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Zanu-PF May Liberalize Media to Stop "Pirates"

Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Supa Mandiwanzira.
A senior government official and media owner in Zimbabwe says so-called “pirate” radio stations, like VOA’s Studio 7, are popular because the government does not allow alternative voices on existing national media.

Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Supa Mandiwanzira, responding to questions from Zanu-PF senators, conceded Thursday that most people who listen to Studio 7, the Voice of the People, and SW Radio Africa—which he termed a “nuisance which government must get rid of”—are doing so out of desperation.

Mr. Mandiwanzira said Zimbabweans are likely to continue seeking out foreign-based radio stations because local radio stations are currently not accessible in most parts of the country, as Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation radio and television transmissions do not have nationwide coverage. However, he added, people also seek out foreign-based stations because of a lack of diversity among current media outlets in-country.

Mandiwanzira said the government is making some efforts to block foreign-based stations by digitizing transmissions and licensing more players inside Zimbabwe, promising that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe would soon be calling for broadcasting license applications from interested groups, including community radio stations.

On another media issue, Chief Musarurwa from Mashonaland Central asked Mandiwanzira to control social media sites and the H-Metro tabloid, owned by the Zimbabwe Newspapers, alleging that such media distribute or publish photos of nude people, leading to what he called “cultural erosion.”

Mandiwanzira promised to address H-Metro’s use of racy photos, but said that Information and Communication Technology Minister Webster Shamu would be responsible for addressing Chief Musarurwa’s related to social media websites and electronic phone apps.

In other Senate news, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora told lawmakers that drought conditions throughout the country are affecting education, causing some children to miss lessons and examinations.

Mr. Dokora said the ideal solution would be to introduce a supplementary feeding scheme in schools. Dokora acknowledged, however, that his ministry does not have the financial or material resources to introduce such a scheme at present.