Chinua Achebe, a must read for anyone who seeks to understand imbalances brought about by colonialism, poignantly notes that the reason why lions are always getting the wooden end of the stick in all folklore is principally because they has no voice. This precisely sums up the dilemma that has been the bane of areas outside the capitals of the country, by way of historical imbalances brought about by colonialism. This important aspect of telling one’s story was unfortunately abrogated to those from the empire. Languages like Nambya, Ndau, Venda, Xhosa, Kalanga etc were not only relegated to the peripheries of the national narrative, but were marginalized to a dangerous extent where the languages faced a grim prospect of annihilation.
The ushering in of the second dispensation under President Mnangagwa immediately brought renewed hope amongst formerly marginalized communities that their voice will finally be heard within their own discourse. Nineteen years after the promulgation of the Broadcasting Services Act of 2002, which clearly articulates the need for setting up of Community Radio Stations (CRS) as a key enabler to community development, the air is pregnant with renewed hope and expectation that this year communities will get to share their own stories, without the intrusive interpretation and adulteration that comes with entrusting others to do it.
What started off as a pipeline dream is fast morphing into reality as the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) became the first institution to get licensed to operate a campus radio in May this year. Whilst at first glance this can be misinterpreted as a small gesture, the implications on the wider spectrum of the whole community radio licensing are far reaching and enormous. Communities at large have suddenly realized that they can get to the promised land, by way of owning a radio station. Under President Mnangagwa, Government has made significant strides in bridging the rural urban divide and the significant progress to expedite the finalisation of community radio stations is testament to this. ‘Leaving no one’ behind is the major factor behind this drive, whilst significant progress has been made in other developmental sectors like education, health, infrastructure development , there are still significant gaps within the Broadcasting industry that have led to outlying areas being left out of the national discourse and by extension out of the national cake. Just two weeks ago the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education launched a Radio lessons program which is a very commendable initiative, but immediately the issue of reach and infiltration became topical. Cue community radio stations. Whilst the penetration levels for radio have been significantly higher than that of TV, in other developing countries penetration levels are way above the 90% mark. This is where CRS become a critical tool for fulfilling SDG 4 which speaks to the issue of provision of quality of education being a vehicle for the realization of this goal. The promulgation of CRS also highlights Government’s desire to ensure that communities speak for themselves, in their own language and dialects, with their resource persons. This way, they are then guaranteed that their voices can be heard.
Without doubt the lack of local nonprofit and non-commercial radio stations in the country 40 years after independence has been a critical blind-spot in information dissemination , especially in the countryside, and this need not be the case in a modern day Zimbabwe, fortuitously the second republic has prioritized this area. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has embarked on a community sensitisation mop up exercise that is meant to bring to finality the issue of community voices having toured Mbembesi, Manama, Beitbridge and Chiredzi last week in interactive sessions with communities and their leadership comprising of Chiefs, village heads, headmen, councilors and MPs. The extended deadline for applications is 31 July and the hope is that the month of August will herald fresh winds in the Broadcasting industry, the coming in of an age where lions tell their own story, in their own voices.