Community radios can complement Information Centres

HARARE - Recent reports in the media about the government’s intention to set up information communication centres in marginalised rural communities make interesting reading and it makes us who have been advocating for community broadcasting in Zimbabwe curious.

One is forced to think this is a really genuine intention to develop these communities and ensuring there are platforms where citizens in these communities can easily access useful information for their development.

The minister of Information Communication Technology Postal and Courier Services, Supa Mandiwanzira highlighted that government is going to set up these centres in Masvingo, Gutu Mupandawana district and Matabeleland South, Maphisa.

He said this while opening a Community Information Centre in Murombedzi.

This in our view could be a welcome development as it enables these communities to participate in the development discourse together with other Zimbabweans bringing issues which affect them on the national table.

In view of that, organisations such as the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), need support as they assist communities to have their own community radio stations.

What we find a bit confusing is the fact that what could be regarded as one of the most efficient and effective community-based communication platforms, community radio, which is now a common feature in most African countries and beyond, has not been welcomed the way we anticipate by a government which now seems concerned by lack of access to information to these communities.

Our view is that community radio is not just a communication centre, but a real strategic tool to community development which must be embraced by any government which is intent on facilitating development in communities.

We wonder why a government would deny community radio stations when on one side it talks of community-based communication and information centres.

Are we really still talking about genuine communication centres for development or there is a hidden agenda?

We are aware for instance that Zacras has more than 28 community radio initiatives in all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe including in rural areas, so what better platforms of communication can communities hope for?

We believe that if the government is genuine and serious about the communication centres in rural communities, then the same government must find it noble and prudent to support the growth and development of community broadcasting as it addresses the same objective in a more efficient and effective manner.

In some countries, community radios receive government grants because they assist government in development initiatives.

In our view, there are no better communication platforms than those presented by community radios that can support development work.

There is a realisation that critical issues such as gender equality, women empowerment, HIV/Aids, health, education, poverty and hunger, water and sanitation, disasters, farming and climate change are addressed better using community-based communication platforms such as community radios.

On the area of agriculture and farming, community radios can promote better yields as well as proper farming methods through the provision of useful critical information on weather patterns.

Community radios are also very important tools for disaster mitigation strategies  on such issues as droughts, floods, disease outbreaks and many other calamities.

In view of that, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to graciously embrace community radios as they work on the setting up of community information centres in rural and other marginalised areas.

It is also important for the government to change its attitude towards community broadcasting from that of a regime change political strategy to one for development.

*Kwangwari is a Media Activist and Development Practitioner. He writes in his personal capacity.

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