Mugabe to cripple 'invader' television station

President Robert Mugabe delivers one of his fiery speeches. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The Zimbabwe government has threatened to cripple a television station that was expected to start broadcasting from neighbouring South Africa on Friday.

Sponsors of the new station – 1st TV - said it would be accessible to Zimbabweans through the free to air satellite platform.

The station has promised to “provide impartial, factual news to the people of Zimbabwe as well as broadcasting popular films, soap operas and comedies.”

Zimbabwe only has one state broadcaster, which controls two television channels and four radio stations.

Two commercial radio stations were licensed last year, but they have close links with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Zanu-PF also maintains a tight grip on the state broadcaster that has been accused of spreading hate speech against the party’s opponents.

President Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba Friday told state media the government was exploring ways of crippling the new television station.

Filling a void

He said the government would also engage the South African government over the matter, which he said was against Zimbabwe’s interests.

“We will be taking decisions mindful of the need to cripple this pirate television broadcast station,” Mr Charamba said.

“We have been aware of the technical corroboration between VOA (Voice of America) and Sentech, what we did not expect was this expansion of the corroboration.

“Also we are not very sure if the South African government is aware of what its parastatal is doing to hurt Zimbabwean interests.”

VOA hosts a radio station – Studio 7- that beams into Zimbabwe through shortwave and is run by journalists forced out of the southern African country by repressive media laws.

There are two other ‘pirate’ radio stations operating from South Africa and the UK, which broadcast into Zimbabwe.

Zanu-PF claims that the stations are sponsored by governments that want to topple President Mugabe.

But those advocating the opening up of the airwaves say if the broadcasting sector was liberalised, there would be no need for the so-called pirate stations.

The new television station said it was filling a void caused by the state broadcaster’s monopoly.

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