1 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Mpofu Seeks Licence for Radio Station

TRANSPORT Minister Obert Mpofu is one of the individuals and organisations that have applied for new radio licences as government continues to open up the country's airwaves.

Over the next two months, government plans to issue 25 radio licences for the country's major cities and towns with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) saying it has received 21 applications.

Those who have applied include Transport Minister Obert Mpofu who is said to be one of the richest people in the country although many question the source of his riches.

The top Zanu PF official, who also owns a bank, denies looting public funds and recently said  there was nothing to steal in government.

"People say we steal, but how can you steal when things are so hard. A man who works hard is a thief and the lazy one is a man; let us compete with love and not jealousy," he said.

Meanwhile, also said to have applied for a licence is Parade magazine which is owned by a company said to have been bought by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe chief Gideon Gono.

BAZ sparked controversy when it issued two national radio licences in 2011 as part of reforms pushed by the coalition government.

The licences were handed to ZiFM, owned by Supa Mandiwanzira who is now deputy information minister, and StarFM which is owned by the pro-Zanu PF Zimpapers group.

Media reform activists said they expect applicants seen to be opposed to the ruling Zanu PF to be sidelined again.

Said Rashweat Mukundu, a media consultant, said: "BAZ decisions are informed by what the executive sitting at Munhumutapa Building (seat of government) want.

"BAZ has to do more to engender confidence in its work, otherwise there will be continued protests over its processes. Licensing of radio and TV stations must be above political considerations so that the media can play a role as a watchdog over the centres of power."

"We have always encouraged values more than party politics among our members. Community radio should be above party politics," said Gift Mambipiri, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations.

"(But there) won't be anything new because Zimbabweans who dare to show different political colours were penalised by exclusion under [the] land reform [process] and [with regard to] other opportunities."

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