Catholics push for community radio in Zimbabwe

By Never Kadungure

HARARE – A Catholic community radio initiative will start broadcasting in Zimbabwe once it gets a licence from the government. This was announced by the Archbishop of Harare, Right Rev Robert Christopher Ndlovu.

Community radio broadcasting equipment
Community radio broadcasting equipment

In a circular to all parish priests, heads of religious congregations and Catholic institutions seen by Nehanda Radio, the Archbishop said the Catholic community radio station, Radio Chiedza, is being set up in preparation for the day when community radio stations will be licenced.

“The initiative is being led by Father Nigel Johnson SJ along with the Director of Jesuit Communications, Mr Gift Mambipiri. As you may be aware, for the past ten years, both Fr Johnson and Mr Mambipiri have had wide experience of community radio initiatives in Zimbabwe.

“So far, none of these community radio stations have been licensed to broadcast in this country, but our neighbouring countries have numerous such stations up and running. It therefore seems inevitable that Zimbabwe will, at some time, catch up; so we in the Catholic Church need to be prepared for that day,” he said.

Radio Chiedza promises “to amplify the message of the Church, especially on social justice issues.”

The power sharing deal cobbled together after Mugabe lost elections in March 2008 promised far reaching media reforms. Many hoped to see independent radio and television stations, in addition to the newspapers that were licensed. But ZANU PF instead cemented their monopoly of the broadcasting sector.

After licensing a string of independent newspapers, including the previously banned Daily News, many were fooled into thinking the same would happen with broadcasting. This did not happen and instead two Zanu PF proxy stations ZiFM and Star FM were given licences under controversial circumstances.

Making a further mockery of the whole affair was the fact that both stations were already buying equipment and recruiting staff even before the winning bids were made public. Supa Mandiwanzira who owns ZiFM has gone on to become a Zanu PF MP and Deputy Minister in the Information Ministry.

Zimbabwe’s signal carrier, Transmedia, had the capacity to run 68 national radio and 51 television stations but the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is under political pressure not to licence a single entity that threatens Mugabe and Zanu PF’s dominance of the airwaves.