HomeCommentMuckraker: Nothing ‘pirate’ about SW Radio Africa

Candid Comment: Overregulation, policy see-saws hurt economy

LET’S hope Botswana doesn’t feel intimidated by the abuse being hurled at it about “pirate” radio stations. It may be useful to remind ourselves of the context here.

In 2000 the Supreme Court struck down ZBC’s monopoly of the airwaves. A handful of broadcasters attempted to set up a private station but were raided by police and their equipment confiscated.
They subsequently relocated to the UK where they set up a radio station, SW Radio Africa.
There is nothing “pirate” about this station or any of the others. They are licensed under the laws of the countries hosting them. The employees have been driven to work abroad because of their treatment here. Even though the GPA has opened the way to their return, the minister has not given an undertaking about their safety. This is a pertinent issue given the threats made against them in the past.
As Gerry Jackson, who set up SW Radio Africa, comments in this week’s Standard: “Our broadcasts on shortwave and via the Internet are completely legal and we want nothing more than a free, peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe.
“And yes, we do believe that Zimbabweans have an absolute right to the information that has been denied to them for so long.
“If you want to get rid of radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe, free the media. Really free it. It really is that simple…”
“Will you please start talking about the real issues. You have a population that’s desperate, investors ready to throw money at Zimbabwe the minute there is a guaranteed return to the rule of law, respect for property rights, an end to political intimidation and the massive human rights abuses — and Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana really do have to go.”

Then we had some incredibly ignorant and stupid remarks on the Botswana issue from somebody called Dr Maxwell Hove. He said Botswana’s stance was not surprising given that country’s history.
He said that Botswana’s history did not fall in the same bracket as other Sadc members “who got independence through protracted wars against white racist regimes”. Botswana got its independence by negotiation, he declared, as if that was some form of treachery!
And how did Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mauritius get their independence, Dr Maxwell? We don’t recall any of them fighting “protracted wars” against white racist regimes.
It is noteworthy how little Zanu PF’s facile rhetoric on fighting wars is shared by its neighbours. Ask them what they think of Zanu PF’s “brave stance” against imperialism and they will simply laugh.
Malawi, one of the poorest countries on the continent, exports food to Zimbabwe. Botswana doesn’t need lectures from these delusional misfits in Harare. Botswana is a success story, these guys commenting in the Herald are failures. Doesn’t that say it all?
See how Botswana manages its diamond resources and compare that with the disaster at Chiadzwa. That is Zanu PF’s barren legacy.
After 30 years they still can’t provide a professional radio and television service. Until they do, the nation will look to external stations for its information.

Still on the subject of the media, why does parliament allow only photographers and TV crews from the state media into the chamber during presentation of the Budget and why have MDC ministers not said anything about this unacceptable discriminatory practice.
Everywhere there are pockets of resistance to the new order. Zanu PF is for instance exclusively conducting foreign policy and using the Foreign Affairs ministry to fire broadsides at real or imagined enemies. The Czech Republic has recently been in the firing line for inviting prospective diplomats to Prague. The Czech Republic and other EU members need to tell overweening officials in the Foreign Affairs ministry very politely to get lost. They represent the losers in the old regime which is doing everything it can to block change. Please stop indulging their pathetic squeals of protest.

It was good to see in the midst of these complaints Morgan Tsvangirai striding down a red carpet in Tripoli inspecting a guard of honour, accompanied by his Libyan counterpart. He was received by army and police chiefs on this his first official visit to North Africa.
Obviously the visit had President Mugabe’s blessing but one couldn’t help ponder how things have changed since this time last year when MDC and civic officials were being picked up and tortured.
What the MDC-T needs to do now is publish its agenda for reform instead of trying to propitiate Mugabe by saying nothing. Is it acceptable to remain silent when a majority of voters demand change? Why are Posa, Aippa and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act still on the statute book; why have torturers gone uninvestigated and unpunished; what has happened to Joseph Mwale?; why are the Herald and ZBC still instruments of reaction and purveyors of ignorance?
Would it really hurt for the majority party to set out its political stall? Don’t the public have a right to know their plans — if any? If the Senate insists on blocking legislation emanating from the lower House then let’s witness them doing just that so the nation can see the face of the beast!

So the “Look East” policy appears to be less successful than we have been led to believe. The only time Zimbabwe recorded a trade surplus with China this year was in February, the Standard reported this week. CSO data for October shows that Zimbabwe only exported goods worth US$487 719 but imported goods worth US$6,7 million in the same month.
Still with the economy, while official commentators say Zimbabwe enjoys negative inflation, evidence on the ground suggests otherwise. The numbers are moving up — some not so slowly, a survey suggests.
Tinned goods from South Africa are creeping up in price with no apparent justification. So are locally produced products. A pie in TM that cost US$1 a few weeks ago, recently went up to $1,30 and is now $1,55.
Castrol motor oil is going for US$820 for 210 litres when the landed cost is $280. 
The Prices Commission that was quick to prosecute retailers last year is invisible in the current hikes.
Most of the price rises are opportunistic and simply not justified by increased costs. A local real estate company is hiking its rents by $50 a month as a routine procedure. And while we wish Finance minister Tendai Biti’s Budget can deliver 7% growth, it cannot happen when dependent upon an agricultural recovery programme that is sabotaged by land seizures.
Just as a matter of interest, how many farms has Ignatious Chombo acquired over the past 10 years?

We would also be keen to know, on another subject, how many people will accompany President Mugabe to Copenhagen next week?
Sixty we gather.
Zimbabwe is in desperate need of international funding for its very survival. And here is Mugabe taking, we understand, his family, cabinet ministers with no known record of interest in climate change, officials, and other hangers on. MDC ministers will be among those scrambling aboard the presidential flight which should be named “Gravy One”.
What sort of signal does this send to the international community? What does this say of the country’s priorities?

Finally, we were intrigued by Joseph Chinotimba’s letter to the editor last week. Why was it published in the Herald when it was addressed to this paper and concerned matters published here? And — coming from Chinotimba — how come it didn’t have a single spelling mistake?
The answer is obvious. The Herald gave it away by placing the letter in the space normally reserved for letters emanating from, how shall we say, spooky and subterranean sources. And the fact that it didn’t contain a single error from a writer whose education was interrupted by war service would tend to indicate that it was not entirely his own work.
We also have to bear in mind that this is the same man who told a court regarding his relations with other politicians that: “On the surface we appear to be in good books but we lie to each other a lot.”

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