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 have 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 marginalised 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 among formerly marginalised 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 intrusive interpretation and the adulteration that comes with it.
What started off as a pipeline dream is fast morphing out into reality.
Government gave a clear indication of its sincerity in this regard when Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) became the first institution to get licensed to operate a campus radio in May this year.
While 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 realised that they get to the promised land, by way of owning a radio station.
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.
While 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 radio lessons, which is a very commendable initiative, but immediately the issue of reach and infiltration became topical.
Cue community radio stations.
While the penetration levels for radio have been significantly higher than that of television, in other developing countries penetration levels are way above the 90 percent mark.
This is where CRS become a critical tool for fulfilling sustainable development goal (SDG 4), which speaks to the issue of provision of quality of education being a vehicle for the realisation 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 guaranteed that their voices can be heard.
An interesting development that has not garnered deserved notice from the mainstream media, is the demand for 75 percent localised content.
The demand here is that the programming of CRS should ensure that there is enough coverage of community issues to the percentage stated.
The downstream effects are massive and that will boost the arts sector at a very miniature level, which will transform the industry in a massive way.
Further to this, the Act also demands that to a greater extent, personnel should be derived from the wards and villages surrounding the community.
Government is obliged to train presenters, producers, engineers and a host of other professionals that are needed in the function of the stations.
For a very long time in the history of our nation, it is quite problematic that the majority of our opinion makers and showbiz personalities have hailed from Shona, Ndebele and Kalanga at times.
Surely, this is not reflective of the diversity and plurality that prevails in our nation that is endowed with great minds, and famed for a high literacy rate.
Without doubt, the lack of local non-profit 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.
This need not be the case in a modern-day Zimbabwe, fortuitously the second republic has prioritised this area.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has embarked on a community awareness exercise that is meant to bring to finality the issue of community voices.
Last week they toured Mbembesi, Manama, Beitbridge and Chiredzi in interactive sessions with communities and their leadership comprising of chiefs, village heads, headmen, councillors and Members of Parliament (MPs), and technical requirements for applications were unpacked.
Nyanga, Kariba, Binga and Chipinge are coming up shortly.
The extended deadline for applications is July 31. 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.