A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0706
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material of this page may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
information on the radio system
Shortwave broadcasting started from a site near Salisbury (now Harare), but during the sixties two 100 kW transmitters were installed at Guinea Fowl and the Salisbury transmitters were relocated there. A 100 kW medium wave transmitter was installed in 1966 and was used among other things, to broadcast propaganda to Mozambique during the civil war. There was also a 2 kW transmitter carrying the General Service of the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation that had been installed in the fifties. In order to restrict the influence of international broadcasting, Rhodesia like South Africa introduced nationwide FM coverage at a very early stage.
In the early 1990s, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation broadcast on FM only, and for example Radio Moscow closed its international broadcasting services in Shona and Ndebele. With new transmitters inaugurated in December 1994 nowadays two of the four national channels are also broadcast on short wave to rural areas.
There are no existing independent broadcasters operating from within Zimbabwe, owing to tight government control of the media. Before the July 2000 elections in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe Government did not follow court orders to end its grip on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and allow that dissenting voices were also heard on the station's channels. The ruling Zanu PF even called for the banning of songs deemed derogatory to the party.
In February 2004 international listeners reported that before every hour and half-hour, all four ZBC radio stations played a song in praise of the government‘s land reform programme, which ended with the slogan "Our land is our prosperity". The government media's timidity in demanding accountability from the ruling party leadership when they publicly make potentially harmful pronouncements was exposed by the manner in which they handled President Robert Mugabe's closing address at the Fourth ZANU PF National Youth Congress. According to the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe's newsletter, "These media merely carried President Mugabe's speech without analysing it. For instance, The Sunday Mail quoted President Mugabe telling his party youths that they should 'mount a vigorous campaign across the country to push Tony Blair's midgets out' as ZANU PF 'wanted to teach them a lesson across the whole country that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again'. No attempt was made to disentangle the embedded meaning of such statements." (www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=23305)
In April 2004 the ZBC became Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. Its four stations were renamed and redesigned to operate on a commercial basis.
More information on ZBC can be found on their website, parts of which have not been updated since 2001 <www.zbc.co.zw/index.cfm>.
|In April 2007, Zimbabwe's
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu announced that the country's new
international SW radio station, News24, would start broadcasting before
independence celebrations on April 18. The new radio station from Gweru
would be available to audiences both in and outside Zimbabwe. "There will
be a revolutionary development in the media. We should be able to tell
our own story," Ndlovu is quoted as saying. The Herald says the government
is spending US$35 million on the project.
None of the press about it has ever mentioned frequencies. If News 24 actually starts on additional frequencies, that will mean fewer transmitters available for jamming SWRA and other opposition transmissions.
|schedule of broadcasts specially targetted
to Zimbabwe (April 2007)
SW Radio Africa
Media rights record
Just in time for the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in September and October 2006, Freedom House released its annual report of the world's most repressive regimes. (www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=409) Nine countries are listed as being serious violators of human rights, among them Zimbabwe. Freedom House says that "while these states scored slightly better than the 'worst of the worst,' they offer very limited scope for private discussion while severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organising, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state." Freedom House says it hopes the report will focus the U.N. Human Rights Council's attention on countries and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations. The Council includes among its 47 members three countries profiled in "The Worst of the Worst": China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. In June 2006, the Council replaced the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which had been heavily criticised by human rights groups for allowing repressive regimes to gain influence over the monitoring body.
Today, many Zimbabweans have turned to foreign-based radio stations for an alternative to the government-controlled radio and television stations. Most major international radio stations broadcast in English to Southern Africa, but there is very little broadcasting in the major African languages to Zimbabwe: Beside Christian evangelical broadcasts from FEBA Radio and Trans World Radio Swaziland, Radio Cairo in Egypt broadcasts in Shona and Ndebele to Zimbabwe.
In late July 2001, the Mugabe government withdrew the accreditation for BBC journalists because of the contents of BBC reporting on Zimbabwe. The country's information minister accused BBC of unethical and unprofessional conduct, citing its coverage of a recent speech by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. The BBC says it was disappointed by the decision. The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists also criticized the decision to suspend accreditation, calling it an attempt to control the media before the presidential election. [VoA Communications World 28 July 2001]
A turning point which sparked special broadcasting to the country were the July 2000 general elections. Voice of America broadcast a daily special 30-minute »Zimbabwe forum« in June and July 2000 and finally started a regular special programme designed for Zimbabwe. On 14 June 2000 a »Voice of the People« staffed by former ZBC employees started broadcasting in Shona and Ndebele to Zimbabwe and continued doing so after the elections. On 19 December 2001 UK-based Short Wave Radio Africa started broadcasting to Zimbabwe via short wave and the Internet. The Zimbabwe government is clearly worried by the continuing presence of Voice of the People and SW Radio Africa. In the following years, government official repeatedly launched complaints with other governments to silence Netherlands-backed Voice of the People, VOA-affiliated Studio 7 and London-based Short Wave Radio Africa. Today, Zimbabwe is jamming some broadcasts from stations they consider hostile to the Mugabe regime. Thus the Mugabe government is repeating a habit of the Apartheid regime it had toppled. Leading up to Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence in November 1965, some broadcasts from the BBC Southern Africa relay station in Botswana were jammed.
February 2007 Jamming officially confirmed
A senior official in Zimbabwe has confirmed that President Robert Mugabe's government is jamming foreign radio broadcasts into the country, reports on Thursday said.
The Zimbabwe government is jamming the signal of Voice of America's Studio 7 programme, which broadcasts news and information into Zimbabwe most evenings, deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga was quoted as saying.
"We cannot allow foreigners to invade our airwaves without our authority," Matonga told parliament, according to quotes carried by the official Herald newspaper. It was the first official confirmation of the practice, which has been condemned by press freedom groups.
