Some Opposition members of parliament have expressed mixed reactions over proposals to amend the ZNBC and the IBA Acts.
Debating on the policy statement which was read for the second time in the House today, a few parliamentarians supported the proposal to take away the responsibility of collecting TV levy from ZNBC but expressed unhappiness with the way ZNBC has been packaging its news.
Monze central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu was the first one to debate and charged that the national broadcaster had been turned into a PF broadcaster.
“The TV levy was used to perpetuate the abuse of ZNBC on the opposition and other members of the public. The earlier intention of having a TV levy was not intended to service the public broadcaster. Unfortunately in this country, we do not have a public broadcaster. What we have is the PF broadcaster and it was confirmed by one member on your right when he was debating the budget for the Ministry of Information where he indicated that members of the opposition have no right to be heard on ZNBC. Why would we continue supporting an institution that does not serve our purpose? I agree that this money must be taken away from ZNBC if this bill has to pass,” Mwiimbu said.
Mwiimbu further alleged that ZNBC was aiding and abating corruption in the country.
Mwiimbu also warned the Independent Broadcasting Authority not to use the monies collected from ZNBC to fund the PF propaganda.
“We do not support the idea but when this money is taken to IBA, IBA shouldn’t start funding PF propaganda wing. ZNBC has been operating unprofessionally. They are suppose to be a public broadcaster but they are not. They should emulate what obtains in South Africa. South African broadcasting corporation airs members of the public who are critical of government, there is no discrimination. ZNBC can even discriminate members of the House here whenever you raise issues, as long as the issue is against the government, ZNBC will not carry it. ZNBC, Mr Speaker, has been aiding and abating corruption in this country,” said Mwiimbu.
“Members of the public have been raising issues pertaining to corruption, impropriety, and abuse of public resources, they don’t want to report such issues. What is the purpose of having an institution that is funded by government that does not protect the interest and the image of the country? There is no need. And now, after digital migration, members of the pubic have decoders and they are paying to top, whatever it is called, Top Star. They are paying every month and you want them to continue paying TV levy? You are even increasing TV levy? You know very well that Zambians are highly taxed. Why should we continue taxing Zambians for issues that do not benefit them? We will move an amendment to ensure that we totally scrap TV levies in this country. We don’t want it to be taken to anyone. IBA is one of the institutions of PF. It has been targeting independent broadcasting houses in this country…I agree that the money must be taken away from ZNBC but I disagree that money must be given back to ZNBC. We support the removal of the levy from the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation or Dead-NBC Because it is dead as a public broadcaster, we will move an amendment.”
And Roan PF member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili urged ZNBC employees not to be intimidated by politicians because it was the people who paid their salaries.
“Personally, having been minister in this ministry, I do not see anything wrong with introducing the levy because I know for sure that ZNBC needs money for its operations. ZNBC lacks basic equipment such as transport, cameras, etc and that from the advertisements, they have been failing year in-year out to raise money to improve on the performance. But ZNBC must not be seen to be inclined to PF. Of late we have seen that there is no coverage of the opposition or anybody who speaks against government on ZNBC,” said Kambwili.
“This is very sad and I think its unfair to the people that pay the TV levy because it is not only PF cadres who pay the TV levy, its all Zambian and the people running ZNBC through the minister must know that they have the responsibility to the people of Zambia who pay their salaries through TV levy, and not be responsible to the PF or the PF government. So my warning to ZNBC management is that we will not be intimidated. I was at that ministry and I can stand out head high to challenge anybody at ZNBC whether I interfeared with their operations. I always told them that this idea of every news starting with the president, you are decampaigning the president. So that habit of ZNBC interference from state house must stop because ZNBC must be allowed to operate independently. And we need to see a change in the way ZNBC news is structured.”
Meanwhile, Kafue UPND member of parliament Mirriam Chonya wondered how IBA would collect TV levies when it was a regulator.
“IBA is suppose to perform the role of a regulator, so how does it collect TV levies. Its like us asking the Energy Regulation Board to be collecting monies for electricity instead of Zesco itself doing it or indeed asking TEVETA to be collecting monies from institutions when the remedy is that institutions should collect from students. Why cant IBA or indeed ZNBC learn something from this separation of duties? I note the swiftness with which the ministry has brought these two amendments, I wish they were moving with the same speed in also dealing with other laws that we have been waiting on this ministry to bring to us. We have been anxious to receive the freedom of information bill for instance and look at it in this house and pass it in the interest of Zambians. But this has not happened over so many years. It appears that this government seems to be a money monger, it seems to have an insaciable appetite for getting money from people’s pockets,” said Chonya.
Kabwe central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube, also contributed to the debates, saying there was need to put up measures that would avoid the duplication of TV levy collection.
“My focus is that we reduce duplication of the collection of these TV levies. So why don’t we put up the measures for example if its Topstar that is going to be charging people for watching Topstar, why doesn’t ZNBC collect money through Topstar, if it is DSTV, why don’t we collect money from DSTV as opposed to having an unaccounted for monies. I think it is a burden to some people like the unemployed to find when you pay for electricity, they deduct, when you pay water, they deduct, ZNBC will also come and deduct from you and I think its not actually painting a good picture because when people are buying a TV, the official receipt for a TV, they deduct K36 which is 12 months TV levy. When they go home and pay for electricity, Zesco will do the same,” said Ngulube.
And in summarizing the debate on the proposed amendment of the two named Acts, Information Minister Kampamba Mulenga assured the House that their grievances would be addressed in the Acts under review.
“I just want to assure the honorable members that their areas of grievances will be addressed in the amendment of the IBA of 2017,” said Mulenga.
Mulenga further said the amendment was necessary to pave way for the introduction of value for money performance mechanism.