THE Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) has accused licensing authorities of ignoring their incessant calls to give them operating licences.
Addressing the Bulawayo Press Club last week, Zacras vice-chairperson Prince Zwide Khumalo said it was disheartening that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) accused them of being regime change agents in denying them licences.
Zacras represents 14 community radio station initiatives countrywide.
“BAZ is very stubborn. They have been ignoring our calls for engagement on the issue of community radio licences. They think we are regime change agents because we have been receiving funding from Western donors,” Khumalo said.
Zimbabwe currently has six radio stations; four owned by the State while the other two StarFM and ZiFm are owned by the State-owned Zimpapers and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira respectively.
Mandiwanzira recently said his ministry was committed to multiple radio stations, but was against individuals who claimed to be representing communities yet wanted to use the stations as political tools.
Khumalo, however, said community radio stations were there to serve communities and not political parties.
“We are there to serve the community not to topple the government. After all, there is nothing wrong with getting funding from Western donors to develop our communities,” he said.
“Even Parliament receives funding from Western donors. Are they regime change agents? We need community radio licences and it is disheartening that we are one of the African countries without community radio stations in this day and age.”
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo in February said more radio stations would be given broadcasting licences following the digitalisation process that ends in June 2015.
A number of media lobby groups and associations have been calling for the liberalisation of broadcasting services for private players to operate as government dithers on licensing them despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 which overturned the State’s monopoly on broadcasting.