By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
25 April 2014
The Gweru-based Voice of Zimbabwe (VOZ) radio station is facing closure, due to a combination of obsolete equipment and undercapitalization.
VOZ whose mission is described as, ‘to tell the Zimbabwean story from Zimbabwe, by Zimbabweans’ was set up by government essentially to counter foreign-based independent radio stations like SW Radio Africa and Voice of America.
But according to a ZBC report the shortwave radio station has not been transmitting any signal since October 2013 due to the breakdown of transmitters. The report said the ZBC board, which toured the station this week, expressed dismay at the national broadcaster’s failure to rectify the problem.
Reporters told SW Radio Africa that the station was on the verge of total closure due to poor funding. They said so serious is the problem of undercapitalization that their monthly salaries were recently cut from $600 to $300. Since October, they have continued to produce programmes but most of them remain unaired while some of them have been used by other ZBC radio stations.
Last year ZBC workers went for seven months without getting their salaries. In March this year Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said ZBC should have closed a long time ago because it was insolvent.
The MDC-T MP for Mabvuku, James Maridadi, said the development at VOZ was inevitable because ‘there has not been any investment into the transmission equipment for ages.’ He added: ‘Before we even start talking of the issue of improving transmission we need to put the ZBC into the black. From the red of $47 million we need to invest as much so that they come on to zero and that is when we can start talking about improving the problem of poor transmission.’
Maridadi said there was also a danger that Zimbabwe may fail to meet the June 2015 international deadline for digitalization. Two years ago Zimbabwe failed to meet the SADC deadline. The SADC countries had set their own deadline of 31st December 2013 but only Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania were able to comply.
ZBC’s technological problems date back to many years ago. In 2009 former information minister Webster Shamu told Parliament that ZBC needed approximately $70 million to replace its obsolete equipment. He said all the transmitters in the country had outlived their lifespan by more than 25 years.