War you won't win Charamba

HARARE - Presidential spokesperson and Information ministry secretary George Charamba was in the media a few days ago, giving a political argument and justification as to why the government is clamping down on those distributing and receiving free shortwave radio sets.

His appearance after almost two weeks of silence was a result of the careful planning on what Zanu PF intends to say to ratchet up pressure on civil society, citizens and the international community.

It is clear from the high sounding nothing statement that Charamba is speaking not necessarily on behalf of President Robert Mugabe or government, but a clique of security agents who are trying to cover face on the radios madness issue, and yet appear to be serious and stir a diplomatic storm in a tea cup.  

That Charamba asked a number of rhetorical questions which he hopes will put those involved under pressure are an indictment of the regime he represents, which is not only paranoid but jittery of an informed society.

It is only a society that has issues with itself, under a regime that feels inadequate in meeting the needs of its people that would seek to bar access to information, and more sinisterly, if not stupidly, ban ownership of radio sets.

Let us turn Charamba’s arguments of a security threat to Zimbabwe on its head and ask does it matter really, how people receive information, does it matter how they access news and should it be a concern of a whole security system that citizens can access shortwave signals which are all over the place?

We turn Charamba’s argument on its heard when he asks what is it that people of Zimbabwe are meant to listen to through the shortwave stations?

The answer is simple; citizens are fed up by Charamba and team’s closure of the media space, are willing to listen to alternatives and are out there looking for alternatives.

The coming in of the radio sets whether legal or illegal is not a matter that should bother Charamba, but maybe Zimra.  

Concern must be on his legacy, does he sleep soundly at night, happy and contended that he is providing a service to the people of Zimbabwe.

We wrote a few months ago on this page that Charamba represents one of the grand failures of media management in post colonial Africa by suppressing the development of a true Zimbabwe media that reflects our diversity, carries our views, our fears and brings us together.

He on the other hand thinks because of university education and political connections the can control the mindset of citizens, by telling us what to listen to and what not to listen to.

The coming in of the radio sets, and the existence of so-called pirate radio stations, is a manifestation of policy failure on the part of Charamba. If he had worked to develop a conducive media environment, Zimbabweans would be happy to listen to and watch their own radio and TV stations.

On the contrary, as many as three million households are watching South African and foreign TV stations daily, and every night listen to shortwave broadcast under cover of darkness.  

If the government is serious on addressing this matter, then simply open up the media space.

If Mugabe is serious about developing a self-sustaining, truly independent, and confident society, then he should allow citizens to talk as much as they want and fire the likes of Charamba.

Instead of coming out victorious from this radio debacle, Charamba and team will come out with more bruises.

It is laughable that Charamba and team want to go to Sadc and the African Union, holding radio sets and allege sabotage and security threat.

The same countries they want to visit have hundreds of radio stations broadcasting in their respective countries. The bottom line Mr secretary is that the people of Zimbabwe have rejected your attempt to control them and will continue resisting.

In these times of technology, be prepared to deal with as many surprises until you simply open up. This is a war you are not going to win, because it is you against the rest of Zimbabwe.

And this is about our lives and our choices. - David Mutomba


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