Thursday 30 November 2017

Radio Freedom's First Recording

When I was a teenager during apartheid, I used to lie awake late at night with my shortwave radio secretly tuned into a forbidden station - the ANC's Radio Freedom. The broadcasts, coming from transmitters in Lusaka, and even further afield evoked an exotically different Africa to the one I lived in, and each episode started with the announcement "This is the African National Congress. This is the African National Congress. This is the Voice of Freedom. The ANC speaks to you! Afrika! Afrika! Mayibuye!" followed by the clatter of an AK47 being fired. It was all clandestine good fun - rewired a decade later in 1991 - the year of the unbanning of the ANC and other South African liberation movements - in the introduction to KLF's hit 3am Eternal on YouTube here. An essay on the historical Radio Freedom is here.

Roll forward another two decades and another African country was caught up in a seemingly endless liberation struggle - Zimbabwe in its Second Chimurenga, this time against a liberation movement turned post-colonial predator. In 2014 I was approached by a lean and hungry young Zimbabwean, Taurai Mabhachi - hungry in both the physical and political senses - who headed a Harare-based NGO. Together, we embarked on a project to get community radio stations - of which Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe had zero - licensed and on air. Although our project was aimed at getting *all* vernacular-language and community-of-interest stations on air, Taurai's Radio Freedom is specifically targeted at a youth audience. Today, after years of going through a maze of potential funders and potential partners - Radio Freedom finally had its first recording session, a podcast hosted by Taurai and myself. 

And thanks to the November 15-21 2017 military coup d'etat that ousted Mugabe - what I have termed the "Continuity Coup" as it reinforces ZANU-PF securocrat rule - the topic of our pilot show was "Democracy & Diversity in light of the Zimbabwean Coup". Our guests included left academic Prof Patrick Bond, veteran former BBC journalist Andy Moyse, former bank treasurer Daniel Ngwira and former Revolutionary Command Council student Dandira Mushangai. We had a few tech issues, but once it has been edited, if it is of broadcast quality, I'll post a link to the podcast - and that will hopefully be the first in a series of ten Radio Freedom podcasts leading up to the mid-2018 Zimbabwean Elections, and a precursor to a more formal, trained cadre of Radio Freedom hosts and field corespondents reporting on the challenges of democratising Zimbabwe. Free the Zim Airwaves Now!