INFORMATION Minister Jonathan Moyo’s decision to unbundle the ZBC at the turn of the century was meant to “weaken (the institution) and then buy” the separate units for a song as part of a grand plan to oust President Robert Mugabe, a former board member has sensationally claimed.
Retired Brigadier General Benjamin Mabenge, a former member of the ZBC board of directors told NewZimbabwe.com in an exclusive interview that Moyo’s plan was tied to the infamous 2005 Tsholotsho plot which sought to weaken Mugabe’s hold on power.
Mabenge was part of the ZBC board headed by Cuthbert Dube which was dismissed by Moyo last year after failing to come up with a turnaround strategy for the insolvent broadcaster.
It was later revealed that the board had done nothing to stop ZBC managers paying themselves massive salaries while ordinary workers went without pay for seven months and the broadcaster struggled with debts of more than $40 million.
Mabenge however hit out at Moyo, claiming that: “The unbundling of ZBC at the turn of the century was meant to cannibalise and reduce mutual resistance by departments at the ZBC.
“Moyo (wanted) to weaken institutions at ZBC as well as reduce resistance with a view to (later) buying (the unbundled units) for a song – at almost zero value – and then using them to prop-up their pet project to remove the President (Mugabe).
“It was part of an intra-party rebellion now infamously referred to as the Tsholotsho Declaration in which Moyo wanted to push for the ouster of the (Zanu PF) leadership and now they are reviving it.”
The ZBC was cut up into several stand-alone units, each with a well-paid CEO and management teams in a development that, ultimately, proved a commercial disaster. Some radio stations were moved from the corporation’s Pockets Hill base in Harare to towns such as Bulawayo and Gweru in a programme that was later reversed.
Mabenge said the grand plan was to create institutions that would support the takeover of power fronted by then Rural Amenities and now Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa is said to head a Zanu PF faction battling a rival group led by Vice President Joice Mujuru in Zanu PF’s increasingly bitter succession struggle.
Moyo was removed from government and, subsequently Zanu PF, in a huge fall-out from the so-called Tsholotsho debacle with six provincial chairpersons also suspended from the party.
Mabenge said the mess at the ZBC can be traced back to structures Moyo created during his first stint as Information Minister between 2000 and 2005.
“Now we wake-up to be told that Moyo is cleaning up the mess at the ZBC. How does that happen when he is the father of the mess?”
Although equipment at Pockets Hill is no longer fit for purpose with managers recently telling legislators that it was a miracle they managed to put out live news broadcasts, the corporation agreed a US$8 million equipment upgrade and digitalisation programme between 2000 and 2005 which saw its studios re-kitted by Iran.
ZBC never repaid the US$8 million loan guaranteed by the government with a tobacco growing project managers tried to start at Pockets Hill in Harare’s Highlands area failing to take off.
Mabenge, said the Iran-Zimbabwe-ZBC digitalisation deal never benefited the country adding it was the subject of investigations by government’s corruption busters.
“Moyo was also the principal of the Iran deal that brought in obsolete equipment and was, at some time, under investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission,” he said.
“The equipment never worked and now he wants ZBC to pay. We refused during our tenure to honour an agreement that we clearly saw was going to prejudice the government.”
Moyo has been at the forefront of a fight against graft and first targeted the ZBC board which was fired while CEO Happison Muchechetere was suspended.
Suspended along with Muchechetere were top lieutenants including former finance director Elliot Kasu. Both Muchechetere and Kasu are now challenging the decisions and have demanded their full salaries from the financially crippled parastatal. NewZimbabwe