Community radios resolve to defy govt

HARARE – Local community radio stations are headed for a collision course with the newly-appointed government in the wake of their resolution to start broadcasting without the requisite licences from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz).

Members of the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), who met at a community broadcasting symposium in Harare on Thursday, said the government’s reluctance to license them in line with the Constitution has prompted them to defy Baz’s licensing regime.

“Community radios must implement the Constitution of Zimbabwe that allows for freedom of expression by starting to broadcast while the government regularises their operations.

“The Constitution gives us the right to start broadcasting… so community radio stations must start broadcasting and regularise later,” read one of their resolutions.

The community radio stations which resolved to go it alone without licences include Madziwa FM, Kumakomo FM, Vemuganga FM, Corah, Radio Dialogue, Nkabazwe FM, Wezhira, Twasumpuka, Kwekwe FM, Radio Chiedza, Patsaka Nyaminyami, Getjenge FM, Ntepe FM, Zhowane FM, Hwange FM, Tsakani FM and Zim Talk.

They are particularly angry with government for duping Zimbabweans into believing that the country now has genuine community radio stations.

They said the existing so-called community radio stations were commercial ones.

The eight licensed “community radio stations” are Ya FM (Zvishavane), Nyaminyami FM (Kariba), Breeze FM (Victoria Falls), Diamond FM (Mutare), Skyz Metro FM (Bulawayo), Capitalk 100.4 FM (Harare) and Faya FM (Gweru).

The government has repeatedly defended its decision to give licences to the eight organisations even though they fall outside the conventional community radio station bracket.

Baz was not available for comment yesterday. But a few months ago, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba, said there was need to re-define community radio stations.

“We must not be bigoted. We must be rational. Knowledge is how you tether it within a social milieu, let’s interrogate the terminology that we use and see whether it has sense in our own circumstances.

“The word ‘community radio’ presupposes that there is a radio that does not serve the community, so if there is a radio that does not serve the community, who is it speaking to? Does a national radio station not serve a community?” asked Charamba.

In response, Zacras hit back at Charamba for allegedly undermining community radio stations.

“It is therefore regrettable that an official from the ministry mandated with promoting broadcasting diversity and pluralism in Zimbabwe believes that calls for community radios are unwarranted.

“Commercial radio cannot be a substitute for community broadcasting. This is because the two are different in terms of approach, ownership, programming, motivation and principles.

“Unlike commercial radio, community radio by its very nature and definition is cheaper to run, accessible and allows citizen participation at all levels,” said Zacras in a statement signed by its then chairperson John Chirinda.

Meanwhile, Zacras has put in place a new board whose convener is Kwekwe FM’s Eric Musesengwe. Abgail Matare, also from Kwekwe, was selected as the deputy convener with veteran journalist Energy Bara (Wezhira Community Radio) coming in as the secretary.

A new Zacras general council has also been voted into office.

It includes Radio Chiedza’s Perlagia Kapuya (chairperson), Munyaradzi Chimwara from Community Radio Harare (vice chairperson), Nomsa Ncube from 41 FM (secretary), Mutare-based Kumakomo’s  Trevor Mtisi (treasurer) and Masimba Munyuni  from Twasumpuka FM (information secretary).