No to dummy community radios

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By John Chirinda

MuHwisiri Chaiye reacts to the recent utterances by the Permanent Secretary Mr George Charamba on more community radios being on cards following his visit to the Kariba based Zimpapers owned local commercial radio which Mr Charamba referred to as community radio. The Herald of the 4th March 2017 established an article titled “More community radios on cards”)

Community radio broadcasting refers to a service owned and controlled by a particular community either under an Association, Trust or Foundation and not-for-profit. Recently we learnt with shock something new from one excited man we have admired for a long time but not sure if we should continue respecting following his latest invention of what community radio is.

The invention that says community broadcasting is equated to a Station owned and controlled by an organisation like the Zimpapers with its Nyaminyami FM is beyond comprehension. Whether he was abstemious or not could not be our subject or narrative but it’s a poignant chapter in the history of our nation to lie blatantly like that and take people who have been empowered through education by the Mugabe led emancipation drives.

The marginalised communities may pretend not to know, but such misconceptions usually backfire when the same communities gain their ground. Everyone knows that Government licensed itself under the guise of local commercial Stations to close the gaps for community broadcasting.

The nation remembers well that Nyaminyami Fm came for a stage managed public interview in Kariba where they failed to even name one local chief in Kariba. Yet today the honourable Permanent Secretary of my beloved MINISTRY of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services can stand lofty and say we have given you ‘your’ radio, your ‘voice’.

No wonder why he could direct/command the staff there to put the symbol of Nyaminyami which is the snake on its logo and also stop the English flare at the Kingstone cum Zimpapers owned radio to Tonga. It’s easy to note that Zimpapers would need profit for its master (Government) and such directions could lead to firing of employees for performing below expectations that we have opted to support because they identify with us. Or no one is at risk by the way if instructions are coming from the Chief himself.

I liked best when, the Permanent Secretary (PS) labelled some people (us) as media activists who are bent on mobilising votes for certain political parties that he could not mention because its fictitious. Every learned person has realised that these PSs are quick to shove issues as political when they are indispensable developmental issues as excuses of failing to abide by the Constitution.

It’s just as lucid as it is that the licensing of community radios has not been on the Government’s agenda but the same media activists have made it an agenda for the Government. Thinking it’s a closed chapter attracts appointments at the offices of Cde George Charamba as our strategist in our honourable Ministry to posit that we are not playing a political game here but the same game he identifies with himself best.

PS has actually opened up the debate on so many facets not that even necessitate answers from Government.
1. The charade that Zimbabwe has no definition of what community radio is?
2. That licenses are given to parastatals to masquerade as community owned whilst it has been highlighted time immemorial that community radio licensing is not a priority.
3. That anyone who talks or reminds Government of its obligation on opening up airwaves and licensing of community radio is pushing for a certain political party’s blue print is a fallacy and tomfoolery.
4. The rhetoric that the launch of commercial radios in certain areas buries the debate for community radios because airwaves now reach marginalised areas is diabolic.

One thing we will totally agree with you is the point that, we would not imagine any Ministry to be in the business of giving political parties communication tools, and anyone with that agenda is an opponent to the Community radio movement itself, and can go hang.

We anticipate genuineness, candidness and no games in this field to preserve our sovereignty, pride and national culture honourable Perm Sec and not agendas covered by sheep’s skin yet its hyenas/wolves. As the First Lady of Zimbabwe would say…. “STOP IT”. We urge our PS to avoid selling the nation a mannequin. We shall not fold our hands and say that communities have been empowered when they are suppressed further by such moves.

}  Who doesn’t know that there is lack of development in Kariba, the same place providing electricity to the nation?

}  Who doesn’t know that all the Chiefs and Kariba natives have not enjoyed benefits out of the construction of the dam for electricity generation?
}  Who doesn’t know that content generation regards developmental aspects on the Lake Kariba proceeds are not benefiting or helping Kariba and would never be aired or allocated space on this parastatal run NYAMINYAMI Radio.
}  Who doesn’t know that National parks pocket millions for the Government but nothing for the communities around? People are killed by wild animals in Kariba and who doesn’t know that there is no compensation to victims and it’s a non-talking issue.
}  Who doesn’t know that the Tonga and Korekore people have not enjoyed educational facilities, health facilities not to talk of road and communication networks in the district?
}  Who doesn’t know that Kariba is surviving on donations yet is one of the richest areas in the nation because of marginalisation and poor planning for the people without the people like in this Nyaminyami radio project. Always taking people for granted by giving them that which they have not asked.

By licensing Government itself, obviously it is making sure that the communities are gagged not to raise issues of development concern which are critical in changing behaviour and their life. It’s heartbreaking when the so called proponents of empowerment pretend to empower communities yet suppressing them further and throwing them into the deep-end and dust bins.

We will always remind our PS of that which he knows, that communities in Zimbabwe need to broadcast and need to have possession of the radios, they have to sit in the Boards and have power over programming and resources used there, they need to broadcast for themselves by themselves with themselves, not for parastatals by parastatals with parastatals.

Ownership is not wished but is a recipe of making decisions. Now we understand what Professor Moyo meant sometime in 2014/15 when he said : “No one is confused about what radio is, but there is a lot of confusion about what a community is” .

PS George Charamba has finally acknowledged such confusion when he visited Kariba by stating that the community that has to be licensed is a parastatal. Thanks to the digitisation migration programme that took him to Kariba recently. We remind him (PS) now and ask about the values, culture, beliefs and history that the Zimpapers or is it Kingstones as a community has in Kariba.

To my friend and comrade PS George Charamba, we will not tire to remind you of the reasons community radios matter in Zimbabwe as you know them:
i)  Section 61 of the Zimbabwean constitution says so.
ii) The Broadcasting Services Act of 2001 provides so
iii)            The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa recognise them
iv)            It is the critical and effective tool that is strategic for community development
v) Community Radios collaborate with various Government departments and organisations to produce relevant content critical for community empowerment
vi)            It preserves cultural identity, heritage, minority languages thereby countering the globalisation and homogenisation of information and broadcasting;
vii)           Promotes free flow of information to low-income communities who have traditionally been marginalised by the mainstream media.

It’s a shame that some people are bent on tarnishing that which our fathers fought for during the liberation struggle by pretending to empower us yet marginalising us further by giving us decentralised voices. Now we will assume a new title already given to us by our own Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services which is “Media Activist” full throttle as we do the activism knowing where our homeland is being taken.

Zimbabwe will never be a colony again and surely 37 after Independence and having dummies sold to us is beyond comprehension. No, no, no our narratives are now coined to converse, consume and saunter community radio. Your open love letter from the Media Activists is on its way my Permanent Secretary Mr George Charamba.