Govt not keen on urban community radios

BULAWAYO - Stakeholders pushing for the licensing of community radio stations have rejected a definition by government that a community is an enclave headed by a chief, a move they see as an attempt to license only rural community radio stations.

Kudzai Kwangwari of the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) said Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo outlined at a recent meeting  in Harare that the government defines a community as one led by a traditional leader, dismissing potential community radio station applicants in urban areas.

But speaking at the community radio consultative meeting organised by Radio Dialogue here last week, stakeholders disagreed with Moyo’s definition of a community.

“According to the government, a community should have a headman or a traditional leader but they cannot just throw something at us just like that. In fact, it must be negotiated,” Kwangwari said.

“We should not allow the government or Professor Moyo to define what a community is for us.

“We all know what a community is, where human beings are and sharing life.”

Kwangwari said stakeholders must remain steadfast in pushing for licensing of community radio stations especially in urban areas as there were huge spin-offs for communities arising from community radio stations.

“This is a struggle or a movement of how we can develop our communities,” he said.

Blessing Jona, a lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the National University of Science and Technology, said a community can be defined in many ways depending on common needs at a different place and time.

“We are a community of urbanites, who do they expect our traditional leader to be?” Jona asked.

“It’s unfortunate that we are now at pains to try and fit into the box that has been set before us.”

He alleged Moyo was trying to bar urban community radios.

“When someone is being mischievous and cantankerous enough to come up with their own definition, then it goes on to show that the person is being retrogressive and does not understand what a community is in the first place,” Jona said.

“We do not need a rocket scientist, or a professor to define what a community is.”

Jona said it was clear that the bone of contention was political.

“Unfortunately, we have a government that is paranoid of everything,” he said.

At least 13 community radio stations set up in different parts of the country are ready to go on air, including Nkabazwe, Patsaka, Radio Kwelas, Wezhira, Getshenge, Community Radio Harare and Radio Dialogue.

Peter Zwide Khumalo, a Radio Dialogue board member, said Moyo’s definition was discriminatory.

“The strategic discretion by the government so far is an indication that the government is discriminating,” Khumalo said.

“It is designed to say if you are applying from an urban area, you are now double dipping.”

He however, said as an association they would “take the bull by its horns”.

Human rights lawyer Lizwe Jamela said the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) was stalling the process by failing to invite applicants for community radios, a move he said was not necessarily unconstitutional.

“But it will be unconstitutional if an applicant trying to assert his right by applying for a licence then he is denied,” Jamela said.

While the radio and television licensing authority Baz has licensed and also called for the applications for the commercial radio stations, it is yet to do the same for community radio stations in a development that has raised concern among stakeholders.

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