Inside Supa's ZiFM

HARARE - Supa Mandiwanzira, who was controversially awarded one of two commercial radio licences, has said it is his democratic right to support a political party of his choice but insisted this would not influence his station’s programming.

Mandiwanzira’s ZiFM and Star FM, owned by the state-run Zimbabwe Newspapers group, were awarded licences to run commercial radio stations by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) in a decision critics say entrenches Zanu PF’s control of the country’s media landscape.

Media reform activists and other political parties said Baz’s decision flew in the face of calls for diversity and plurality in the sector since Zanu PF already retains a stranglehold over the Zimpapers group and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) while Mandiwanzira, a former president of empowerment pressure group AAG, also has strong links with the party.

However, Mandiwanzira told a public meeting in Harare this week that it was his right to support any political party of his choice adding the licence was awarded to a company and not an individual.

“Many people claim I have close links with Zanu PF but those who are saying that have not come to ask me whether I support the party or not,” he said.

“But if they think I do, I guess the answer is that it is my democratic right as it is with everybody else to support a political party of their choice. Mandiwanzira angrily denied allegations he had been awarded the licence because of his links with Zanu PF and insisted that his supposed political associations would not influence programming at the station."

“The allegation is nonsensical. I do not need to move around saying I am this or that; I am Supa Mandiwanzira and that is my brand, that is my identity and our presenters, on and off air, have their own identities as individuals,” he said.

“I do not have to prove to anyone that I am not Zanu PF or MDC. I have to prove to the public that I am running a successful commercial radio station."

I was never given the licence. AB communications won the licence in a bidding process that was very competitive and included some of the heavyweights in the sector.

“The identity of an individual cannot be an identity of the (radio) station. So we make a clear distinction on what Supa Mandiwanzira represents as a brand and what the station represents as ZiFM Stereo. The station is not going to be influenced by an individual or political party or media group. We are going to be independent.”

The two licences were awarded as part of reforms aimed at breaking the monopoly of the ZBC which has dominated the country broadcast industry since independence in 1980.

The process, however, drew fire from media reform activists who dismissed it as a farce with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party demanding the licences be revoked.

Still, Mandiwanzira said instead of questioning the supposed political links of individuals associated with the two stations, activists should welcome the fact that the country now had two privately owned radio stations and push for more to be allowed to operate.

“This is the first time a privately-owned radio station has been licensed so it is adding to diversity. This time last year you had four radio stations and this year you have six radio stations,” he said.

“So don’t make noise about those who are advancing the growth of the industry but must clamour for the opening of more stations because there is still room for improvement.”  — NewZimbabwe.com


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