-as procrastination about licensing community radios persists
By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Last Wednesday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Radio Day under the theme ‘Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace’ which coincided with the repeated calls for a national dialogue to address the economy and political crisis currently bedevilling the country.
Harare Polytechnic’s Division of Mass Communication which churns out journalists every year hosted World Radio Commemorations in their Beit Hall where speaker after speaker stressed the need for radio to facilitate dialogue, encourage tolerance and promote peace.
Media and political analyst Alexander Rusero who is also a lecturer at the institution described the theme of the World Radio Day as contrary to what is currently obtaining in the country-a divided nation and that radio stations have not been able to play the role of fostering dialogue, tolerance and peace.
“It will be a fallacy to say that this year’s World Radio Day theme speaks to the country’s current context where most citizens are puzzled and radio has not come to the fore to aid dialogue which most of people now believe it’s only between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa,” argued Rusero who also implored the government to have the political will to improve the media environment.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu concurred with Rusero as he called for the transformation of ZBC into a true public broadcaster.
“When the country witnessed the ugly events of August 1, 2018 shootings last year and the recent stay away protests in January, listening to our local stations once could not grasp what was really happening so you then question whether the censorship is in tandem with promoting tolerance, peace and dialogue.
“It is in this regard that we also call for the transformation of the state broadcaster into a true public broadcaster,” said Nyamutumbu.
The content on local radio stations is mostly commercial-driven thereby shutting out the real issues affecting the citizenry, according to Reverend Samuel Sifelani of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) whose organisation has been extensively involved in facilitating dialogue and nation-building.
“What has been worrying us as churches is that most local radio stations programmes are commercial-driven without adding the ‘voice of the people’ which is critical so that’s why we are supporting the licensing of community radio stations,” expressed Reverend Sifelani.
Speaking on the licensing of community radio stations, guest speaker Dr Nick Mangwana, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services assured the gathered media stakeholders that the government will be licensing community radio stations soon.
But Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations(ZACRAS) chairperson Pelagia Kapuya was not moved by Dr Nick Mangwana’s revelation saying it has become the norm of all new ministry of information officials to promise without delivering.
“While the permanent secretary of the ministry of information has assured us of community radio licenses we will not be quick to celebrate as we are now accustomed to these promises which don’t translate into action, ”said the cautious ZACRAS boss.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission which is mandated by the constitution to facilitate peace building, dialogue and national healing acknowledged radio as an enabler to the afore-mentioned processes saying there is the need to fully capacitate the broadcasting industry to realise this.
“As the NPRC we are fully aware of the effectiveness of using radio as a medium to promote dialogue, peace and nation building and we would want to see more resources being channelled in the broadcasting sector because it is the easily accessible medium,” attributed NPRC commissioner Geoffrey Chada.
In its statement to also mark the World Radio Day, MISA Zimbabwe bemoaned access to radio which it says is still confined mostly to urban and peri-urban communities while rural communities especially those along national borders rely on broadcasts from Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
The World Radio Day is celebrated on every 13th of February annually and according to UNESCO the day marks a time where people around the world celebrate radio and how it shapes our lives.