Voice in the wilderness silenced, as SW Radio Africa shuts down

One of the only non-state controlled media outlets broadcasting in Zimbabwe closes down, as the outlook for the country’s political future remains uncertain

Radio Zimbabwe

One of the few media outlets opposed to President Robert Mugabe’s leadership in Zimbabwe has closed down due to a lack of funding. SW Radio Africa, which had been broadcasting from London to Zimbabwe, finished its operations after 13 years in business.

“It is with regret that SW Radio Africa announces that it is closing down,” a final press release reads on the company’s website.

The radio station had been created in tandem with the opposition to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF rule in the early 2000s, which was chiefly led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party under the helm of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the time. However, with disagreements within the MDC leading to various levels of infighting over the years, the broadcaster lost donor support and was forced to shut down last week, leaving Zimbabwe’s broadcasting channels largely in the hands of the state’s monopoly.

The controversial radio station estimates its follower base to have remained stable around one million listeners throughout most of its existence in spite of all efforts on part of the Zimbabwean government to block the airwaves used by SW Radio Africa. Despite all adversity the now-defunct radio station shares a hopeful outlook for a better future in Zimbabwe:

“We hope that one day Zimbabwe will have a government who understands that its sole responsibility is to ensure a safe, healthy, prosperous life for every man, woman and child in the country.”

Supporters of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF had labelled SW Radio Africa a “pirate station” and a “platform for propaganda” according to comments left on the company’s website. SW Radio Africa, however, says that it  remained loyal to a broad listener base, bowing out with gratitude at the end:

“In particular we’d like to thank our listeners, who have shared their lives, hopes and dreams with us and helped us to tell the story of Zimbabwe’s sad decline to the world.”