Technological advancements have rendered sections of the Broadcasting Services Act requiring ZBC listeners to buy a receiver’s licence outmoded as that would mean mobile phones that receive radio or television signal must pay the national broadcaster for this, the Constitutional Court heard on Wednesday.
Advocate Ray Goba, who was challenging payment for ZBC listeners’ licences on behalf of Harare West legislator Ms Jessie Majome, said the laws had been overtaken by technological advancement and were now difficult to enforce.
Almost every adult Zimbabwean owns a cellphone that receives a ZBC radio signal, while others can watch television on some sophisticated gadgets other than radio and television sets. Police and ZBC agents are targeting radio and television sets in houses, lodges and cars, while leaving out those with cellphones and other sophisticated receivers.
Adv Goba said technically all cellphone users were committing an offence and that if the law enforcers were not being selective, they should arrest everyone in the country with such a gadget.
Responding to the argument, ZBC’s lawyer Mr Tazorora Musarurwa of Mambosasa Legal Practitioners, said the argument was flawed.
“I find the argument flawed because technology and the law have never moved hand in hand,” he said.
“Technology moves faster and the issue complained of is more of a policy issue which should be left to policy-makers, legislators and others.”
Adv Goba also argued that ZBC was biased and did not meet the qualities of a public broadcaster, hence it did not deserve to levy licence fees. He said a public broadcaster must be impartial and not align itself with any section of the community.
But Mr Musarurwa said Ms Majome was not challenging the constitutionality of the laws, but the conduct of ZBC, which made the case non-constitutional.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, sitting with eight other judges, reserved judgement in the matter after hearing arguments from both lawyers.
Ms Majome is seeking to invalidate provisions of the broadcasting law that compel people to pay television and radio licences to ZBC.
She argued that instead of being a public broadcaster, ZBC was biased towards Zanu-PF and that it was not giving political parties equal coverage.