But the Watchdog has been informed that it was the owners of the Post newspaper who directed Radio Macha to block Hichilema from featuring on the radio station 70 km west of Choma. Staff at the station has further told the Watchdog that the blocking of HH has left the community and most members of staff upset.
WHY THE POST?
On Saturday 24th November 2007, a week before Radio Macha was scheduled to begin official transmissions, it’s equipment was burnt. The brand new equipment just shipped from UK worth about $22, 000 was burned to ashes. The radio was then just test transmitting.
The equipment was bought and given to Radio Macha by the Norwegian government through the now defunct Media Trust Fund.
The Macha community was devastated and Station Manager Fred Mweetwa made desperate efforts to replace the equipment. He appealed to instittuins like MISA ZAMBIA as well as the same Media Trust Fund but help was slow to come.
On November 30, 2007, Amos Malupenga appeared at the radio station with a fat cheque.
Malupenga was then the managing editor of the Post newspaper. A few weeks later, the station started transmitting and the Post continued funding it for some time but the Watchdog is not sure if this funding has continued upto Saturday last week when Hichilema faced reality of who controls the media in Zambia.
According to staff at the station, the managers were given instructions from the Post earlier during the day and were expecting Hichilema to show up.
The sources at the station explained that there was no serious programme scheduled for that evening and the the DJ on duty was just playing music.
Radio Macha, being a community radio station located in a rural area has no capacity for financial sustainability. There is no hope of finding even one sensible advertiser in Macha. So the station depends wholly on donors and well-wishers and is therefore open to manipulation to vultures like in this case.
One member of staff wondered what was achieved by the station apart from trying to embarrass the opposition leader. The source explained that people still mobbed Hichilema and listed to him direct. the source said it was a pity that people in the remotest part of Choma were denied an opportunity to hear counter arguments on the removal of subsidies especially that being farmers, they are directly affected.
The source said the event has destroyed the normally cordial relationship between the Macha community and the radio station and predicted that things will ‘not be the same here anymore.’
On the other hand, maybe the blocking of Hichilema will open the eyes of daft politicians in the opposition.