interesting to see how Kwese TV and government will reach an agreement on operating terms, considering that when Strive Masiiwa launched Econet (of which Kwese is under) he struggled a lot to get a licence.