Matonga was responding to a question from opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislator Willas Madzimure in parliament Wednesday on why the authorities were jamming Studio 7's shortwave broadcasts, when most areas of the country cannot receive any local radio or television signal.
Only around 30 per cent of areas in the southern African country can receive any signal from the four state-controlled radio stations and its sole television station.
The Zimbabwe government is believed to be using Chinese equipment to jam the signals of at least three private radio stations that broadcast into Zimbabwe. Studio 7, which is based in Washington, started to experience interference with its signal last year. Another two stations, London- based SW Radio Africa and Voice of the People have also had their signals jammed.
of the People
On 14 June 2000, a »Voice of the People« started broadcasting in Shona and Ndebele to Zimbabwe. The station was founded by former employees of the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and originally funded by the Soros Foundation. As no licences for private broadcasters have been issued in Zimbabwe, the programmes were broadcast on short wave via the Radio Netherlands relay station in Madagascar.
In the aftermath of Robert Mugabe's controversial victory in the country's general election, Voice of the People launched a new web site and promised to continue operating. Ever since, VOP employees have faced harassment and intimidation from Zimbabwean authorities. On 4 July 2002 police searched the VOP offices for a transmitter, broadcasting equipment, and other evidence that VOP was violating the Broadcasting Services Act of 2001, which bars stations from broadcasting without a licence. The police did not find a transmitter but confiscated tapes and files from the office. On 29 August 2002, the VOP offices in Milton Park were bombed by unidentified assailants in the middle of the night. The building was demolished, though no staff members were harmed.
On 27 January 2003 Voice of the People introduced a new schedule, where it has remained ever since:
03.30-04.27 h UTC cancelled.
17.00-17.57 h UTC 7120 kHz Mondays-Fridays only
In a series of attacks on the VOP, Zimbabwean journalists Shorai Katiwa and Martin Chimenya were seized on 2 June 2003 by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) who interrogated them, took away their mobile phones and tape-recorders. Police went to the home of VOP coordinator John Masuku and confiscated the station's office records and a computer used to feed programms. Later the items were returned and the journalists freed.
In early 2004, David Masunda, Assistant Editor of the Zimbabwe Standard, became the new chairman of the independent radio station, following the resignation of Dr Faith Ndebele and the death of Professor Masipula Sithole. According to a statement from VOP, its new board includes prominent human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga as Vice Chairman, and Isabella Matambanadzo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network, as secretary. Broadcaster John Masuku is executive director. Masunda said VOP was expanding operations and hoped to extend its broadcasts with new and educative programmes on HIV/Aids, small-scale enterprises, human rights and democracy.
In summer 2005 Radio Voice of the People opened its own website: www.vopradio.co.zw. The website is hosted in Zimbabwe.
of VOP’s broadcasts
Reacting to the systematic interference of the Zimbabwean independent radio station Voice of the People since 18 September, Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at a campaign to jam dissident radio broadcasts which the Zimbabwean authorities are clearly orchestrating with Chinese help. The press freedom organisation pointed out that this "state sabotage" of VOP comes three years after it was the target of a still unsolved bombing in the heart of Harare.
"Robert Mugabe’s government has once again shown that its policy is to systematically gag all independent news media," Reporters Without Borders said. "The use of Chinese technology in a totally hypocritical and non-transparent fashion reveals the government’s iron resolve to abolish freedom of opinion in Zimbabwe."
The press freedom organisation added : "We reiterate out belief that Zimbabwe’s progressive submission to the dictatorship of a single view is being made possible by the incomprehensible failure of the great African democracies to take a stand against this behaviour by the Harare government."
VOP beams a radio programme to Zimbabwe every evening from 1700 to 1800 UTC on 11705 kHz via the Radio Netherlands Madagascar relay station. Except for musical bridges, VoP broadcasts are speech dominated. Most of the programmes is in African languages, but there is usually at least one interview in English.
"Our signal is no longer as clear as it is supposed to be," a VOP employee told Reporters Without Borders. "There is a funny noise and this is affecting our evening programme. We can say we are being jammed." The VOP staff suspect that the government is using sophisticated jamming equipment imported from China. This hour of VOP programming has offered the sole opportunity on shortwave for Zimbabwean listeners to tune into to an alternative to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) ever since deliberate jamming of the London-based exile station SW Radio Africa began in February. SW Radio Africa is no longer able to broadcast on the short wave. According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, VOP can now only be heard in the rural part of Matabelele Land, an area not covered by Zimbabwe’s public radio station. This suggests that the noise jamming VOP’s programmes is being broadcast by the Zimbabwean authorities using the public radio station.
Jamming, which violates international regulations governing telecommunications, is standard practice in China, especially the jamming of Tibetan radio stations and foreign radio stations beaming programmes to the west of the country. Chinese experts have been invited to give training in telecommunications and radio communications to Zimbabwean technicians under economic and technical cooperation accords signed between China and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s already significant relations with China have been stepped up even more as a result of its diplomatic isolation, which culminated in its departure from the Commonwealth in 2003.
(Radio Netherlands Media Network 10 November 2005)
Zimbabwean security agents raid Voice of the People
On 15 December 2005 Zimbabwean police and intelligence agents raided the independent radio station Voice of the People (VOP) in Beverly Court Building, Harare. According to local sources, police arrived at the offices with a search warrant to look for broadcasting and transmitting equipment. When staff members said there was no such equipment in the offices, the police left and returned with a reworded warrant allowing them to confiscate computers, other equipment, and files.
Local VOP staffers produce programs on a variety of community and political issues but do not broadcast directly within Zimbabwe. Police confiscated equipment and documents and held VOP staff members Maria Nyanyiwa, Nyasha Bosha and Kundai Mugwanda for questioning. They also asked for John Masuku, the station manager who was away at the time.
