Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) has reiterated that the absence of community radio stations in peripheral areas in our country is disadvantaging voters in those areas.
Residents in rural areas are said to to be uninformed, uneducated and left out in dialogues with aspiring political candidates especially now as the country nears presidential elections.
Speaking to journalists at a local hotel, Micheal Mhlanga of Leaders for Africa Network, said community radio stations are important as they enable residents to air their peculiarities directly to their aspiring political represantives, allowing them to question manifestos.
“It is important for people to engage directly with candidates so that they can question and render immediate feedback on aspiring candidates’ manifestos. Absence of such media platforms has resulted in failure to discuss issues of substance within communities since politicians only come and address at rallies then leave.
“Politics is hence reduced to mere popularism where people are just given t-shirts and trinklets and denied the opportunity to question service delivery and their needs. They lack platforms that inform, educate and facilitate dialogues with politicians on their behalf. This results in politicians getting away without accountability and transparency,” said Mhlanga.
Tapfuma Machakaire a media expert alluded that residents in rural areas do not benefit as much from mainstream media. “Mainstream media limits plenty of people in rural areas in information dissemination. Not all of them can cater for all the 16 local-language-speaking communities. These language barriers become a huge hindrance to these people in understanding the ongoing of the current affairs of the country. They thus fail to make informed decisions because of lack of information.
“Political campaigns run from day of election to the day of the next election. Unfortunately people in rural areas due to lack of community radio stations, disengage from day to day politics and only get to meet candidates when it’s time for next elections. Their choice of candidates hence becomes inadequate. Availability of community radio stations allows these people to communicate with their political represantives, giving feedback as far as service delivery and their needs are concerned,” said Machakaire.
Jerry Zingwevu, monitoring and evaluation officer for Radio Dialogue, stated that there is need for the government to licenses for community radio stations more often.
“Government usually takes too long before they call for community radio stations to apply for licenses. This prolonged process is costly to the communities as they would be losing out important information. Community radio stations usually make use of volunteers not qualified media personnel hence this becomes a problem for accreditation when there are important events to be covered within the particular community,” he said.