ZANU-PF Won’t Let Go of the Airwaves

by Faith Zaba

Zimbabwe Independent; 15 December 2011

THE shocking but unsurprising news that two new radio licences have been awarded to groups loyal to President Robert Mugabe is just another example of the lengths that his Zanu PF party will go to retain control of the all-important airwaves.

Ever since Independence in 1980, Zanu PF has resisted moves to open-up the airwaves, while using the state broadcaster to entrench the party’s power through propaganda activities and attacks on its political enemies, as well as feeding misinformation and portraying Zanu PF as the only party that can administer the affairs of the state. News bulletins mostly consist of diatribes against Mugabe’s enemies, while prime-time entertainment comprises discussions on the evils of the imperialist West.

With private newspapers now thriving, the airwaves were the last preserve of unchallenged Zanu PF propaganda — and there was no way the party was going to allow that to be eroded. And it hasn’t since Zimpapers Radio and AB Communications are Zanu PF praise singers. But It is critical to look at the history of the broadcasting industry to really understand why Zanu PF is so reluctant to let go of the monopoly.

An examination of the dynamics of the two radio stations during the liberation struggle — Voice of the Revolution run by Zapu and the Voice of Zimbabwe broadcast by Zanu — provides a valuable understanding of the political and social transformation in post-Independence Zimbabwe.

Voice of Zimbabwe and Voice of the Revolution were effective means of military communication and were one of the tools used in the political education of the people, allowing parties to put forth their ideological goals and communicate changing conditions of the struggle with their followers.

While the political impact of such radio stations will always be a topic of debate, there is little doubt they were effective enough to worry the authorities in Rhodesia.

At Independence in 1980 the content and management of ZBC and the partisan uses to which it was put by Mugabe’s regime came to resemble those of its Rhodesian predecessor in certain basic respects.

Media commentator, Pedzisai Ruhanya says that — just like the Rhodesian Front — Zanu PF uses ZBC both covertly and overtly to further its political interests.

“They use their control of the media to maintain a firm grip on power in Zimbabwe,” said Ruhanya. “Many Zimbabweans continue to lack both political freedom and accurate, non-partisan information about the state of the country and activities of government.”

“The music jingles on television and radio in support of Zanu PF programmes such as land reform and economic indigenisation are all meant to help entrench Zanu PF hence the spirited efforts to refuse to implement reform because Zanu PF cannot imagine a situation where there is competition at the ideological level using media diversity and platforms.”

And once the pressure for reform became too great, Zanu PF agreed to two new commercial licences and immediately granted them to themselves! Far from enjoying a freer and more plural radio playing field in the run-up to possible elections in 2012, the MDC now finds itself with even more radio stations spewing pro-Mugabe propaganda.

Media freedom activists are also frustrated because the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has chosen to licence only two stations, when there are more than 90 frequencies for radio stations that the government can get on request.

What is certain is that — even with the two new stations — Zanu PF will continue to rely on the unreformed ZBC for much of its propaganda. And as long as the ZBC is not reformed, it will continue to be an appendage of Zanu PF and it will continue to be used to further the party’s political interests.

For reasons why the Zim Govt wont free the airwaves just yet follow this link

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