Maria Nyanyiwa, Kundai Mugwanda and Nyasha Bosha were told they would face charges under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act for allegedly practising without accreditation. A further charge under the Broadcasting Act for allegedly operating an illegal radio station without a licence would be added to the case. After spending five days behind bars, the employees were released without charge on 19 December. A High Court judge ordered their release because there were no grounds to keep them in detention. In making the determination, the Attorney General said the station's Executive Director and the board were the ones who were supposed to be answerable.
On the same day, VOP Director John Masuku turned himself in at a Harare police station, along with VOP Chairman David Masunda and lawyer Rangu Nyamurundira. He was detained. If found guilty of broadcasting without a licence, Masuku would face a penalty of up to two years in jail. He was later released on 4 million Zimbabwe dollars bail. Masuku vowed to continue with the VOP radio station project saying soon after the holidays they will be back at work. The police who had sealed off their offices have since left the area. The transmissions from the Radio Netherlands Madagascar relay station were kept on the air by repeating material already broadcast.
February 2006 US State Department issues statement on VOP harrassment
The United States is concerned about the Zimbabwe government's decision to press charges against the trustees of an independent radio station, Voice of the People, according to a February 3, 2006, State Department statement. "The government's action suggests a new intimidation campaign against the press and human rights defenders," the statement said. "The United States calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to respect the rights of its citizens to advance the cause of human rights without fear of reprisal from the state and its agents," the statement continued. Six board members of the Harare-based Voice of the People radio station were charged recently with broadcasting without a licence and could face up to two years in prison. One trustee, prominent human-rights advocate Arnold Tsunga, reportedly might have received death threats. The Voice of the People is one of a handful of independent news outlets in Zimbabwe, where the media are controlled almost completely by the government.
SW Radio Africa - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe
|P. O. Box 243,
WD6 4WA, UK
General inquiries are invited to mail@ swradioafrica.com.
17.00-19.00 UTC: 4880 12035
The station has an extensive website at
www.swradioafrica.com including live streaming, broadcast archives
and comments from listeners in Zimbabwe.
The station did not say where the transmitters are located, but transmissions were obviously coming from South Africa. On 23 February 2005, SW Radio Africa added a morning broadcast on medium and short wave. Although sites were not disclosed, the medium wave station is based in Lesotho. This transmitter normally reaches the Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa, and listeners inside Zimbabwe near the southern border.
March 2005 jamming
With less than four weeks to go until Zimbabwe's General Elections on 31 March, SW Radio Africa reported jamming against its transmissions and increased its number of frequencies to circumvent it. First heard on 7 March, a harsh co-channel modulated signal was heard on 6145 kHz. At first, the morning transmission was not interfered with. As SW Radio Africa increased the number of frequencies to evade the harmful interference, so jamming increased.
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, a Harare-based independent watchdog, said the jamming of SW Radio Africa's broadcasts was carried out from Thornhill airbase - located outside the southwestern town of Gweru, between Harare and Bulawayo - where the government has a transmission station. According to the International Broadcasting Bureau, a US federal government entity, the equipment used for the jamming came from China, which has close trade links with Zimbabwe, especially in the telecommunications domain.
In a letter to the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders asked this UN system body "to seriously examine this situation, which constitutes a grave violation of Harare's undertakings towards the United Nations." The letter urged ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi "to demand official and credible explanations from Zimbabwe, which is a member state of the ITU since 18 February 1981 and, as such, obliged to conform to the provisions of its constitution, conventions and administrative regulations." Reporters Without Borders added : "Thanks to support from China, which exports its repressive expertise, Robert Mugabe's government has yet again just proved itself to be one of the most active predators of press freedom. Although in the middle of an electoral campaign, Zimbabwe has not only flouted the Southern African Development Community's democratic principles, it is now also displaying open contempt for its undertakings towards the ITU and the UN conventions it has signed." ITU regulation 1.166 defines interference as : "The effect of unwanted energy due to one or a combination of emissions, radiations, or inductions upon reception in a radiocommunication system, manifested by any performance degradation, misinterpretation, or loss of information which could be extracted in the absence of such unwanted energy." Article 1003 of the annex of the ITU constitution defines "harmful interference" as one that "obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radiocommunication service."
In recognition of its efforts to give a voice to the voiceless in Zimbabwe, SW Radio Africa, was awarded the International Press Institute's 2005 Free Media Pioneer Award. The station was praised as a rare and independent source of information for the listeners in Zimbabwe and half a million Zimbabwean exiles in London. SW Radio Africa's main aim is to give a "voice to the voiceless" by fostering a dialogue with its Zimbabwean audience, who call in - often at great risk - to air their opinions and give first-hand accounts of the situation in the country. The Free Media Pioneer Award is given annually to individuals or organisations that have fought against great odds to ensure freer and more independent media in their country or region. The award is co-sponsored by Freedom Forum.
At the International Press Institute World Congress and Annual General Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, 21-24 May 2005, the founder of SW Africa Gerry Jackson received the 2005 Free Media Pioneer Award from IPI Chairman Wilfred Kiboro, IPI Director Johann P Fritz and Chris Wells from the Freedom Forum.
