While radios play a very important role in many societies especially the third world , Zimbabwean police have declared war on solar powered radios . In many African countries Zimbabwe included radio is the most important medium of communication and communities rely on it to keep themselves informed on news, local and international events. Low literacy levels and poor newspaper circulation makes dependence on newspapers negligible.The cost of a television set is beyond the reach of the majority, as many people live on less than a US$1 a day. Poor infrastructure is also another reason why people depend on solar powered radios as most rural areas have not been electrified.
On the 19th of February 2013 ,police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told a news conference in Harare that possession and distribution of solar powered Short wave radios was illegal. She accused some opposition 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.” What followed was a series of raids on civic society organisations.[mapsmarker layer=”5″]
Media advocacy groups such as MISA -Zimbabwe and human rights lawyers pointed out that there was nothing illegal about the solar power radio sets but this did not stop the police raids.
On March 1, police raided Radio Dialogue premises and arrested its editor Zenzele Ndebele. He was charged with possessing smuggled radios in contravention of Section 182 of the Customs and Excise Act, an alternative charge of possessing a radio receiver without a valid Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) licence in contravention of Section 38 of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) was added. He is still yet to appear in court.
Political analysts have described these raids as a clamp down on the public’s access to information ahead of elections expected this year. Addressing villagers in Gwanda recently, MDC Secretary General, Priscilla Misihairabwi -Mushonga called the ban on the radios nonsensical.