The Politics of Media Policy Making in a Contested Transition: The Case of Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity, 2009–2013
In February 2009, following a decade of economic and political crisis, leaders of Zimbabwe’s three major political parties formed a coalition government to oversee political and economic reforms and create enabling conditions for free and fair elections. Among the key sectors identified for reform was the media sector, which had been characterized by state domination, draconian legislation, and partisan journalism. This article explores the politics of media policy making in the context of this contested transition in Zimbabwe. It examines the key sites of contention and compromise among the political principals and their agents in the government, such as liberalization of airwaves, appointment of media regulatory authorities, and media law reform. Analysis of policy documents as well as in-depth interviews constitute the methodology of this study. The article argues that the policy-making process was characterized by the dominance of competing elites in government seeking to create a media system that could help individual political parties consolidate power in anticipation of the post-coalition government. There was more continuity than change in the policy processes and eventual outcomes.