In her acceptance speech, Jackson said, "There is no end to the repression of the people of Zimbabwe," and it should be remembered "regimes only win if you allow them." On the question of financing, Jackson called on the international community not to allow the radio station to die saying it was important that the Zimbabwean people have a voice. After the ceremony, Johann P Fritz said, "At a time when the local independent media are being decimated by the actions of President Robert Mugabe's government, SW Radio Africa is a lone voice offering a mix of news, interviews and music. Forced to broadcast from the United Kingdom the station is bringing to news to a country whose government is slowly having the life strangled out of its independent media.” He also announced that SW Radio Africa would have to close in the next few weeks due to lack of funding.
end of short wave broadcasts
Finally Zimbabwe’s jamming paid off. On 31 Max 2005, Station Manager Gerry Jackson cited increased costs for the frequency usage and decreased funds: „Due to the jamming we have to broadcast on multiple frequencies and this hugely increases our costs. We also no longer have the financial support as before. As from 1st June we will be on medium wave in the early morning and the internet only - but our entire future remains very shaky. Medium wave is only received over about half of Zimbabwe but we think our main audience will now be the 2m plus Zim exiles in South Africa, where our signal is clearly received."
|schedule at the
height of operations
03.00-05.00 UTC (05.00 Zimbabwe time)
1197 3230 kHz
16.00-19.00 UTC (18.00 Zimbabwe time)
16.00-19.00 intermittent 3230 / 3300 / 4880 kHz
16.00-19.00 6145 kHz
16.00-17.00 11845 kHz
17.00-18.00 11705 kHz
18.00-19.00 11995 kHz
SW Radio Africa in English left short wave from 9 July 2005 but continued on medium wave and the internet. final schedule
17.00-18.00 15145 kHz (250 kW, 140°)
SW Radio Africa
saved from closure
The Station Manager of SW Radio Africa, Gerry Jackson, has sent out a press release stating that the station has been saved from closure. SW Radio Africa will therefore be able to continue broadcasting on mediumwave 1197 kHz from 0300-0500 UTC every morning. This signal is heard throughout South Africa and over most of Zimbabwe. Programming can also be accessed worldwide, 24 hours a day, at www.swradioafrica.com where the broadcasts are streamed live and also archived.
Gerry Jackson adds that, due to the relentless jamming of the shortwave signal by the Zimbabwe government, the station is unable to provide a shortwave service at the moment.
SW Radio Africa is also experimenting with Podcasting. To hear the station this way, download ipodder, open the application and in the box 'Add feed manually' paste this address: www.2bctnd.com/swradioafrica/rss.xml.
November 2005 SW Radio Africa journalist wins international award
Violet Gonda, a journalist with SW Radio Africa, has won an international award for her radio documentary 'Arise! Zimbabwean Women speak out', portraying the experiences of Zimbabwean women who repeatedly defy the brutal regime of President Robert Mugabe despite beatings, rapes and imprisonment. The International Association of Women in Radio and Television presented the award on Tuesday at the IAWRT Radio Awards banquet.
Ms Gonda, living in exile in London, broadcasts eyewitness reports from people calling in on mobile phones, from police stations, hospitals and courtrooms on SW Radio Africa – and broadcasts back into Zimbabwe. She has been banned from returning to her country, and Zimbabweans risk their lives to call in and listen to the programme. (Radio Netherlands Media Network 3 November 2005)
March 2006 return to short wave
Having experienced technical problems with its medium wave outlet SW Radio Africa quietly returned to short wave in mid March and followed its old schedule
03.00-05.00: 3230 (Meyerton 100 kW, 5°)
19.00-21.00: 3230 (Meyerton 100 kW, 0°)
July 2006 SW Radio Africa appeals for international support over jamming
Gerry Jackson, Station Manager of London-based SW Radio Africa that broadcasts to Zimbabwe, has issued the following press release:
“Our morning mediumwave broadcasts [0300-0500 UTC on 1197 kHz] have been jammed since Monday 26th June 2006. The jamming appears to be quite localised and focused on Harare. We can still be heard in other parts of the country. This seems to follow the same pattern and began at the same time as the jamming of VOA’s Studio 7 broadcasts on mediumwave in the evening.
The authorities jammed our shortwave broadcasts last year, ahead of parliamentary elections and the devastating Operation Murambatsvina that left nearly a million Zimbabweans homeless and with no way to earn a living. At that time we ascertained the jamming was done with the help of Chinese equipment and assistance. We have no reason to assume that this latest jamming is any different.
We strongly protest this further attack attempting, once again, to deny Zimbabweans the right to freedom of speech and freedom of information. We urge the international community to take this most seriously.” (Radio Netherlands Media Network 4 July 2006)
April 2007 increased use of short wave
On 18 April 2007, "SW Radio Africa, Zimbabwe's independent voice" (www.swradioafrica.com) launched a massive use of short wave frequencies to strain Zimbabwe's jamming resources. This step-up in SWRA transmissions on short notice also eclipsed the much- publicized "News 24" external SW service the Mugabe regime was to start on that day
The station now used four to five frequencies:
17.00-19.00: 4880 (Meyerton, RSA, 100 kW, 5°), 11775 (Moscow, Russia, 250 kW 190°), 11810 (Armavir, Russia, 300 kW 188°), 12035 (Rampisham, UK), testing 11975 (Kvitsoy, Norway?)
The use of European relay sites brought better coverage of the whole African continent where governments have been reluctant to criticize or even condemn Zimbabwe's government. It also meant audibility in Europe and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, feeding the programme to the different broadcasting sites also proved difficult.
April 2007 SABC not clear on why access to SW Radio Africa website is restricted
By Tererai Karimakwenda 23 April, 2007
Last week we reported that computers at the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) were denying journalists access to SW Radio Africa's website. A search for our web address returns a message that says "Access to the requested URL has been denied by SABC Policy."
Several staff members at SABC verified this last Friday and the head of television news, Amrat Manga, told us he was not aware of the policy but would investigate. A trial done by our web master also showed that it is our domain name that is being blocked.
