LONDON based SW Radio Africa on Monday celebrated a major milestone in reaching 10 years of independent broadcasting into Zimbabwe via shortwave and the internet to the rest of the world.
A statement issued by station manager Gerry Jackson said they started broadcasting Wednesday 19th December 2001 and “had no idea that 10 years on we’d still be here – or that the crisis in Zimbabwe would still be dragging on, with no solution in sight.”
Jackson thanked the stations listeners saying “you’ve made this radio station possible. It’s been your willingness to tell us your stories that has helped to create such compelling radio. This is your story we’ve been telling for the past decade. Your tragedies, your hopes and dreams.”
Jackson said they have learnt that “our listeners are wise and well informed. Now if we could only persuade the politicians to listen to the people – everything would come right in Zimbabwe.”
The former ZBC Radio 3 DJ said “we have to be the only radio station in the world that hopes it is not in existence in another 10 years – because that would mean the Zim crisis continues. But more than anything we’d like to know that we could return to Zimbabwe and broadcast on FM.”
SW Radio Africa’s daily broadcasts on shortwave have given Mugabe’s regime many sleepless nights. With the help of Chinese jamming equipment, the regime has resorted to jamming broadcasts from the station at regular intervals, particularly towards election time and other significant events.
After Mugabe lost elections in 2008 and employed violence to stay in power, ZANU PF insisted during subsequent power sharing negotiations that the station and others broadcasting from outside the country had to be shut down. Party members have also on many occasions refused to grant the station interviews.
In March 2007 then Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga admitted they were jamming SW Radio Africa broadcasts. Speaking in parliament Matonga boasted that the government was generating electronic interference to prevent reception of the broadcasts.
“We cannot allow foreigners to invade our airwaves without our authority. We will continue to do it. We need to protect our sovereignty. If you go to England you will not receive any foreign radio station.”
SW Radio Africa is run by exiled Zimbabweans who, because of repressive media legislation, were not allowed to broadcast from home.
In 2000 the station, then called Capital Radio, challenged government’s broadcasting monopoly and won its case in the Supreme Court. But after just 6 days of broadcasting from a local hotel the station was shut down by Mugabe using his presidential powers.