The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) and Radio Dialogue wish to make its stakeholders and the public aware of the developments regarding the raiding of Radio Dialogue on March 1, 2013.
Around 10am on the said day, 10 police officers from pounced at Radio Dialogue offices located in Hillside, Bulawayo.Upon arrival, the police barricaded the road that leads into the referred property and locked some people outside including staff members.
Women who were selling wares along Moffat Avenue were forced to disperse. The officers produced a search warrant. The search warrant was in the name of the Radio Dialogue editor, Zenzele Ndebele, who was suspected to be in possession of 45 solar-powered radio sets. The warrant mentioned that Ndebele was in possession of “smuggled and illegal goods”.
Following their search, the officers took with them a total of 180 radio sets to Hillside Police Station together with Ndebele, under the pretext that they wanted him to sign for the radios. On arrival at the police station, Ndebele was interrogated by officers and suspected CIO operatives.The officers proceeded to interrogate Ndebele demanding to know the source of the radios and why they were being distributed to different communities.
After the interrogation, Ndebele was taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station for further interrogation.
On completion of interrogation, the police added an additional charge to that on the warrant. They added a charge of possession of radios without a listener’s licence. The intensive interrogation lasted seven hours. At around 5pm Ndebele was released into the custody of his legal representative, Kucaca Phulu, until he appears in court.
Noting the charges levelled against Radio Dialogue through their representative, a docket was opened and a subsequent court case was held on March 4 in Bulawayo. The case was moved to March 5. Both ZACRAS and Radio Dialogue condemn the action by the Zimbabwe Republic Police .
We call upon the partners in inclusive government to draw reason from Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement which clearly provides for freedom of expression and access to information for citizens including the establishment of new media organisations and community radio stations. We believe this move by the police is meant to suffocate the free flow of information as the country moves towards critical periods of a referendum and subsequently general election. Our view is that it is important for citizens to have free access to information and be able to freely express themselves in order for them to make informed decisions during this critical period and beyond.
We call upon all Zimbabweans and in solidarity with Radio Dialogue, to castigate actions by those that are against the promotion of access to information and free expression.
We call upon the government, through relevant ministries, to stop the systematic crackdown on progressive forces. Radio is a powerful tool for enhancing the active participation of citizens. If this government is not prepared to make an intervention, we will, as Zimbabwean citizens, continue to feel oppressed by our own government.