MANAGEMENT at the UK-based SW Radio Africa have blamed disarray in the opposition MDC-T party for the closure of the London-based broadcaster which has been forced to shut down due to lack of funding.
In a statement, founder and manager, Gerry Jackson said: "It is with regret that SW Radio announces that it is closing down.
"We hope that one day Zimbabwe finally has 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."
Established in 2001, the donor-funded station angered President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party with its nightly shortwave broadcasters into Zimbabwe so much that the veteran leader demanded its closure as a condition for implementing reforms agreed with the opposition.
So rattled with the news broadcasts was the Harare regime that police and pro-Zanu PF militants were occasionally dispatched to seize shortwave radio receivers from villagers in the country’s rural districts.
Mugabe claimed that SW Radio Africa, along with the Zimbabwe service of Voice of America, were part of attempts by the West to kick him out of office and force regime change in the country.
Jackson told the Washington Times newspaper that the project was established – with US support – to help break Zanu PF’s stranglehold on broadcasting in Zimbabwe.
But SW Radio Africa has announced it is shutting down, saying donors were no longer keen to support the project.
"It was a U.S. State [Department] agency that gave us seed money to break what was then a stranglehold on radio. Although, technically, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is a national asset, it is run by Zanu PF," Jackson was reported as saying.
However, the length of the crisis in Zimbabwe "led to donor fatigue", she added, and recent appeals for funding allowed SW Radio Africa to operate only on a month-to-month basis.
By July, it became clear that no more funds would be available and the station was forced to close down.
Jackson however told the BBC that the "massive disarray" in the opposition MDC, had contributed to "donor fatigue" while moves by the European Union to re-engage Mugabe had not helped.
The MDC-T has been critically weakened by another split in the wake of its landslide election defeat last year after party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, at the helm since 1999, refused to step down.
Disgruntled key figures including secretary general and former finance minister Tendai Biti have since gone their separate ways and are in the process of forming another political party, a repeat of the 2005 split when then secretary general Welshman Ncube also left.
London-based pro-democracy group, Zimbabwe Vigil, lamented the closure of SW Radio Africa and criticised the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for rejecting entreaties to support the station.
"This weekend marks the end of SW Radio Africa which has been broadcasting high quality journalism to Zimbabwe for thirteen years," Zim Vigil said in a statement.