Text of report by Zimbabwean newspaper Zimbabwe Independent website on 6 July
[OSC Transcribed Text] [Report by Itai Mushekwe: “Govt gets a taste of own medicine”]
Government radio jamming equipment reportedly purchased in China has backfired, gagging its own new short-wave project, Voice of Zimbabwe (VOZ), sources at the station revealed to the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
The ambitious station, set up to counter Western broadcasts, is said to be battling to recruit qualified personnel to run its operations while its few employees are still in Harare instead of moving to Gweru where it was due to be housed. Sources said the equipment was believed to be made up of three jammers installed at Thornhill, a military airbase and government communications centre in the Midlands.
The plan was to block a perceived negative publicity campaign from outside radio stations such as Voice of America (VOA) funded by the US State Department, SW Radio which beams from London and Dutch-funded Voice of the People (VOP), among others. The jamming equipment has prevented VOZ from starting regular operations due to the self-signal interception going on at the station.
Zimbabweans have been forced to listen to state radio programming owing to punitive broadcasting laws enacted by government. The country has four state-controlled radio stations operating under the frequency modulation (FM) radio wave band and one short-wave, VOZ, which appears to be suffering a stillbirth.
Government clamped down on Capital Radio, Zimbabwe’s first independent radio station in 2000 setting the police on the station’s offices in Harare where its equipment was confiscated. Radio Dialogue, a community radio station housed in Bulawayo, has also been forcibly shut down.
“Ever since the station was launched on May 25, it is yet to start regular operations,” a source said. “There are no news broadcast nor a set programming timetable. To make things worse there are no announcers, liberation war music occasionally plays but fades away at different times.”
Government announced two months ago that the station would run trial broadcasts for three weeks on 5975 kHz and 4828 kHz, but the trials were a major flop owing to the jamming machinery from China.
In a bid to cover the broadcasting setback both Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) and Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu have remained tight-lipped on the issue and have failed to give any explanation as to why the touted panacea to counter Western “pirate” radio stations is failing to broadcast.
VOZ boss, Happison Muchechetere who is also a war veteran yesterday denied that the station was experiencing technical problems. He said government had purchased state-of-the-art equipment for the propaganda project. Muchechetere said government is at war on the airwaves with imperialists. He said the “imperialists” will not win.
“It’s a war of the airwaves and we’re not afraid,” said Muchechetere. “We know we’re at war with imperialists and they are not going to win. You people forget that you’re doing propaganda for the white man. I’m not ashamed that I’m doing propaganda for Zimbabweans and for someone who liberated this country. Hapana chirikujammer apa (There is no jamming here). We are not experiencing any technical problems,” he said.
(Source: Zimbabwe Independent website, Harare, in English 6 Jul 07 via BBC Monitoring)