Elections: New radio stations on spotlight

HARARE - With the harmonised elections on the horizon, Zimbabweans await to see how the two new radio stations, Star FM and Zi FM will cover political parties fighting it against Zanu PF.

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) which used to enjoy a monopoly within the broadcasting sector has over the years refused to air campaign advertisement for the MDC.

This time around, ZBH seems to have some form of competition from the new two radio stations.

There are others skeptic over the two new radio stations’ impartiality considering their close association to Zanu PF.

Star FM is owned by Zimpapers, publishers of State newspapers The Herald and The Sunday Mail whose editorial policy is biased towards Zanu PF and chances are they will not entertain political adverts from parties fighting Zanu PF.

The second radio station, Zi FM is owned by former ZBH news anchor, Supa Mandiwanzira and chances are that his hands are tied and would not want to provoke Zanu PF officials, most of whom supported him to get the licence.

In media interviews, Mandiwanzira has stated that his radio station is independent of the political order.

Before Star FM went on air last year, the Daily News interviewed the station’s general manager Admire Taderera who said his 25 years within the broadcasting sector would help him execute his duties professionally.

“I am a professional and although I know that there is a misconception that a Zimpapers’ radio station will be biased, we would like to allay those fears.

We are here to create a platform for Zimbabweans to speak to each other.”

The former ZBC broadcaster said he will remain focused and concentrate on his core work — to entertain, educate and inform.

“People seem to have quickly run into concluding that since we are owned to Zimpapers we will not give an independent and professional programming.

As I said before, I am a professional and would work to improve broadcasting in Zimbabwe,” said Taderera.

He said it was expected that any radio station coming on board now would engage former or current ZBC employees.

“From where else can you look? You have to look at ZBC if you want people with experience and technical knowhow; otherwise there is nowhere else to look.

“So it was natural that Tich and I are former ZBC employees. We will work independently and Zimbabweans have just to wait and see how we will perform,” said Taderera.

Asked if there would a situation in which the new radio stations would play campaign adverts for the opposition or play songs glorifying Morgan Tsvangirai, social commentator Thomas Deve said: “It is easier to start by assuming that they will maintain the old status and leave other questions open because at times the opposition does not create the material.

“Just look at how other political parties use alternative media and social networks.”

Deve said at the end of the day it is about their media and campaign teams.

“See how Mugabe has allowed the campaign to be run around his signature and fashionable clothes for young people.”

And Zanu PF seems to have an oiled campaign team.

“First, they have to send signals that they are ready for elections and put a claim that they will win.”
Deve said Zimbabweans have mastered the art of using social media and will be very receptive to political parties that will utilise it for election purposes.

“You will find that citizens will actually generate much more material which in their opinion will help in terms of improving better chances of making good choices.”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga says he has listened to the new two radio stations and so far he is impressed with the way they have managed to give all political parties space in debates.

“The two radio stations are doing extremely well in terms of balancing their content thought.

“I am not sure what will happen as the election hots up — maybe they will be forced to tone down or change policy completely — but so far, so good.”

Mhlanga said another alternative for political campaigns would have been social media but looking at who is an active and serious voter in Zimbabwe he does not think the social media networks would be important to any serious politician who wants to go to Parliament or Council Chamber.

“The majority of the country’s voters are not influenced by the social media platform debates.

“The second factor is that in Zimbabwean politics the electorate votes for only one person the President of the party and the rest they vote for the party symbol and not the qualities of the person.

“So whatever you say in the social media as a candidate is neither here nor there with the voters. They have already made up their minds what party symbol they will vote for,” said Mhlanga.

He said the third factor is that the majority of people who follow political debates on the social networks are below the age 35 and unfortunately in Zimbabwe technology has taken this age group backwards in the wheel of civilisation.

“It has disengaged them from physical participation on anything.

“It’s just a generation ready to be bought, used and sold while they have their eyes glued on cellphone hand sets and laptops.

“They will not go to register to vote and if they do they will not go out and vote.

“The politician who will go out to the table and cut the cake with the active citizens is the one who will come out with a piece to eat.

“Those that will send their handsets only to the table will just be able to impress social net-workers who unfortunately will not be at the table where the cake is being cut and shared,” he added.

Mhlanga said elections in Zimbabwe are a game of getting to the right people and not just getting to the people.

“This is why Zanu PF just blocks the path to the right people and the rest is our 32 years-old history.”

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