By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
The Southern African Development Committee Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) says community radio stations are vital in disseminating key electoral information to rural areas however Zimbabwe refuses to free the airwaves.
Speaking at an event organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe recently , SADC PF ‘ s Democracy and Governance program officer, Mr Sheuneni Kurasha said most Southern African countries grapple with bridging the rural-urban divide in communicating key electoral information and cited community radio stations as a remedy to the anomaly.
“We have realised that most countries in this region have a challenge in addressing the rural-urban divide when dealing with critical electoral information as most of it tend to be urban-centric as a recommendation the SADC PF proffer community radio stations since they have both geographical and linguistic reach, ”cited Mr Kurasha.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network programmes co-ordinator Ellen Dingane confirmed that there was indeed the need for a deliberate effort to ensure that indigenous languages are recognised for effective electoral information.
The Zimbabwean government has been under intense pressure from media civic groups like Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) to licence community radio stations. The groups argue that what government is terming community radio stations in the mould of YA FM in Midlands, Diamond FM in Manicaland, Khuluma FM in Bulawayo, Hevoi Fm in Masvingo just to mention a few are purely commercial entities and thus fall short of genuine community radio stations which are premised on the interests of the communities.
Meanwhile, SADC PF has continued its push for a legislative role to deal decisively with electoral disputes despite member states frustrating the move.
SADC PF secretary general Dr Esau Chiviya said the forum is the only bloc that does not have an arm that plays a legislative role when it comes to elections disputes in Africa.
“As a forum we are determined to see the SADC PF becoming a legislative body because in the whole of Africa it’s only here in Southern Africa where we don’t have such a remedy to electoral disputes,” said Dr Chiviya.
SADC PF has been subjected to a barrage of criticism for superintending sham of elections in Southern Africa.
By Tafadzwa Muranganwa