In three meetings to solicit views for a new constitution at Chizhou Business Centre in Ward 5, Charandura Council hall in the district’s ward 8 and at Chaka Business Centre which is in ward 2, villagers shocked the parliamentary select Committee (Copac) members spearheading the meetings, by explicitly demanding that the constitution ensures media diversity and plurality.
Chirumanzu is one of the districts in Midlands South were small plot holders were resettled during the height of the farm invasions and most observers said they thought the public would rubberstamp political party positions.
However, villagers told the Copac team that they hardly saw newspapers in their villages and if they did get to see them they were always talking mainly about issues in Harare and other urban centers.
A contributor at Chizhou business center said, “We want our own media here in Chirumanzu. We are tired of getting papers that only talk about issues in Harare and we are never covered or taken as sources. We want media that will talk about what is happening here in Chirumanzu.”
At Charandura Councill hall, another villager who seemed really touched and angered with the absence of a media that creates a public platform for all Zimbabweans, said they were left out in the dark about what was happening in the country as the media at the moment was just too political.
“The media completely gives a blackout of other areas especially rural areas. It’s like other areas really do not exist to them. We therefore want a lot of these television and radio stations and a lot of papers so that others can then concentrate in areas like ours,” he said. “Even the few times that they cover our issues, they get comments from Harare and never from us,” he added.
Zimbabwe has five radio stations all owned by the state, two television channels with one only seen in Harare and until recently all daily papers were government controlled.
In a bid to control the free flow of information, government had shrunk the media space through the closure of a number of papers and not calling for radio licenses. The media has so far been concentrated in the urban areas with some rural areas not getting both the television and radio signals .
Meanwhile in Gwanda in the Matabeleland South region, people attending similar meetings, called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will investigate the Gukurahundi massacres, which left 20 000 dead.
The Commission would also look into the issue of compensating families who lost their loved ones at the time.
“If we are going to have a commission being set-up for the disabled then let’s have another that will look into the Gukurahundi issue, people must be brought to book and be answerable” , said Buletsi Nyathi expressing his views during the Constitutional outreach programme in Gwanda town.
Same sentiments had also been echoed by the rural folk in parts of Gwanda South.
Many people in the region remained bitter about Gukurahundi with no arrests for crimes perpetrated almost three decades ago.
President Robert Mugabe, the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army that masterminded the killings, has refused to accept blame for the atrocities but concedes that the Gukurahundi era “was a moment of madness”.