By Mkhululi Ncube/ Leonard Ncube
THE process of setting up community radio stations in Matabeleland provinces has gone a gear up following Government’s far reaching decision to licence more radio and television stations to give a voice to marginalised communities.
Last month, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), invited applications for 10 community radio stations, 19 campus radio stations and six TV stations.
Application license fees for community radio stations will cost $8 500 and will be renewed after 10 years at a cost of $17 000 per year.
BAZ set March 20 as the closing date for both television and community radio stations applications while campus radio stations were not given any deadline.
Matabeleland South province was allocated three areas, some bunched together, that will have community radio stations. Plumtree, Empandeni, Maphosa and Ndolwane will make up one area, while the other two areas will be made up of Manama and Legion; as well as Beitbridge and Shashe. Matabeleland North Province was also allocated three areas that will be licensed: Hwange and Victoria Falls; Binga, Kamativi and Kariba; and Mbembesi.
Last week, various players from the Plumtree community met to map a way forward to raise funding and put their papers in order ahead of the deadline.
Mr Sotsha Moyo, one of the organisers, said they are pushing hard to try and raise the required funds before the deadline.
“We met last week in Plumtree to look at the requirements by BAZ and we had some challenges with some requirements which we needed explained but unfortunately BAZ did not attend the meeting so we then selected some members to go and meet BAZ officials and we expect feedback this week when we hold another meeting,” said Mr Moyo.
He said because of the short time frame given to communities to apply and raise money, it will be prudent for BAZ to send people to communities who will provide technical assistance so that they meet the deadline.
The meeting in Plumtree also proposed various names for the station which include BaKalanga Community Radio Station; Getjenge Community Radio Station and Lubahhe Community Radio Station.
On funding, Mr Moyo said the meeting proposed that members buy shares while also seeking for donations from community members based locally and outside the country
In Manama, the community has settled for the name Ntephe Community Radio Station. Coordinator, Mr Mvelo Zondo said they are busy with the application process and so far they have engaged local businesses and communities to assist in raising the licence fees.
“We also have a structure in place as required by BAZ, with editorial and programming teams also set up. Our people are starved of information, so they will now have power with the coming in of Ntephe community radio station. The station will give the Sotho people limelight and give the nation their culture,” he said.
“We want the station to be rooted in the community so that no one claims ownership of it. We are meeting this Saturday with all stakeholders in our community. This will be our second meeting as we want to beat the 20 March deadline.”
Mr Zondo said the station will be based at Manama Business Center.
He said the station will empower the Sotho community in many ways.
For Beitbridge, the chairperson of the initiative Mr Mekia Muyambo said they have come up with names of people who will be running their programmes.
He said they do not have a proposed name for the radio station so far.
“This development will benefit the people because it will put the area into perspective; people will know about our area and what is happening,” he said.
In Matabeleland North, community radio initiatives appealed for BAZ to extend the deadline for application for operating licences saying the time given is limited for new players to complete all required processes to cater for the once marginalised Tonga, Nambya and Xhosa communities.
In Binga there are two radio initiatives Twasumpuka FM and Kasambabezi FM.
The two initially agreed to combine and apply for a licence as one body following a sensitisation workshop by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services and BAZ officials, but now they have gone separate ways.
Twasumpuka FM chairman Mr Sam Sibanda said they expect to conclude all the paperwork for submission this week.
“We had wanted to combine but now we are going it alone because they did not attend a meeting to decide on the name. By the end of this week, we will have finished our papers,” he said.
Kasambabezi FM chairman Mr Bardo Ndlovu could not be reached yesterday.
Hwange FM, which has been in existence as an initiative for the past 10 years, is the only applicant for Hwange and Victoria Falls after getting the backing of residents.
Hwange FM board chairman Mr Walter Dube said time is limited especially for those that are new in the sector.
“We will definitely be applying as Hwange FM because we are the only ones in Hwange and Victoria Falls as we haven’t heard about anyone with interest after we got backing of residents. This is a glorious opportunity we have been fighting for all along and we are doing our paperwork and programming hoping to meet deadline but we feel the time we were given is too short especially for those that are new considering the amount of paperwork needed by BAZ,” said Mr Dube.
Chief Ndondo of Mbembesi said they were in the dark as there were no sensitisation meetings that were done in his area.
He said despite this set back, he will mobilise his people to ensure they try and meet the deadline as his community has been sidelined for a long time.
“If the deadline is on March 20, we will try by all means to make sure that we work on something, IsiXhosa has been sidelined for a long time. We appeal to the Government to give us grace period so that we work on our application. It Is unfortunate that we were never consulted,” said Chief Ndondo.
BAZ CEO Obert Muganyura said they had received pleas by some communities to extend the deadline and they were working to address the issue.
“There has been some representation made already to the authority in that regard. It’s actually a matter that is being considered. I can’t say it will be extended as such but there has been some representation and due consideration is being put into that,” he said.
Mr Muganyura said they have not yet received any application at the moment.
He said the reach of the community radio stations is determined by geographical areas where languages are spoken.
“There is a number of areas that fall under that community station so what it means is that it is several transmitters that will cover that area were the language is spoken, so it’s not a 40 km radius for these language stations; it actually covers boundaries within which these languages are spoken. In terms of boundaries we actual ly got assistance from the University of Zimbabwe department of African Languages. In real practice if there is need to extend the coverage that can be considered but it is not true that the radius will cover only 40km,” said Mr Muganyura.
He conceded that BAZ has no team on the ground to assist applicants but added that can also be considered if there is a request for assistance.
Veteran broadcaster, Mr John Masuku lauded the Government for finally acting on its promise to license community radios.
“It’s a move that we have been advocating for and now the Government has acted, which we welcome. We are happy that what we have been advocating for has been realised. We will point out short comings that may rise so that it is rectified but for now we are happy,” said Mr Masuku.
He urged the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to give communities more time to apply so that no community fails to meet requirements.
“There must be a way of assisting communities by the Ministry itself to apply so that there is no going back on this. We don’t want them to be left behind, Some might have thought it is business as usual like in the past when government would say we are going to license radio stations and nothing happens but now government has stuck to its word and some communities have been taken by surprise that this is happening. Because of that, I strongly believe that the March 20 deadline for submission must be extended by another month so that all communities submit their papers. The deadline was short since some communities still need more time,” said Mr Masuku.
He said community radios are important because they cover real issues that affect communities unlike national radio stations which cover different issues.
“National radio scratches the surface they are not going in-depth with issues that affect communities in the manner in that communities speak,” he said.
“National radio stations mention issues happening in communities and move on. Look at what happened with Sipepa flood victims. When it happened all the media was there but they left early. Those people are still facing daily challenges which need to be addressed, that is where the role of the community radio comes in.” -@themkhust_ncube