Tired of waiting: Radio Dialogue

Bulawayo-based community radio station, Radio Dialogue, has rapped the Zimbabwean government for its refusal to grant the station an operating licence, 10 years after it first applied for one.

Inside the Radio Dialogue studio in Bulawayo.
Inside the Radio Dialogue studio in Bulawayo.

As the station celebrated its first decade early this week, its Board Chairman, Peter Zwide Khumalo, said his effort to engage with the government had been without any success.

“No-one can imagine that a country that calls itself democratic could take more than 30 years to liberalise the airwaves,” said Khumalo. “Everyone acknowledges that radio is the best way to communicate because it has a wider reach, especially in Africa, where there is poor telecommunication network. But our government prefers to govern people who do not have access to information.

“The liberation struggle was fought for total freedom, including the freedom to be masters of our own destiny; freedom to be able to tell our stories, hopes and aspirations, without any hindrance.”

He bemoaned the fact that the station, which is based in Bulawayo city centre, had spent the greater part of its 10 years seeking a licence, in a frustrating environment that has restricted it to social media and road shows.

“We have met the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication more than twice, all of them promising that they will do something. We have engaged the past three Ministers of Information. In 2009, the Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, visited our offices and was impressed by our plans and set up, and promised to do something,” added Khumalo.

“A follow up meeting was held in his offices in Harare with all the community radio initiatives, but nothing has come out of all these meetings. Article 19 of the GPA is very clear that community radio stations should be licensed. The GNU has even failed to set up a properly constituted Broadcasting Authority Board.”

Khumalo blasted government officials who have claimed that community radio would cause divisions and fan tribalism and hate speech.

“We have never heard the same officials complaining about the hate speech on ZBC. There is nothing tribal about Radio Dialogue or any other community radio station in Zimbabwe. We are very Zimbabwean, inclusive of Bulawayo, and we are proud of who we are. The people of Bulawayo have waited too long to have their radio station on air, and they have lost patience with this government. They can not wait any longer.”

He called for the immediate implementation of Article 19 of the GPA and agitated for the proper constitution of the Broadcasting of Authority of Zimbabwe Board.

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