Zenzele Ndebele, the production manager of Radio Dialogue, a Bulawayo-based community radio station, is expected to appear in court today charged with possession of smuggled radios in contravention of Section 182 of the Customs and Excise Act.
In a statement this morning, the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) said Ndebele (@zenzele), had just tweeted that he was still waiting at the police station and had been told earlier on that police were waiting for a customs official to arrive, ostensibly to deal with the smuggling allegation.
Misa said last Friday, police in Bulawayo raided and confiscated 180 radio sets from Radio Dialogue and subsequently questioned and detained Ndebele before releasing him.
His lawyer, Kucaca Phulu, said Ndebele had also been slapped with a further charge of possession of a radio receiver without a valid Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) licence in contravention of Section 38 of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).
The swoop on Radio Dialogue follows the police’s 19 February 2013 ban on the possession of “specially designed radios” and other communication devices. The suspicion is that such equipment is being used to communicate hate speech ahead of Zimbabwe’s referendum and general elections.
At the time of the ban, police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, told a news conference in Harare that possession and distribution of the devices in question was illegal.
She accused some political parties of distributing the ‘illegal devices’ to unsuspecting members of the public with the intention “to sow seeds of disharmony within the country especially now that the country is about to embark on the referendum and harmonised elections”.
“Misa reiterates its earlier assertions that Section 38B of the Broadcasting Services Act does not ban the possession of shortwave radio receivers,” the media body said. “The police’s ban can therefore only be aimed at curbing citizens’ rights to access alternative information, ideas and opinions ahead of the referendum and harmonised elections.”