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Statement on Zimbabwe at 32
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS)
April 18, 2012

ZACRAS joins Zimbabweans, in the country and abroad, in celebrating 32 years since the attainment of the country's independence.

The quest of liberating Zimbabwe was borne out of the need to create a free and independent nation, where Zimbabweans would be empowered to enjoy their fundamental freedoms without fear or hindrance. As such, ZACRAS pays tribute to every valiant individual, political party and organisation which contributed towards the liberation of Zimbabwe.

As we celebrate 32 years of freedom from colonial bondage, ZACRAS remains cognizant of the fact that Zimbabweans are now in a different kind of bondage. This bondage being the infringement of their fundamental human rights related to freedom of expression, association, assembly and access to information .It is ZACRAS' view that, this infringement is a clear violation and betrayal of the values that underpinned Zimbabwe's struggle for independence.

It has been more than 3 decades since Zimbabwe attained independence. However, the broadcasting arena remains constricted as it presently only comprises of the ZANU-PF mouthpiece, ZBC. It is through ZBC that ZANU-PF has maintained its hegemony by squashing dissent and voices which criticise its policies and ideologies.

Like the erstwhile colonial Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) which was renowned for propaganda, upon independence, ZBC inherited the same systems and values which made RBC infamous for party propaganda, with the only notable difference being the change in name and staff. Till date, there have not been any reforms seeking to turn ZBC into a true public broadcaster.

This situation has been worsened by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe's (BAZ) failure to holistically diversify the broadcasting arena. In 2011, BAZ licensed Zimpapers' Talk Radio and AB Communications, which are organisations believed to have ZANU-PF links. In a spirit of promoting transparency and accountability, ZACRAS called for rigorous scrutiny of the adjudication process, publicizing of the qualifications and requirements which BAZ considered in awarding licenses to the two successful applicants. However, this was not done.

Noting the development agenda of community radio and the need to offer geographically marginalised communities and languages such as Nambya a platform to be heard, communities from various towns in Zimbabwe mobilised themselves to form community radio Initiatives, with some of these initiatives such as Radio Dialogue in Bulawayo, being as old as 10 years.

It is however saddening that till date, no community radio has been licensed. This is more so in light of the existence of regions in Zimbabwe which do not receive radio and television transmission, 32 years later since the attainment of the country's independence. As it stands, there is no clear indication of when BAZ will call for community radio applications. Instead of operating according to the whims of BAZ, ZACRAS believes that there should be the enactment of mechanisms which stipulate the periods that BAZ should call for applications and subsequently award licenses. This will enable Zimbabweans to take BAZ to task if they fail to call for applications and award licenses within the stipulated periods.

Upon the attainment of independence, the then ruling party ZANU-PF inherited colonial legislation and also enacted new ones. Presently, legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act (CLCRA) and the Interception of Communication Act (ICA), litter Zimbabwe's media environment and have adversely impacted on citizens' fundamental human rights. Though these pieces of legislation were enacted under the guise of seeking to protect state secrets, security and maintaining public order, they have inadvertently been used to limit the kind of information that citizens can access, criticism of government policies and ZANU-PF as a party.

The existence of these systems which encumber freedom of expression has culminated in the media and citizens exercising self censorship. During those instances that the media and ordinary citizens criticise certain government proclamations and policies, they will either be harassed, intimidated or detained. As a result, for fear of victimisation and intimidation, Zimbabweans cannot outrightly criticise the government and its policies, lest they be charged with undermining the authority of the President or propagating information likely to cause alarm, despondency and public disorder.

ZACRAS believes that Zimbabwe can never be truly free until its citizens have been empowered through adequate information provision and the right to freely express themselves without fear or favor. This way, accountability and transparency will be enhanced as citizens will be able to actively participate in governance issues without hindrance.

Visit the ZACRAS fact sheet

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