By Dumi Sigogo
Plumtree, September 11, 2013 – Less than a day after Jonathan Moyo’s return to the media,information and broadcasting ministry Getjenge community radio initiative, in the Zimbabwean border town is optimistic that the new government will fully liberalize the airwaves and quickly licence community broadcasters and other independent stations.
The station intends to broadcast to listeners living on the Zimbabwe–Botswana border and says it has completed the construction of studios and offices, and is now focusing on mobilizing resources and broadcasting equipment.
Getjenge FM’s manager, Thomas Sithole, says: “Our volunteers have received training as reporters and citizen journalists through collaboration and partnership with Radio Dialogue. Also, Zimbabwe Association of Community Stations (ZACRAS), our mother body, has helped train some of our volunteers so that we could have a ready pool of reporters who can hit the ground running should the airwaves be liberalised. We have trained eight volunteers, four men and four women.”
The station has applied to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) for a licence, and has meanwhile been involved in community mobilisation and advocacy campaigns to educate the public about the idea of a community radio and its purpose.
Because of the sharp differences between the partners in the just ended power-sharing government, only two Zanu-PF linked radio stations Star FM owned by Zimpapers and Zi-FM Stereo owned by the new information and broadcasting deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira. Zimpapers’ chairperson Dr Paul Chimedza, a Zanu PF Gutu South member of Parliament is the new deputy minister of health.
“It is envisaged that, in the event of the state liberalising the airwaves and licensing independent players in the broadcasting fraternity such as community radios, Getjenge FM will step up to the challenge and serve the communities of Bulilima, Mangwe and Plumtree town,” adds Sithole.
The station hopes to promote the minority Kalanga language and culture, and says it will be broadcasting 80% in Kalanga and 20% in English, Ndebele and Shona.
Sithole says the station will play a critical role in the democratisation of a society by disseminating information and keeping citizens up to date about local and other developments.
As a community station, Getjenge FM, will focus on informing the local population on pertinent issues such as education, health, drinking water, agriculture, food security, good farming methods and government policies.
Media analyst Blessing Khumalo fears the government will continue installing transmitters around the country in order to block the proliferation of independent stations that are not aligned to Zanu-PF.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) and BAZ still refuse to grant licences to new broadcasters, arguing that the frequency spectrum is fully utilized.
But a local advocacy group for media freedom and access to information, the Media and Technology Trust (MTT), says since the analogue system is not yet fully used up, the country could take advantage of the space on the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band instead of Very High Frequency (VHF).
By choosing the VHF which has a coverage radius of a mere 70km instead of the UHF with a bigger spectrum and coverage radius of 120km, MTT says government is deliberately violating local, regional and international charters that promote media freedom and access to information.
These agreements include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Windhoek Declaration, African Charter on Broadcasting, Banjul Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement, Broadcasting Services Act and the new constitution.
Other radio stations that are ready to broadcast but have been denied licensing include KissFM, Voice of the People(VOP), Radio Dialogue, Community Radio Harare, Kumakomo, Wezhira and Kwelas, among others, as well as 15 radio stations all working in collaboration with ZACRAS and MISA- Zimbabwe.
Source: JOCOZA, Wits University