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Clandestine Stations of Southern Africa
The ideological battle between east and west raged for nearly half a century on the airwaves around the globe, involving the giants of international broadcasting, such as Radio Moscow, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Peking, to name but a few, who were pouring megawatts of power into their target areas. This battle had its smaller counterpart in many areas of the world - the clandestine stations. Operating with low power usually just for half an hour or an hour daily, they aimed their programmes at much smaller audiences, generally a certain section of population of one country.
In southern Africa, these stations could be roughly divided into two categories, the pro-communist and the anti-communist stations. First we'll look at the pro-communist stations, beginning with Radio Freedom, the voice of the African National Congress, a Marxist organisation hostile to South Africa. This was on the air since the early 1970's and initially transmitted via the facilities of Radio Tanzania and Radio Zambia external services, later using the facilities of Radio Nacional de Angola, Voice of Revolutionary Ethiopia, and Radio Madagascar.
Another pro-communist station was the Voice of Namibia, which transmitted its programmes on behalf of the South West African People's Organisation, via Ethiopia and Angola. Voice of Namibia also used to transmit via Zambia, until Zambia's external service ceased to operate.
Before Zimbabwe's independence, two different Marxist-orientated programmes were on the air, each supporting a different faction of what later became the ruling Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe. One of these was transmitted via Zambia, and called itself the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Voice. The other programme aimed at the then Rhodesia, was transmitted via the facilities of Radio Madagascar, and was called Revolutionary Voice of Zimbabwe. Earlier this had been broadcast via facilities in Mozambique, but when Zimbabwe became independent these transmissions became the external service of Radio Mozambique, using the same frequencies - 3265, 4855, 9530, 11818 kHz.
Now we come to the anti-communist stations. Mozambique was a target of one of the most famous clandestine operations in Africa, the Voice of Free Africa. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Mozambique was an anti-Marxist organisation which made the headlines soon after the country's independence by staging an unsuccessful coup d'etat, during which the guerillas seized the facilities of Radio Clube de Mozambique in Lourenco Marques and transmitted news bulletins in Portuguese and English. Subsequently the PMLM operated its own station, the Voice of Free Africa, with broadcasts originating from a powerful mediumwave transmitter at Gwelo in what was then Rhodesia. When Rhodesia became independent these transmissions ceased, and although for a while this looked like the end of the station, shortly afterwards the Voice of Free Africa appeared on 4764 kHz from an unknown location.
The other former Portuguese colony, Angola, which since independence and civil war had been ruled by the Marxist MPLA, was the target of two clandestine stations, both operating on the same frequency and presumably from the same location, believed to be in northern South West Africa/Namibia, or in southern Angola. One of these stations, Voice of Truth/Voz de Verdad, broadcast in Portuguese and vernaculars material hostile to the Luanda government. Another station directed at the Marxist government of Angola was Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel/Voz da Resistencia do Galo Negro, broadcasting in Portuguese and vernaculars and operated by the western-orientated movement UNITA, which controlled large parts of southern Angola.
The controversy surrounding South West Africa/Namibia was reflected in transmissions of two clandestine stations. One, already described, was the Voice of Namibia, produced by the South West Africa People's Organisation. The other, pro-western, anti-Marxist, and decidedly anti-SWAPO, was the Voice of the People of Namibia, which operated somewhat erratically on the 60-metre shortwave band from an unknown location.
Finally, a word about a programme which was offered free of charge to any station which cared to transmit it, but which the more critical broadcasters such as BBC, Voice of America, found too one-sided for their liking and therefore left the airing of these programmes to others. These are perhaps the most controversial programmes to come from no less an organisation than the United Nations, and opinions were expressed at the time that they in fact violated the charter of the UN insofar as they were official broadcasts of the United Nations aimed against one of the founder members of the organisation, South Africa. These programmes were transmitted via a number of African stations, including ones in Lesotho and Zambia.
This article is based on a narration by South African DX-er Miki Vcelar on the tape "Clandestine Stations of Southern Africa", compiled and presented in 1981 by QTH Africa from its own recordings. Many thanks to Miki for his great work, Francois Steyn and the South African DX Club for giving me permission to publish this here, and last but not least, thanks to Costas Constantinides of Cyprus for supplying the cassette recording.