On Monday we talked to Fakir Hassen who works in the IT division and he confirmed that SABC has what he called "control measures" in place that restrict access to pornography, downloading large files and audio
streaming. He stressed that it had nothing to do with censuring any radio station. Regarding written stories Hassen said: "There is no problem in accessing a website that is purely word in content, if you will.. When it comes to audio downloads etcetera, there are restrictions there."
But when we asked several employees at SABC, in different departments, to try and access some websites that have audio streaming, they told us the sites opened without a problem and allowed them to read the text. It is when they wanted to open the streaming that they were blocked. Among the sites tested were South Africa's Radio 702, Radio Veritas, Afrosounds FM and several websites that cover Zimbabwe. This indicated that there is a different reason for the blocking of our website. It is not just the audio streaming that is blocked but the entire site, so not even the text can be read. Asked to comment on this Hassen said: "We are not sure exactly what is going on. The guys in that department are not available. Let's wait for the experts to let us know."
SW Radio Africa will continue to investigate this issue to determine exactly what is going on.
SABC has recently been highly criticised for a blacklist that came to light which included Zimbabwe's Archbishop Pius Ncube, publisher Trevor Ncube and human rights activist Elinor Sisulu. SABC journalists were banned from interviewing them in any stories on Zimbabwe. An interview with outspoken Archbishop Pius Ncube was also edited out of a television story by the head of SABC news.
Freedoms Pre-Requesite for Free Elections
Given the current media environment in Zimbabwe, free and fair elections in March 2005 are highly unlikely, a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe said in a report released by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) on 4 August 2004. During the week starting 21 June 2004, MISA sent a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe to look into the state of the media in the run up to the Parliamentary elections planned for March 2005. The members of this mission were Ms Pamela Dube, Editor of Mokgosi Newspaper in Botswana, Mr Fernando Gonçalves, Editor of Savana Newspaper in Mozambique and Zambian Media Law expert Patrick Matibini.
Further details: www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=23768
New media clampdown
In November 2004, parliament passed the AIPPA Amendment Act as one in a series of draconian measures adopted in advance of general elections scheduled for March. The act stiffens the 2002 law known as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which has already been used to shutter Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News. The original Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) bars foreign journalists from working in the country on a permanent basis. It stipulates that only local reporters licensed by a state-approved media commission can operate. Foreign media houses operating in Zimbabwe thus relied on local journalists. Now it is mandatory for journalists to register with the state appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC). Journalists who fail to do so, could face up to two years in prison, a fine of Zim $200,000 (USD 35.50), or both. Critics said the measures are intended to intimidate the last vestiges of the independent press. Two independent weekly newspapers still operate in Zimbabwe, and some local correspondents work for foreign news agencies. The AIPPA Amendment Act, took effect on January 7, after being signed by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
Commenting on the bill, Rashweat Mukundu, acting national director of MISA Zimbabwe, told the UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on 10 November 2004 that the Amendment Bill "added further repressive clauses to an already bad law". The official Herald newspaper quoted Information and Publicity Minister of State Jonathan Moyo as saying that the penalties stipulated in the amendment were not unique to Zimbabwe "but was the norm worldwide", and that "irresponsible journalism" could be used to undermine Zimbabwe's sovereignty.
In a 2 December 2004 letter to President Robert Mugabe, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its outrage over the government's continued clampdown on independent media in Zimbabwe, including
proposed new legislation that could be used to jail journalists for up to 20 years. At a time when several other African countries are lifting criminal sanctions for press offences, bringing their laws in line with international standards, Zimbabwe's government is preparing to introduce penalties that are among the harshest on the continent. Further details: www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=26009
Other new legislation includes the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which could be used to jail journalists for up to 20 years for publishing or communicating to any other person "false" information deemed prejudicial to the state. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act awaits Mugabe's signature.
The International Press Institute (IPI),
a global network of editors, journalists and media executives, has condemned
the intimidation and harassment by the Zimbabwean authorities that has
led to a foreign journalist fleeing to South Africa. According to information
provided to IPI, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
correspondent for Zimbabwe, Jan Raath, has been forced to leave the country after considerable pressure from the police and out of fear he would be arrested. On 14 January, eight policemen and two government officials raided the offices of Raath, where he worked with a number of other foreign journalists. Over a period of two days, police carried out an intensive search of the offices without the official documentation proving they had legal authorization to carry out the search.
Further details: www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=27031
The repressive treatment of critics and independent journalists left the country with no independent daily newspapers, no private radio news coverage, and only two prominent independent weeklies. Some 90 journalists had to leave the country, but find it hard to make a living in the competitive media markets abroad. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (www.cpj.org/Briefings/2005/DA_fall05/zim/zim_DA_fall05_2.html), a few have secured jobs with international media outlets, but most make ends meet by working in factories, service jobs or clerical positions.
On March 5-6, in an extraordinary turnaround, Professor Jonathan Moyo, President Robert Mugabe's energetic information minister, lauched his parliamentary election campaign as an opponent of Mugabe. Mugabe recruited Moyo, who had previously worked for the Ford Foundation in Nairobi and as a lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, in late 1999 to spearhead his parliamentary and presidential election campaigns. It was Moyo who drafted media legislation, including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which was used to close down newspapers and to arrest and deport scores of journalists. In 2001, Moyo encouraged hundreds of ZANU PF supporters to parade through the streets of Harare demanding the closure of the Daily News, the country's only independent daily and by the far the country's best-selling newspaper of any kind. In 2002 it was silenced for ever when Moyo applied one of the clauses of AIPPA.
