Minister defends 'pirate' radio stations

Harare – Deputy Information Minister has hit back at those seeking the banning of exiled radio stations broadcasting into the country saying they were justified in doing so because Zimbabwe had a capacity to licence 31 commercial radio stations

“A market has got rules. If you control the price of goods and services, you create a parallel market. This is how the law of supply and demand would respond to an intervention into a natural law of the market. This is very simple,” Timba told journalists in Harare.

He said in terms of the current frequency allocation plan, Zimbabwe had the capacity to host three new television stations on the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band and one TV station on Very High Frequency (VHF) band. If Zimbabwe was to go digital through a multiplex, it could have six additional television stations on the UHF and one more on the VHF and this would be an additional 7 stations in the country.

Timba said Zimbabwe also had the capacity to host two more national FM licences in terms of the current frequency plan and 31 local commercial radio stations. This could allow every urban centre in Zimbabwe to have a radio station.

In terms of community broadcasting, Timba said, Zimbabwe had the capacity to issue 60 community broadcasting licences. There were also 13 unallocated Medium Wave frequencies that can also be allocated at national level.

“If you have got all these capacities in terms of broadcasting, issue them,” Timba said. “When you issue those licences, you will remove that market which is parallel. If you continue to close that space, then those entities will continue to operate.”

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is campaigning for the ban of all exiled radio stations. It has accused Botswana and Madagascar for hosting the stations, saying it is a breach of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was brokered by SADC.

“By hosting the pirate stations, Botswana and Madagascar — which hosts a relay station for Voice of the People — are violating International Telecommunications Union protocols by supporting the broadcasting of the hate messages,” the state Herald wrote on Friday. 

“The two countries are also in contempt of Sadc and the African Union as the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement signed by Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC.” Radio VOP