The advent spread of technology has dominated the communication nucleus where the society has become dependent on the social media for the spread and exchange of information. Social media platforms, such as whatsapp, facebook, twitter and instagram have become the favorite of many, cutting across age barriers. The world is fast becoming a global village where information is exchanged in the blink of an eye, regardless of geographical locations.
The country has been making tremendous efforts to be part of the global village through digitization as well as the encompassing of information communication technology. However, these modern trends have yet to be part of the peri urban and rural population that defines the greater chunk of Zimbabwe’s population. Most people, for those who have not migrated to the urban cities in search of employment and other city amenities are farmers and indigenous people who have found homes in resettlement areas after the government availed land to the masses for farming and agricultural production.
In these communities, modern media trends are not as popular as they are in the urban societies, with the trends being labeled as "zvechirungu" or for the town people. Word of mouth, township or growth point gossip is more popular and effective in information dissemination. Political party activists, ward chairmans or councilors, or "mudhumeni" headman, or any influential figure within the society, can effectively call for meetings when the need arises to pass on information, have discussions on burning issues pertaining to the various wards or constituencies they reside in. Such arrangements are more relied on and at these gatherings or meetings, the public sphere is formed, where issues are debated and resolutions made.
Despite efforts made by government towards rural electrification to facilitate access to electricity by most citizens, the availability of electricity to all parts of the country has been slowly progressing. Most households rely on using solar energy for their household consumption and as such it is the radio that stands to be the reliable source of information and entertainment as most radio pieces are durable and can operate on battery power with no reliance on electricity provision.
Community involvement has been key to realizing political, economic and social development. Government has been initiating different programs to make sure the populace has better livelihoods. Some of these programs call for wide stakeholder consultations and public awareness programs. In essence, the operation of community radio stations gives citizens the opportunity and leverage to participate and contribute towards areas of interest.
The community radios can act as a public sphere that brings people together to debate and reach consensus over developmental issues. These would be platforms that initiate debate, which are in line with constituency needs, demands, provisions and capacities. From such programs, which are contributed to by locals within their jurisdiction, Government has the ability to cater for different constituencies with specific regards to particular needs. In the same vein, government or relative stakeholders can easily communicate and give feedback to these constituencies through the same channels that issues were raised.
Community radio stations become a platform where there is engagement of citizens on issues relative to the growth and development of communities based on their demands. The use of different vernacular languages also makes it easy for communities to fluently communicate in a language that they can grasp and relate to. It is imperative that the government engages public participation on platforms that are closer to the communities so as to draw closer to the populace as well as access feedback through initiatives that are grassroots driven.
With constant monitoring and operating under regulatory framework, community radio stations have the power to unite communities and enable positive developmental change. These can further create employment within various communities, provide for marketing of different products and or services, tourist attractions and different opportunities offered by different sectors. Conclusively, it becomes easy to incorporate what each community has to offer and how best each community contributes towards social political and economic development.
- Tatenda Gono