In the biggest split in ZANU PF since it came to power at independence in 1980, Mugabe has vowed to destroy his favourite son, turned "enemy number one". Mugabe considered Moyo indispensable following the shock when, in 2000, Zimbabwe's electorate rejected in a referendum a proposed constitution that would have greatly increased his power, and then nearly toppled his government in a parliamentary election. The Mugabe-Moyo rift began in November 2004 when Moyo convened a meeting in his home village of Tsholotsho, 120 kilometres northwest of Bulawayo, to form a ZANU PF group opposed to Mugabe's decision to make Joyce Mujuru the first female vice-president of Zimbabwe. In the internal struggle within ZANU PF, Moyo had lent his weight to the powerful parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace 81-year-old Mugabe whenhe either dies or retires.
Moyo, who owed his seat in parliament to the president's right to appoint 30 of the 150 members, was incensed when he was not made the ZANU PF parliamentary candidate in his Tsholotsho home. In a spectacular move, Moyo declared that he would stand as an independent candidate against the sitting MDC member of parliament and the female ZANU PF candidate. Mugabe responded by sacking Moyo from the cabinet and the 50-member politburo of ZANU PF. Moyo lost his mansion, his official car, driver and bodyguards. He was also stripped of two farms and a game lodge that he was given after white farmers were driven from their land in 2000.
Remarkably, Jonathan Moyo was the only one of a group of those who ran as independents to win a seat.
Denies 3.5 Million Zimbabweans Abroad From Voting
Applicants calling themselves the Diaspora Vote Action Group say their right to vote has been violated The Zimbabwe Supreme Court has ruled that the more than 3.5 million Zimbabwean residents living abroad cannot vote in parliamentary and presidential elections. Announcing the ruling, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku dismissed the application by a group of Zimbabweans living abroad demanding that they be allowed to vote in the March 31 parliamentary election saying the application had no merit. The applicants calling themselves the Diaspora Vote Action Group said their right to vote had been violated when the government said Zimbabweans outside the country could only cast their ballots in their constituencies back home.
When the group made its application earlier this year, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa dismissed it saying members of the group and others were free to come back home and vote. He said the country's constitution only allows people to vote in their own constituencies. He also told the state controlled Herald daily newspaper thateven if the constitution allowed people abroad to vote, officials could not travel to countries such as Britain and the United States where there is a sizable Zimbabwean presence because senior members of the government are banned from entering these countries.
Analysts say the government is afraid that should foreign-based Zimbabweans be allowed to vote, they will tip the scales in favor of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
RC Church vs.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo called on Zimbabweans to rise against President Robert Mugabe's government. He however ruled himself out of any leadership role for such a peaceful “orange revolution” saying that is up to the politicians to do that and the church can only lend moral support. Archbishop Ncube has clashed with the government over what he calls its misrule.
The spokesman for Zanu-PF Zimbabwe's ruling party Shamuyarira, Zanu-PF's described the cleric, as "a well known rabid opponent of the government." Mr. Shamuyarira who was quoted in the state-controlled accused Archbishop Ncube of being a "mad inveterate liar." "He however, fits into the scheme of the British and Americans, who are calling for regime change and are feeding him with these wild ideas,'' Mr. Shamuyarira said. (VOA 28 Mar 2005)
Claims Evidence of Electoral Fraud
President Robert Mugabe's government says his ruling ZANU-PF party won 78 of the 120 elected seats in Parliament - nearly double the 41 seats won by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, held on to almost all the urban seats it won in 2000, but lost to President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party in rural areas. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, however, says his information indicates the opposition actually won 94 seats.
Since the president directly appoints another 30 members of the 150-seat parliament, the election results give Mr. Mugabe a two-thirds majority - enough to override any opposition and amend the constitution.
Opposition leaders contend that the government used violence, intimidation and manipulated Zimbabwe's repressive laws to rig the vote. The opposition has not specified how a new constitution should be drawn up or how election laws should be changed, but there are suggestions that the United Nations should play a role in such reforms.
WCC condemns forced evictions in Zimbabwe
(WCC press release - 27/06/2005) The World
Council of Churches (WCC) on 24 June condemned mass forced evictions in
Zimbabwe and called on the country's government to immediately stop them.
In a statement issued by its International Affairs director's office, the WCC labeled the evictions that have left hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans homeless as "an operation of segregation against the working poor".
"To carry out such acts of cruelty," the statement says, "shows clearly that the government is losing the moral and ethical ground for leadership, healing and reconciliation."
The WCC statement affirmed and supported the recent messages of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC), which condemned the so-called Operation Murambatsvina because of the "untold suffering" caused and its "cruel and inhumane means".
While calling on the government to "urgently address the pressing needs" of the evacuees, the WCC affirmed that "churches and relief organizations should also be given unrestricted access to the displaced persons".
If Zimbabwe is to be reconciled, rebuilt and healed, the WCC statement affirms, its government should "dismantle the restrictions on fundamental freedoms" and initiate dialogue with the opposition, churches and civil society.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a WCC-related global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide, is working in Zimbabwe.
The full text of the WCC statement is available at:
ZBC on 3306 and harmonic frequency 6612 kHz
In July 2005, international listeners noted ZBC programmes far outside the short wave bands reserved for sound broadcasting. ZBC had reactivated their usual frequency 3306 kHz but the transmitter at Gweru put out a stronger second harmonic frequency of 6612 kHz.
The transmitter seems be have been reactivated on a 24 hour basis as the FM network also runs 24 hour programming. Short wave specialist in Europe were able to log the station in the night. Unfortunately for international listeners, the channel transmits in Shona and Ndebele only.
2005 Government jamming against
second independent short wave station
Having successfully ruined the finances of SW Radio Africa, the Zimbabwean government in August 2005 targetted its Chinese-supplied shortwave jammers to block the transmissions of Voice of the People (VOP). Their programmes are on the air at 1700-1800 UTC via the Radio Netherlands Madagascar relay station.From October 2005 Voice of the People moved to a new frequency, 11705 kHz. This frequency has a hollow sound from the transmitter on Madagscar but propagates well into Zimbabwe.
