The illegal seizure of wind-up radios reached new levels this week with reports that the police are now using primary school pupils to source information about the receivers.
Villagers in Lupane revealed that the police have been visiting schools and asking little children in Grade 0 and Grade 1(aged between 4 and 6 years) whether their parents own or listen to any radios.
This follows reports that suspected state security agents on Tuesday raided several homesteads at Mpofu village in the Gwampa area and confiscated the wind-up radios.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa one villager who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said the police have been going to schools, writing down names, and then visiting those suspected of owning the radios by night.
She said although the agents will be wearing civilian clothes, the villagers know it is the police since they have been announcing their ban on radios.
Our source said she suspects the police are aware of the popularity of shortwave radios in the area, hence they are now confiscating them.
“The police have been announcing that villagers should not be in possession of these radios. Their reason is that we listen to news broadcasts from outside the country which criticise ZANU PF.
“Such harassment by the state security agents normally escalates during election time, which indicates that we are not free to exercise our individual choices if we can’t even listen to different views offered by these shortwave radio stations,” she added.
On Tuesday an MDC official from Mpofu Village, Cosmas Phiri, told the NewsDay newspaper that MDC members were raided shortly before midnight on Monday.
Phiri, who was with some of the affected villagers, told NewsDay that a group of state security agents confiscated at least 10 radios from more than 10 people.
The night raids have stirred up fear within the community, following threats that those who refused to surrender their radio receivers will be abducted and “made to disappear” invoking memories of Gukurahundi.
Since the announcement of the constitutional referendum date on February 15th, Zimbabwean police have embarked on a nationwide campaign targeting civic society organisations and individuals.
On February 19th the police announced a ban on ‘specially designed’ radios, which they argued will be used to promote hate speech ahead of the polls.
Following the ban several organisations have been raided, including community radio initiative Radio Dialogue where police seized more than 180 wind-up radio sets and arrested its managing editor.
Last month, officers ransacked the offices of poll observers ZESN as well as those of violence monitoring group the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), in search of the so-called “illegal” radios.
The police have since arrested ZPP head Jestina Mukoko and charged her with, among other things, illegally importing short wave radios.