Collapsed SW Radio Africa blames MDC-T

via Collapsed SW Radio Africa blames MDC-T 11 August 2014

MANAGEMENT at the UK-based SW Radio Africa has blamed disarray in the opposition MDC-T party for the closure of the London-based broadcaster which has been forced to shut down due to lack of funding.

In a statement, founder and manager, Gerry Jackson said: “It is with regret that SW Radio announces that it is closing down.

“We hope that one day Zimbabwe finally has a government who understands that its sole responsibility is to ensure a safe, healthy, prosperous life for every man, woman and child in the country.”

Established in 2001, the donor-funded station angered President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party with its nightly shortwave broadcasts into Zimbabwe so much that the veteran leader demanded its closure as a condition for implementing reforms agreed with the opposition.

So rattled with the news broadcasts was the Harare regime that police and pro-Zanu PF militants were occasionally dispatched to seize shortwave radio receivers from villagers in the country’s rural districts.

Mugabe claimed that SW Radio Africa, along with the Zimbabwe service of Voice of America, were part of attempts by the West to kick him out of office and force regime change in the country.

Jackson told the Washington Times newspaper that the project was established – with US support – to help break Zanu PF’s stranglehold on broadcasting in Zimbabwe.

But SW Radio Africa has announced it is shutting down, saying donors were no longer keen to support the project.

“It was a U.S. State [Department] agency that gave us seed money to break what was then a stranglehold on radio. Although, technically, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is a national asset, it is run by Zanu PF,” Jackson was reported as saying.

However, the length of the crisis in Zimbabwe “led to donor fatigue”, she added, and recent appeals for funding allowed SW Radio Africa to operate only on a month-to-month basis.

By July, it became clear that no more funds would be available and the station was forced to close down.

Jackson however told the BBC that the “massive disarray” in the opposition MDC, had contributed to “donor fatigue” while moves by the European Union to re-engage Mugabe had not helped.

The MDC-T has been critically weakened by another split in the wake of its landslide election defeat last year after party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, at the helm since 1999, refused to step down.

Disgruntled key figures including secretary general and former finance minister Tendai Biti have since gone their separate ways and are in the process of forming another political party, a repeat of the 2005 split when then secretary general Welshman Ncube also left.

London-based pro-democracy group, Zimbabwe Vigil, lamented the closure of SW Radio Africa and criticised the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for rejecting entreaties to support the station.

“This weekend marks the end of SW Radio Africa which has been broadcasting high quality journalism to Zimbabwe for thirteen years,” Zim Vigil said in a statement.

“Coming at a time when the independent press at home is facing a growing financial squeeze, the Vigil believes the loss of this voice is a tragic blow to democracy.

“Supporting a peaceful democratic transition is proclaimed as one of the main objectives for Zimbabwe of the UK’s Department for International Development, which must have given our country well over a billion dollars of aid during the lifetime of SW Radio Africa.

“It’s a pity DFID didn’t see fit to provide money to keep the radio station going as it filled the prescription for this.”

Jackson established the station in London after an attempt to set up in Zimbabwe was blocked by the government.

“I used the Supreme Court to confirm there was no law to stop anyone from launching a radio service in Zimbabwe,” she recalled. “But when we started broadcasting, armed paramilitary broke down the door and seized our equipment.”

Notoriously uncomfortable with criticism, Mugabe’s government has shut opposition voices out of the airwaves through its control of the ZBC – for years the country’s sole broadcaster.

Under the coalition government, the opposition parties pressed for media reforms aimed at opening the sector up to private players but the wily Zanu PF responded by licencing operators run by its loyalists.

One of the two national radio licences was awarded to Zimpapers – which is majority owned by the government – while the other one was handed to a company controlled by Zanu PF MP and deputy information minister Supa Mandiwanzira.


  • comment-avatar

    This headline is sensationalist and is a classic example of taking a quote out of context. I explained that there were a multitude of factors that may have affected our donor support – just one of those being the disarray in the MDC-T.

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    Donors have their own agendas and clearly democracy in Zimbabwe is not a high priority for them.
    It would appear that access to resources and markets might be their true agenda.
    When it became clear that MDC were unlikely to take power anytime in the foreseeable future, donor funding switched to Mugabe.
    Galling as it is for me to admit, Mugabe has been right in discerning donor motives. Except the Chinese.
    In the meantime, I mourn the loss of the brave voice for democracy that was SW Radio Africa. Thank you and long life and good health to you all.

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      Straight Shooter 7 years ago

      Democracy has never been a high priority for Tswangirayi, why then do you expect donors to hang around him forever? If you cannot be democratic in your own party, you cant expect donors to continue with you hoping you will be different as a President of the country. Only fools continue hoping against hope!

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    C Frizell 7 years ago

    Well done Gerry and the people at SWRA – bravely fought.

    But Zimbos are their own enemies. Is it not embarrassing that so many of those who have fought valiantly for Freedom are . . . White Africans?

    Meanwhile black Zimbos fight and squabble like children at a party, trying to grab the largest pieces of cake. Greed and Fear are the glue that holds Zanu together – it seems that that easily outclasses Patriotism and Nationalism which should be the driving force for those trying to save the nation.

    All in all, A Very Disappointing Nation!

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    Malcolm 7 years ago

    Well said Owen. Allegiances can brazenly change amongst money backed politicians and interested institutions with a blink of an eye. It’s one hell of a job trying to keep track of who has compromised who from day to day.

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    jobolinko 7 years ago

    Its unfortunate when you rely on someone for your day to day running of business its always like that the day they stop you also stop ,well they should talk to Tendai Biti and his friends ,But unfortunately s w radio took this as an event where as this is a struggle zimbabweans lets continue with the struggle

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    revenger-avenger 7 years ago

    The west long back in 1979 sold out on our hapless country. Decades of naive gullibility. Weakness

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    True the so called donors practically become sponsors. They sponsor a particular individual or organization to carry out their agenda. If the individual or organization fails within a given time, the “project” is abandoned. Those who were “donating” believed that they were investing. Some became convinced that the identified individual to lead the project is a liar and in fact was conniving with the opponent. They now see no reason to continue putting their money on a clearly failing project.If they wanted to support the people of Zimbabwe they would not have put all their trust in one political movement. Its true again that they do not care about us the people but they care about their interests.

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    If the Zimbabweans in the diaspora cannot financially support the radio, why should they expect others to foot the bill. Are we all rent seekers ?

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      Ruramai 7 years ago

      I agree with you huni. We are just as shameless as the people who oppress us. Zim Vigil is upset that DFID will not sponsor SW Radio. Why can’t they contribute towards the project if they believe it as crucial to democracy as they claim. The begging mentality is taken too far.

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    This is a stupid article. One that was writen by Zanu. Several issues led to doner fatigue and the least of them is the MDC. In fact the MDC had nothing to do with the closure of the radio station. A radio station should be run as a business and generate its own money – at least to break even. While the demise of the station is a loss, that the MDC caused it is nonsence. The struggle fir freedom continues without Biti, Ncube and SW Radio.

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    I hear Weshman was given a farm and truckloads of cattle and he split from MDC to stay at his Zanu given farm, admiring his suddenly acquired pet cattle. AmaBraman. Next was Biti. After rightly accussing Gono of stealing state money when Biti was finance minister, the fool went on to deffend the thief in court? How ironical. Like Weshman, from former MDC SG to ‘leader’ of a splinter group? Coincidence or engineered? Only their mothers will vote for them.