More details announced of Zimbabwe's
planned external services
On 10 April 2006, more details have been announced in the Zimbabwean parliament of the plans to set up a radio and TV station targeting Zimbabweans abroad. In a report presented to the parliamentary portfolio on Transport and Communications, New Ziana Chief executive officer Munyaradzi Matanyaire said George Charamba, President Robert Mugabe's press secretary had told him that the projects had "support from the highest level". Former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television anchor and Zanu PF supporter Happison Muchechetere has been appointed to run the stations.
Matanyaire said all the equipment for the radio project was already in place. He said: "The radio programme, to be on shortwave, and the satellite television will solely target our people in the diaspora to counter the negative publicity from those countries." The station will be based in Gweru, but will have separate offices from the state-run Power FM which targets locals. Matanyaire added that they would need $152 billion (Zimbabwean) from the treasury to implement the two projects.
(Source: newzimbabwe.com via Radio Netherlands Media Network 10.4.2006)
In late May 2007, Voice of Zimbabwe started
testing on shortwave. Short wave specialists in the region as well as in
Europe observed music transmissions on the two frequencies announced by
the ZBC, while on the regular channels 3396 and 6045 kHz, Radio Zimbabwe
continued with the usual relay of the FM network. Signal strength was identical,
so the tests were thought to come the facilites at Guineafowl, Gweru, Central
Zimbabwe. The proposed schedule of the Voice of Zimbabwe reads as follows:
UTC (+2=Zimbabwe time)
The station's general manager, Mr Happison Muchechetere said Voice of Zimbabwe would provide in its programming news, music, sports, Zimbabwe's cultural heritage, political and economic debates. The station would cater for all Zimbabweans within the country and abroad would give the Zimbabwean story as it is.
In September 2007, Zimbabwe's information
minister „encouraged“ the Voice of Zimbabwe "to increase broadcasting hours
from four to 12 hours. He also discussed aspects on how the public can
access shortwave transmission. It was noted that most of the people do
not have shortwave receivers and hence mooted the possibility of importing
these into the country most likely from China. ... Voice of Zimbabwe is
available on shortwave on 5975 kilohertz in the 49-metre band during the
day and on 4828 kilohertz in the 60-metre band at night. It broadcasts
from 6 pm to 10 pm [16.00-20.00] and plays music throughout the remaining
hours." <http://allafrica.com/stories/200709290095.html> (The Herald
(Harare), 29 September 2007 via
kimandrewelliott.com and Glenn Hauser DXLD)
No Sign of Promised Media Relaxation
Revised law allows media free rein to cover March 2008 elections, but it seem policies will remain as restrictive as ever.
By Yamikani Mwando in Bulawayo
Recent legislative changes easing the stringent restrictions on the media in Zimbabwe have yet to make any real impact as the country heads for next month’s crucial elections.
In mid-January, amendments to the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, known as AIPPA, came into effect, in what was seen as a major concession achieved in the ongoing talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC. Together with changes to other restrictive laws - the Public Order and Security Act and the Broadcasting Services Act - and amendments to electoral legislation, the bill was approved by President Robert Mugabe after having been rushed through parliament in December with the assent of both the MDC and the ruling ZANU-PF. The legal changes came out of the negotiations between the two parties which are being mediated by President Mugabe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.
AIPPA was introduced in 2001, as the Zimbabwean media were becoming sharply polarised between state-controlled public outlets on the one hand, and the small but vibrant privately-owned newspapers on the other. The authorities accused the private media of demonising the regime and of working as an extension of opposition political parties. Under the amended AIPPA, foreign journalists will be allowed into the country and will have the right to accreditation for up to 60 days. Local journalists, meanwhile, will be able to work without first registering with the official Media and Information Commission, MIC - soon to be reconstituted as the Zimbabwe Media Commission as part of the changes to the law.
If the authorities stick to the spirit and letter of these legislative changes, foreign media will be able to cover the March presidential, parliamentary and local elections to an extent unprecedented in recent years. This would be a significant change, coming at a time when concern has been expressed that the crucial vote could take place far from international scrutiny as President Mugabe seeks to extend his hold on power.
However, it is already looking doubtful that the authorities will abide by their own rules. Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu recently confounded the hopes of Bulawayo journalists by telling them that those media organisations deemed “hostile” would still not be allowed to cover the polls. The BBC, in particular, has been singled out for exclusion from Zimbabwe on the grounds that its longstanding mission is to “peddle falsehoods” about the Mugabe regime. Ndlovu’s remarks came after BBC journalist John Simpson entered the country covertly last month to file reports on the Zimbabwean crisis, inviting acerbic reactions from the Information and Publicity Ministry.
No information has been forthcoming on the number, identity or countries of origin of foreign journalists who might be allowed in as part of the legislative change, but for now it is looking highly unlikely that the regime will permit western reporters to cover the March ballot. Zimbabwean journalists have told IWPR that a media blackout will merely feed accusations that the elections lack all credibility, and that the authorities pre-empting the possibility of critical reporting in the event of the kind of political violence and electoral irregularities that have marred past ballots.
The restructuring of the regulatory authority MIC into the Zimbabwe Media Commission has been hailed as part of a possible plan to grant licences to banned media outlets, and perhaps to some new players as well. Yet a number of newspapers remain outlawed as the poll nears. The Daily News, once the country’s biggest selling daily, has been closed since September 2003, following its allegations that ZANU-PF supporters committed human rights abuses during the run-up to elections in 2000 and 2002. This naturally riled the regime, which accused the paper of being an opposition mouthpiece. At the height of the campaign against it, the paper’s printing press was bombed. The newspaper bounced back, but was finally banned when it refused to register with the MIC. The Daily News and its Sunday sister-paper have now been asked to apply for a licence, and their publisher, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, submitted a formal application to the MIC on February 14.
