By Cletus Mushanawani
The Government has embarked on a community radio station programme which will see marginalised communities, among them Shamva District in Mashonaland Central, receiving information and having their voices heard.
The programme is being piloted in 10 communities and Shamva is among the first beneficiaries.
Shamva was chosen to be one of the first communities to establish a community radio station because of the Chewa language which is dominant in the area and is one of the 16 official languages in the country.
Speaking during a sensitisation meeting in Shamva recently, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, said Government had made strides to ensure communities across the country received radio signals.
So far six national and 10 commercial radio stations are already broadcasting in different parts of the country.
“Shamva will result in the preservation of the Chewa language, culture, identity and help in the development of the community. The content aired on the community radio station should therefore cater for the information needs of the people living within that particular community.
“A community radio station is not a prerogative of the Government, but it is a community driven initiative by community members as required by the Broadcasting Services Act. The Act requires community radio licensee to participate in the operations of the radio station in the provision of the service, the selection of programmes and membership of the governing body,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She urged local communities to embrace the radio station initiative as it had huge potential to contribute to the growth of the country and local communities’ economies.
“A community radio is usually run by volunteers using low cost technology. It offers an opportunity for contributions by people whose voice is not much heard on national radio stations. It has huge potential to contribute to the growth of our economy as it creates jobs for various youths and other interested members of the community and can be used as an educational tool, providing a training platform for our children interested in broadcasting.
“By grooming our own, the community radio station can help us safeguard our own identities through passing on the community legacy to the next generation,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa pledged Government support in setting up radio infrastructure in communities.
“I am aware of a myriad of challenges faced by the broadcasting industry in general. One of the key impediments being the high costs associated with acquiring radio equipment and radio licence. In our small way and anticipating your needs, Government will assist communities by setting up radio infrastructure and support operations at the radio stations. Let me assure you that my ministry envisages universal access to information and will work round the clock to ensure that the project becomes a resounding success,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
The Shamva community has already embraced the radio station initiative and pledged to make it a reality,
Madziwa Teachers’ College principal, Mr Edward Phiri, said they had already introduced Chewa as one of the indigenous languages taught at the college.
“We are already complementing what the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services is doing to promote indigenous language through the teaching of Chewa, Tonga and a combination of Shona and Ndebele. These subjects are being taught to this year’s enrolment of about 600 students.
“We are within the 40km frequency radius and will actively play our part in promoting this radio station initiative,” said Mr Phiri.
Chaminuka Rural District Council chairman, Councillor Nevson Zvizhinji, said the community radio programme was a clear sign of Government’s seriousness in rolling out the devolution agenda.
“We are very excited and it shows that everyone has a role to play in community development. We are looking forward to broadcasts of our full council meetings on our local community radio station. We will do everything we can to support this,” he said.
Ward 29 councillor, Cllr Jealous Nyakurerwa said: “Although Chewa will be the main language at the radio station, we expect the broadcasting of other languages to ensure universal access. We have a lot of talented groups in our area which were failing to have their music played on national stations and the coming of a community radio station is the right tonic for talent identification and development.
“We are set to reap more benefits and this will also market Shamva as a district. Very few people know about our Shamva Agriculture Research Station as well as Madziwa Teachers’ College and we hope the Information ministry will nurture this new baby until it finds its own footing.”