VICTIMS of floods in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, could have been quickly assisted if government had licensed community radio stations, which would have raised alarm when the disaster struck in the remote province, media experts have said.
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
The government has not licensed any community radio station since the country’s independence in 1980, resulting in the dearth of information to and from remote parts of the country.
Addressing journalists in Bulawayo last week, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) vice chairperson, Prince Zwide Khumalo expressed disappointment in the government for taking time before rescuing the Tsholotsho flood victims because it did not have proper information on what was happening on the ground.
He said community radio stations were a key component in the disaster management strategy, especially when mishaps occured in remote parts of the country.
Khumalo said community radios would give proper information to speed up response to emergencies in order to safeguard lives and property.
“Community radio stations are necessary to provide timeous communication on disasters,” said Khumalo.
In the case of the Tsholotsho disaster, the missing link was the communication from the people who were exposed, to officials who were supposed to rescue them, said Khumalo.
“It is for that reason that we believe community radios need to be licensed and be the official organ that serves people in the remote areas, to make sure that when disasters of this nature take place, even urban media can be able to get information and publicise it. Once information is published, people are in a position to react from all over,” said Khumalo.
A report by the district Civil Protection Unit says while all 22 wards of Tsholotsho received rains which were normal to above normal, Wards 6 and 8 were very badly affected by excessive rains until early February.
Most of the areas in those wards are dominated by the San community. In Ward 6 the flooding was caused by two overflowing rivers, Gwayi and Zumbani.
Khumalo said it was important for government to understand that the role of community radio stations was not to pursue regime change agendas as feared in some political circles.
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) board member, Tapfuma Machakaire said the mainstream media had shortcomings in covering remote areas.
“They hardly go there for the ordinary story and talk to the ordinary people. Sometimes it is because of resources or because they are too engrossed with more demanding issues in the cities in Bulawayo or Harare,” said Machakaire. “A community radio in Tsholotsho would have been able to highlight every day the dangers that the people of Tsholotsho are exposed to, constantly.”
He said if there had been a community radio in Tsholotsho, it would have consistently reminded government officials of the dangers people were exposed to towards the onset of the rain season.
“The community radio stations would be able to discuss the possible solutions in the relocation of affected people to safer places, discuss constraints and challenges in the proposed relocation,” he said.
Machakaire challenged government to be fair when issuing out community radio licences.
“The government should never be partisan in allocation of licences for community radio stations. The government should consider the diverse views from people around the country,” said Machakaire.