MIC official Godfrey Chinondidyachii Mararike has said the outcome of the application will only come in 30 days’ time – which would mean The Daily News could at best acquire the right to publish just two weeks before the March 29 vote. At the same time, the Commission reportedly met on February 17 to hold preliminary discussions on the application, suggesting that it might be prepared to fast-track this as a special case. Media industry insiders are deeply sceptical about whether the
government is sincere about granting the paper a licence in time for it to make any difference.
Former Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota recently wrote on his news website that “those who believe that Mugabe will allow the resurrection of The Daily News in time to play a meaningful role ahead of the March elections simply do not understand the dynamics of dictatorship.” He concluded, “At this rate, by the time The Daily News is restored back to its original status, Mugabe will be ready to retire voluntarily after winning the forthcoming landmark elections by hook or by crook.”
A representative of the Media Monitoring Project, an independent watchdog group in Zimbabwe, said the credibility of any election depended not only on the existence of “a level playing field” for all political parties, but also - and even more importantly - on voters and election observers being allowed unfettered access to the media. “It is crucial that we have enough media coverage in the run-up to the poll,” said the representative, who asked not to be named, “but it is still very unlikely the authorities will accept any applications from local private papers for registration and [allow in] foreign correspondents before the election.”
Yamikani Mwando is an IWPR contributor in Bulawayo.
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
IWPR's AFRICA REPORTS No. 157 Part 2, February 21, 2008
Mugabe’s Post-Election Media Blitz
Zimbabwean leader appears desperate to shore up support at home in the face of mounting criticism abroad.
By Hativagone Mushonga in Harare
In the face of growing condemnation from the international community, President Robert Mugabe is appealing to the Zimbabwean public for support as he battles for legitimacy. In what amounts to an after-the-fact election campaign, the state-owned media have gone into overdrive to try to salvage Mugabe’s battered image after the second-round presidential election held on June 27.
The run-up to the ballot was one of the most violent election periods the country has seen, with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, saying 113 of its supporters were killed and thousands of others beaten, tortured and displaced.
The election had been conceived as a run-off between Mugabe and the MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai – who won more votes than the incumbent in the first round on March 29, but according to the official returns, not the majority required to be elected outright. However, Mugabe ended up as the sole candidate when his rival withdrew from the contest, citing fears that more MDC supporters would suffer acts of violence.
Advertisements now being aired on public radio every 20 minutes or so
feature Mugabe thanking the nation for voting for him and for their “faith
and confidence” in him. “I feel honoured and humbled,” he says. “Our challenge
today and in the years ahead is to move forward in unity, regardless of
our diverse political affiliations, united by the sense of a common vision
and destiny for a prosperous Zimbabwe.”
Full-page advertisements in state-run newspapers feature a younger-looking, smiling Mugabe, saying, “The people of Zimbabwe have spoken. Let us therefore continue rebuilding our nation. Thank you for rejecting recolonisation of our precious Zimbabwe by the western powers. I know you believe and I believe that all good things are possible. God bless Zimbabwe. Thank you for voting for me – thank you for voting in peace.” The advertisements portray Mugabe as the champion of the Zimbabwean people, someone who has fought relentlessly for their sovereignty and has once again won a mandate to govern them.
However, despite this media blitz, observers say Zimbabweans will not easily forgive the president for masterminding the bloodletting in the run-up to the polls, or for the humiliation he inflicted on the electorate.
A veteran Zimbabwean journalist, who requested anonymity, told IWPR that Mugabe appeared desperate to win the legitimacy the international community, including some former allies in Africa, have refused him after what is widely seen as a sham election. “The main aim of the advert is to prop up and polish Mugabe’s image. He seems desperate for acceptance from Zimbabweans and for them to recognise him as the legitimate president. This is the first time Mugabe has shown himself so desperate for public support,” said the journalist.
Aside from the violence, the prospect of continuing hardship is a major concern for the electorate. With no resolution to the political crisis in sight, the government looks unlikely to find any way out of the country’s deep-set economic problems.
Alex Mukaka, who comes from the southern province of Masvingo but is currently in the capital Harare recovering from wounds he sustained during the violence, said people in the countryside would never again fully accept Mugabe because of the violence perpetrated by his security forces and youth militias. “We were stripped of our dignity during the run-up to the election and also on election day itself. We were driven like beasts into torture bases every day. We spent whole nights in the mountains where we were intimidated and humiliated by mere youths who were not born at the time of the [1970s] liberation war. On voting day, we were herded like sheep into the polling booths where we voted against our will,” he said. “We are people who think to be treated like animals was very insulting.”
The president’s desire for public approval comes against a backdrop of crumbling support from African leaders formerly sympathetic to his robust defiance of external criticism. That includes countries in the immediate neighbourhood, which are members of the Southern African Development Community, SADC. One of these, Botswana, has refused to accept the results of the election, and is urging its neighbours not to recognise Mugabe as president and to suspend Zimbabwe from both the SADC and the African Union. “As a country that practises democracy and the rule of law, Botswana does not... recognise the outcome of the presidential run-off election, and would expect other SADC member states to do the same," Foreign Minister Phandu Sekelemani said on July 4. The Zimbabwean authorities, he said, should not be allowed to participate in SADC meetings “until such time as they demonstrate their commitment to strictly adhere to the organisation's principles”.
Hativagone Mushonga is the pseudonym of a reporter in Harare.
Zimbabwe Crisis Reports No. 155, Jul 18, 2008
Copyright (c) 2008 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Dr. Hansjörg Biener
c/o Lehrstuhl Evangelische Religionspädagogik der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg,
Regensburger Str. 160, DE-90478 Nürnberg