By Amelia Johnson|
Deputy media, information and broadcasting minister and Zanu PF MP Supa Mandiwanzira was used by wealthy white investors to register Zi FM Stereo in violation of an order by dictator Robert Mugabe not to open the crucial broadcast sector to ‘foreigners’.
ZiFM became Zimbabwe’s first and only licensed private radio station in 2010 amid queries about Mandiwanzira’s sources of funds. He left ZBC as a poorly-paid news anchor and freelanced briefly for foreign broadcasters. However, Mandiwanzira shot to sudden wealth with his friends claiming he received a multi-million dollar payoff from Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila who allegedly took his wife. He denies this.
However, the puzzle over where he got millions to broadcast appeared to be resolved somewhat when the Greek shareholders and their representatives appeared in force at ZiFM’s second anniversary celebrations in Harare recently.
Some of the shareholders privately told guests that they owned the business and Mandiwanzira was just a front. The shareholders have interests in Netherlands-based fast moving consumer goods chain Spar and in real estate.
Officials from Mandiwanzira’s struggling African Business Communications apparently lied to parliament about the company’s shareholding during public hearings before the licence was issued. Disclosure that the company was owned by whites would have led to disqualification as the paranoid Harare regime classifies broadcasting as a security-sensitive sector.
Mugabe, in parliament recently, lashed out at blacks who front for whites and threatened to expropriate the businesses as punishment.
Mugabe launched a patently racist campaign in 2000 to drive whites out of business and eventually expel them from Zimbabwe.
The regime maintains a tight grip on communication. It has banned Capital FM, run by Gerry Jackson, with media minister Jonathan Moyo personally dismantling its equipment at Crowne Plaza Monomotapa hotel in Harare. Capital Radio later reappeared in London as SW Radio Africa but has gone off-air due to financial problems. Another private station, Radio VOP, beamed with support from Radio Netherlands, was bombed by suspected state agents. Reporters on Voice of America’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe routinely use false names for fear of attack. Numerous applications for broadcast licences have been blocked or rejected by state officials linked to Mugabe. They have used violence, threats, harassment of applicants, exorbitant fees, outrageous demands and lengthy, unexplained delays in processing applications.
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