By Thulani Ncube | Bulawayo Bureau |
BULAWAYO – The editor of the Bulawayo based Radio Dialogue, Zenzele Ndebele, will appear in court today facing charges of possessing ‘smuggled’ solar powered radios and possessing a radio receiver without a valid Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) licence.
The case is seen as part of a wider crackdown on the media and civil society organisations ahead of crucial elections set for July this year. On Friday police in Bulawayo raided the Radio Dialogue offices and reportedly confiscated 180 solar and kinetic energy propelled radios from the premises.
Initially Ndebele was expected to appear in court in Bulawayo on Monday but spent the whole morning at the police Law and Order offices where he was subjected to interrogation. Radio Dialogue Chairperson, Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo, said Ndebele’s case had been moved to Tuesday.
“From 8:30 am up to 11am (on Tuesday) Ndebele was at the Law and Order Section where he was subjected to intensive interrogations. During the interrogations, the Law and Order officers wanted to know where the radios are coming from and why are they being distributed.
Upon completion of the interrogation, the police added another charge of possessing radios without a listener’s licence to the warrant. Khumalo condemned the seizure of the radios and the arrest of Ndebele.
“We believe this move is meant to suffocate the free flow of information as the country moves towards critical periods of the constitutional referendum and the elections.
“Our view is that it is important for citizens to have free access to information and be able to freely express themselves in order for them to make informed decisions during this critical period,” said Khumalo.
Pedzisai Ruhanya a director with the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute told Nehanda Radio “there is nothing criminal about those radios. After all, those radios are just receivers not transmitters. One does not need a license to receive information from a radio handset.
“The activities of the police and the security apparatus in general tell us the regime is preparing a well organised crackdown against civil society organizations in the next election. We expect the police to be professional and stop their partisan activities,” Ruhanya said.