By Vumani Mthiyane
Parliamentarians have raised concern at the government`s reluctance to licence community radio stations, arguing they are a tool for development.
Speaking during a stakeholders engagement community broadcasting conference held in Harare on Friday last week, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services chairperson, Binga North Member of Parliament, Prince Dubeko Sibanda (photographed) said community radios are a tool for development hence the government must recognise their existence.
“Basically the law provides that government must license community radio stations and therefore our expectation as the parliament in pursuit of our responsibility we want to see government licensing these stations,” he said.
“Our major interest in licensing of community radio stations is that we should follow the provision of the constitution. We need to open up the airwaves rather keep on licensing the same clan of people that have been running the broadcasting services.”
Sibanda said the diversity of voices is important in a democracy.
“The reason why we want the policy framework is to understand whether indeed the government is going to license everyone including independent voices because we truly need these voices as we cannot continue to hear ourselves,” he said.
However, section 61 of the constitution provides for the three-tier broadcasting system, that is public, private and community broadcasting.
Patsaka Nyaminyami community radio of Kariba, station coordinator, John Chirinda said, “The government has the fear of the unknown. They think that community radio stations are a tool for the regime change agenda yet we are for pure community development and there to preserve local cultures.”
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), Director Vivienne Marara-Zhangazha expressed fears that since the government is promising to license 10 community radio stations, it might as well come with its own definition of a community radio station.
“First and foremost we want the speedy alignment of media laws with the constitution. The regulator, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has been operating without a board for a long period which is another cause for concern. The definition of community radio is one and the government must not re-define when it calls for licensing,” she said.
Giving an International and Regional comparative analysis on community radios, Media Researcher and Community Radio Expect, Gift Mambipiri said Zimbabwe and eSwatini formerly Swaziland are the only countries in the region that do not have a single community radio station.
According to ZACRAS and in conformity with international best practice a community radio refers to a service, not-for-profit, owned and controlled by a particular community under an association, trust or foundation.