Govt licensing radio stations it can manipulate – say activists

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By Leopold Munhende

Government’s continued defence of its “illegal” licensing of Bulawayo’s Khulumani FM is proof that the administration is awarding licences to radio stations it can easily manipulate, Community Radio Harare (CORAH) director Givemore Chipere has claimed.

He was responding to information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana’s recent statement reiterating that Khulumani FM’s licencing was legal even in the absence of a Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board.

“According to the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), the BAZ board has the sole mandate to offer radio licenses; it is not the duty of parliament to licence radio stations anyway,” said Chipere.

“The fact that there is no properly constituted BAZ board shows that the government is not serious about licensing community radio stations.

“Now that there is no board, it makes BAZ vulnerable to abuse by government officials and politicians. Maybe it is a matter of government creating a situation whereby they create loose institutions which they are able to abuse.”

Khulumani FM, a community radio station, was set up in 2018 to broadcast in Bulawayo using the Ndebele language within a 40-kilometre radius of the city.

Media support organisations questioned the legality of government’s decision to set up the station in the absence of a BAZ board whose role is calling for such applications as stipulated by the BSA.

Mangwana, who was guest speaker at the recent World Radio Day celebrations in Harare, said government was making frantic efforts to licence other stations.

“Every day, there is something happening towards the licencing of community radio stations and when the budget came out in December it came out with a provision for community radio stations so we are on course and have the political will to do that.

“The issue is in parliament no and when an issue has been spoken in parliament and until it has been resolved I cannot comment much but in terms of the legal advice we got from the Attorney General nothing illegal was done,” said Mangwana.