MUTARE – Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe has admitted that government issued commercial radio broadcasting licences to individuals and companies that do not have the capacity.
Speaking at the launch of Diamond FM in Mutare recently, Mushohwe said his office is being inundated by those who were turned down demanding that they be given licences since the recipients are not yet operational.
This is because only two of the eight radio stations that were given licences over two years ago are now operational.
“My ministry has been approached by many who were turned down who are saying those you gave the licences have not done anything and if you had given us we would have operationalised them by now,” Mushowe said.
So far, Ya FM in Zvishavane, and the recently launched Diamond FM and, are the only radio stations that have gone on air.
“If Zimpapers are the only ones capable…then we can as well give them all the other six…we will not allow people to hold on to licences for speculative purposes,” said Mushohwe.
Media advocates say most of the people and companies that received licences have links to Zanu PF but do not have the capacity.
Betraying government’s reluctance to license community radio stations, Mushohwe took a dig at a call by a United States of America envoy to free the airwaves.
“Government is seized with that matter…those who want to help us we will invite them and not the other way round,” said Mushohwe.
In a country governed by a party infamous for stifling media freedom — there are fears that the eagerly-anticipated community radio stations could suffer a stillbirth.
Permanent secretary in the Information ministry George Charamba recently said Manicaland’s mountainous terrain could end up exhausting radio frequencies.
Charamba said the fate of community radio stations lies with provinces.
“We have a problem with Manicaland. It’s a very scenic region but there is a downside to it…there will be need for gap filling… If they are not sufficient for Manicaland then we will not have community radio stations anywhere else,” Charamba said.
He said his ministry is currently installing primary infrastructure in the analogue to digital broadcasting migration.
“We will do the primary infrastructure for our radios and televisions and then after that we will see how much of the frequencies we would have used,” he said.
Director of urban communications in the ministry of Information, Anywhere Mutambudzi recently expressed the long-held government suspicion on community radio initiatives.
“If there is funding from outside the country, it should not be tied to certain agendas and so we should cleanse those funds, and then we will soon have community radios,” Mutambudzi said in Masvingo recently.
“We are worried about the issue of ownership. Where are they getting their money from, what is their interest?”