By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
18 June 2014
State security agents on Tuesday raided the premises of Kwekwe-based community radio station Radio Kwelaz in search of “subversive material”.
Radio Kwelaz officials said 10 officers from law and order, criminal investigations and central intelligence sections, carried out the raid.
The security agents confiscated studio equipment including CDs containing information on HIV/AIDS, pamphlets, newsletters, laptops and computers.
Although no-one was arrested, officers implied that station was broadcasting illegally, which is an offence under the country’s harsh media laws.
Officials at Radio Kwelaz have been barred from accessing their recording studio, with security details posted to guard the premises overnight.
Radio Kwelaz legal rep Valentine Mutatu, of the Zim Lawyers for Human Rights, said the police have not charged his client, or said what they were searching for.
Mutatu described the police actions as victimisation. He told SW Radio Africa that he had since written to the police demanding the release of the seized equipment.
“We have given them until Friday to return the equipmen, failure to which we will go to court. They can’t even tell us the offence because they know that my client has done nothing wrong,” Mutatu said.
In an interview Wednesday, Radio Kwelaz board secretary Howard Masaninga said the CDs that the police took contained information recorded during their HIV/Aids awareness campaigns with communities.
“We don’t know what the police’s motives are in all this but on our part we have no intention to subvert or undermine the authorities. We will therefore continue doing our work until they tell us what we have done wrong.
“All we are trying to do is to work for the development of our communities and we would like to invite the law enforcement agents to join us in doing this.
“They should add their voice to our calls to government to call for applications for community radio licences because as long as that hasn’t happened, this cat-and-mouse game will continue,” Masaninga added.
Last year two officials from Radio Kwelaz were arrested and charged with broadcasting illegally, but the State was forced to drop the charges after failing to back up its claims with evidence.
In response, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), condemned the endless harassment of media personnel using the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
ZACRAS urged the government to repeal the laws, and to stop muzzling the media and interfering with Zimbabweans’ right to seek, receive and impart information.