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Top Zimbabwe performer at a “loss of words” over radio license snub

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is probably the best known Zimbabwean composer/performer on the international music scene. He also works as music director for Zimbabwe’s Kiss FM pop music radio station, which applied for a commercial private radio licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. But BAZ awarded the latest two licenses to several prominent supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party instead.

“Our presentations (Kiss FM) at the public hearings for the interviews for the licences were absolutely substantial and convincing and the outcome that we have been denied a licence is very sad news. I am at a loss of words and disappointed,” Mtukudzi told Zimbabwe’s Radio VOP news site on Sunday.

Tuku isn’t the only person bitter about the decision. So is Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai. The “granting of the two licences is the final nail on the coffin of media plurality in Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai declared in a statement made on Saturday. “It is unacceptable. The essence of media plurality is to allow multiple, diverse voices not voices of people and institutions aligned to a political party.”

According to the New Zimbabwe news service, Radio VOP (“Voice of the People”) also applied for a license. It currently broadcasts via short wave from the Netherlands. The site’s front page post quotes a former Zimbabwean finance minister calling the allocations “nonsensical.”

“No one is surprised by that development,” Simba Makoni says. “The outcome was entirely predictable right from the beginning. It confirms what all of us have been suspecting. The intention is to reinforce the propaganda machinery around Zanu-PF.”

One of the licenses went to Supa Mandiwanzira’s Zi Radio. Mandiwanzira “has been touted as the Zanu (PF) candidate for Nyanga in the next elections,” says The Zimbabwean. Mandiwanzira defended himself in the New Zimbabwe article:

“Who else deserves a licence other than me? Am I not Zimbabwean? For those who are basing their criticism on my being a former ZBC journalist, SW Radio Africa’s Jerry Jackson, VOP’s John Masuku and most Studio 7 staffers are also former ZBC employees and that is not a crime because ZBC was the only institution available to give us broadcasting experience.”

ZBC is Zimbabwe’s state run broadcasting entity. It’s unclear where this controversy is going. Tsvangirai calls BAZ “illegally constituted” and has promised to raise the issue with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe this week. But expect critics of the radio license allocations to question the integrity of Zimbabwe’s 2008 Global Political Agreement—the power sharing deal that made Tsvangirai Prime Minister—if the government backs BAZ’s license awards.

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