Community radio projects under threat

The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) has condemned what it believes is an attempt by the Mugabe regime to target community radio initiatives in the country.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa’s Behind the Headlines programme Gift Mambipiri, the ZACRAS chairperson, said police officers from Gwanda visited Mvelo Zondo, a committee member of the Ntepe rural community radio station. The officers wanted to know the project’s ‘agenda and activities’.

The police officers who were from the Law and Order Section told Zondo that they had been led to believe that “Ntepe was established with the goal of disseminating information which undermines the President.” Mambipiri said these ‘unfounded allegations’ sought to “derail the operations of community radios.”

Mambipiri said only three months ago Cain Mathema, who is the Governor and Resident Minister of Bulawayo and also ZANU-PF deputy secretary for Information and Publicity, had labeled Bulawayo based community radio station Radio Dialogue, as one of the organisations calling for regime change.

“Community radios are established with a mandate of advancing community needs and aspirations. Such blatant acts of intimidating community radio practitioners are retrogressive in the fight towards the realisation of a Zimbabwe consisting of vibrant and flourishing community radios,” Mambipiri said.

In his speech to mark World Radio Day, Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu talked about government efforts to expand radio and television transmission to most parts of the country. Shamu said three television transmitters were already installed in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Victoria Falls while construction of towers was underway in Mount Darwin and Mudzi.

Commentators however say that what is needed are different voices, not merely the expansion of the reach of the present ZANU PF monopoly. Despite agreement by the three leaders in the coalition government that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe needs to be re-constituted, the same body gave two FM licences for commercial radio stations to organisations sympathetic to ZANU PF.

The granting of licences to Zimpapers Talk Radio and Supa Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications was described as a scandal by many observers. Allegations have also been made that the winning bidders were recruiting staff and buying equipment weeks before the results were announced.

No community radio station licences have been issued. – SW Radio Africa

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