In the event of a happening in a local community, it is those who live in the area that can report on it more accurately than any outsider.
The recent issuance of licenses to several community radios across Zimbabwe by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is informed by the maxim that it is locals who are well versed with developments in their areas.
Conscious of the need to empower local communities through information during dissemination, the Second Republic has set the deepening and broadening of access to information as one of its key deliverable priorities.
It is no wonder that in pursuance of broadening access to information, BAZ under the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has since 2021 issued 14 licenses to community radio stations across the country.
Some of those awarded licenses are now operational, a move that is set to revolutionize communication The newest kid on the block is Nyangani FM, which was recently commissioned by the Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa at the Nyanga Country Club.
Never before, since independence, has such a development occurred in Manicaland Province.
Minister Mutsvangwa urged the station to advantage of the content derived from the rich history of the liberation struggle experienced in the area.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the radio station should be able to promote sustainable development as well as local languages.
The issuance of 14 licenses to community radio stations is a real milestone and a testimony of the Second Republic’s sincerity in liberalizing the media space in the country.
That sincerity is exemplified by the fact that the commissioning of Nyangani FM followed the launch of Avuxeni FM in Chiredzi a few weeks back.
According to UNESCO, radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity and serve diverse communities offering a wide variety of programed.
The prevalence of community radio stations in Zimbabwe dovetails with the Government’s policy of devolution aimed at empowering local communities in deciding development priorities in their localities.
Unlike mainstream media, which is largely shaped by commercial interests, community radio stations are generally not affected by such idiosyncrasies as they are non-profit making entities governed and in service of the communities.
They are an integral third pillar of the media, alongside commercial and public broadcasters and a crucial party of a healthy, pluralistic media sector.
Indeed, the objective of community radio stations is to address social issues like poverty and social exclusion at the community level, empower marginalized rural groups and actuate democratic processes and ongoing development efforts.
In line with the devolution policy, community radio stations give a voice to people who lack access to mainstream media, expedite the process of informing them and assist in the free flow of information and uphold creative growth and democratic spirit at the community level.
The devolution policy is anchored on the values and principles that guarantees equitable sharing of local and national resources including enhancing participation of local communities in decision making processes.
Given budgetary constraints, community radio stations offer ideal platforms to engage under-represented groups so as to make development initiatives responsive to the needs of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
As Zimbabwe trudges on its development trajectory of Vision 2030, citizen participation and access to information remain important mainstays in achieving that vision of an upper middle-income society.
While opposition political parties are obsessed with negative politics of condemning everything undertaken by the Government, the masses are aware of the positive initiatives being spearheaded by the Second Republic.
They are aware that licensing community radio stations is in itself devolution through decentralization of information platforms to societies and will edify a holistic, participatory and inclusive information flow process in a transparent and accountable manner.
Communication for development expert Vivienne Marara says community radio is by far the best enabler of dialogue and participation at a very local level in a way that empowers societies to collectively identify local solutions to local problems.
“With the way that society has progressed, it is no longer just a preserve of those in leadership to seek solutions to development challenges, but the role of every citizen to ensure that they are actively involved in national and local conversations,” Marara says.
Just like devolution, community radio stations are an important communication tool for development which enables people -driven and owned development interventions which are a critical ingredient in the pursuit of inclusive development.
Devolution and community radio stations both catalyze the empowerment of marginalized and under-represented societies to become proactive in determining their development agenda.
There is no doubt that the New Dispensation led by President Mnangagwa is walking the talk on its promise of “leaving no place and no one behind” as it moves towards an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
The opening up of airwaves is one such promise that is being fulfilled.
Minister Mutsvangwa buttressed this vision during the commissioning of Avuxeni FM when she said: “We are saying that information regarding disasters and other events in Zimbabwe should reach all parts of the country in real time. We will continue to devote more resources to improving transmission in rural areas so that all our people have access to radio and television services.”
Besides enhancing national cohesion, Minister Mutsvangwa believes that community radio stations play an essential role in developing local languages and traditional values as the focus is on a specific geographical location using the common medium of communication in that area.
It is gratifying to note that UNESCO is supporting Government’s efforts to establish community radio stations in disaster prone areas like Chimanimani and Chipinge through provision of equipment with funding support from the Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) funded by the World Bank and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
Additionally, the radio stations will serve as a part of early warning systems for disasters such as cyclones.
Support must also be rendered towards training of community radio volunteers to enhance their skills in packaging content that is suitable for the needs of the areas they serve.