State-controlled broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has refused to flight MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa’s political advertisement ahead of the crunch election tomorrow ostensibly because it breaches hate speech laws.
The ad, which the MDC Alliance pitched for a provocative first run this week, is in the form of a powerful intercession and supplication prayer for Zimbabwe by Chamisa, who is also a pastor.
ZBC said the ad was offensive and refused to run it until it was appropriately amended.
The Daily News on Sunday heard that the ZBC Marketing Department advised the MDC Alliance on Friday that the prayer was peppered with unacceptable hate speech.
The ZBC Review Board reportedly classified the prayer as a sly attack ad, raising objections to prayer lines where Chamisa says “torwa nevanoshandisa moto” and “torwa nemakarwe.”
Chamisa’s main rival President Emerson Mnangagwa is known as “garwe” or “the crocodile”, an animal famed in Zimbabwean lore for its stealth and ruthlessness.
Chamisa’s legal advisor advocate Thabani Mpofu said they were reworking the advert.
“ZBC said some lines constituted hate speech,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.
“We are amending it.”
It remains to be seen if the ad will ever be flighted on ZTV, given that the Electoral Act decrees that political parties should wrap up their campaigns by midnight last night, or 48 hours before polling day.
While Moses Banda, a top ZBC marketing official who has been handling political ads declined to comment saying he was not authorised to speak to the Press, a senior official at Pockets Hill who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Review Committee agreed that the MDC Alliance ad risked turning the public broadcaster into a forum for political attack ads.
Chamisa’s prayer ad was due to appear on both public television and radio stations.
The MDC Alliance, which is grappling with a funding shortfall, was also accused of taking its time to bring in its political advertisements.
“Chamisa’s prayer was simply subversive and disrespectful of Zimbabwe’s leadership and we were unable to air it simply because it was offensive,” said the senior ZBC official.
Chamisa tendered his advert after ZBC chief executive officer Patrick Mavhura made a call to political parties to submit their political advertisements, warning them that airtime whichwas not utilised would be forfeited.
ZBC is enjoined to allocate four hours of available purchasable time during an election period for election advertisements, which shall be distributed equitably to political parties and candidates.
The national broadcaster has been airing Current Affairs election programmes The Candidate, The Manifesto and The Discussion on both radio and television.
The ZBC News and Current Affairs department has also markedly ramped up its daily coverage of various political parties’ activities which are broadcast on radio and television news bulletins,
However, political parties and civic society groups have accused the ZBC of favouring Zanu PF in its coverage of rallies.