Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations

The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) is a membership based and non-profit making Association established in 2003 to promote community radio interests in Zimbabwe. Membership of ZACRAS was 22 in 2019. Through its membership, the Association promotes access to information at a community level thereby fostering participation in developmental processes.

Contact Details

Address: 34 Nigel Phillips Road, Eastlea, Harare.
Cell phones: (+263) 242 701978, (+263) 242 701979.
Email: zacras@zacraszim.org.
Website: https://www.zacraszim.org/.

Vision

To develop participative communities in Zimbabwe which freely express themselves.

Mission

To empower communities in Zimbabwe through building and sustaining strong, vibrant, autonomous community driven radio stations.

Work

  • capacity strengthening of members,
  • lobby and advocacy for community radio licenses
  • creation of a conducive policy environment favoring community radio development..

ZACRAS was formed after the Government of Zimbabwe enacted the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) to regulate the operations of broadcasting media in Zimbabwe in 2001. The BSA introduced a 3 tier broadcasting system comprising of public, commercial and community broadcasting. ZACRAS was then formed to provide a unified national advocacy platform for community radio initiatives and activists.

Structure

  • General Council.

Convenes the Annual General Meeting, makes recommendations, approves budgets and auditors and assists in ensuring that ZACRAS members operate in accordance with the needs and aspirations of their respective communities.

  • Board of Trustees

Provides policy guidelines and direction which assists the Association in executing its mandate.

  • Secretariat.

Carries out the administrative functions of the Association.

Events

On 28 September 2017, during the commemorations of the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), they made a statement that they were perturbed that the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), had not licensed community radios bearing in mind the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.10 which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.
In 2011, Zimbabwe was reported to have bought community radio equipment. 6 years later, with no licensed community radio in sight, Government needs to account to the citizens where this equipment is. Access to information is fundamental in ensuring citizen participation in national and local development processes. As it stands, in some communities in Zimbabwe there is total absence of either television or radio signals, resulting in people in these communities relying on spillage from neighbouring countries, an unfortunate situation which should be frowned upon by all progressive minded people. ZACRAS called on Government to:

  • License community radios in Zimbabwe.
  • Promote the creation of a conducive operational environment for community radios.
  • Establish a clear and democratic regulatory framework for community radio broadcasting in Zimbabwe.
  • Support initiatives across the country of aspiring community radio broadcasters.[1]

In June 2019, an article noted that despite promises, Zimbabwe’s Information ministers have failed to license any community radio stations. Which runs against the new “open-for-business” verbiage of the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. South Africa’s community radio sector boasts some 165 stations whereas Zambia has 85. Southern African countries have a vibrant community radio sector, except for Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The government bragged in the state media that community radio channels have been licensed, however they were only referring to commercially funded regional radio operations, controlled jointly by the government, the ruling party and local entrepreneurs.
Audience research shows that radio is still the most widely accessed medium in Zimbabwe, especially in rural areas. Nick Mangwana, secretary for the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, says that communities are the real “drivers of development,” which is a reason why the government fully supports the community radio sector. Building a community radio sector will simply help the government develop communities “in a devolved way,” In his view, Zimbabwe needs a three-tier broadcast system consisting of commercial, public and community media. Mangwana promised that the community radio licensing will be a fair process handled by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), the country’s audiovisual watchdog. He promises that the government will not interfere. There is increasing evidence of the value of community radio (or the consequences of its absence), for example Cyclone Idai. Experts explain that community radio is best positioned to cover topics such as:

  • human rights,
  • environment,
  • health,
  • poverty
  • gender-related issues

because they have the local expertise and can air in the languages spoken by these communities.
At global level, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), with 3,000 members in 110 countries, has put forward a set of basic best practices guiding community broadcasting. However the authorities chose debate over trivial issues (such as what constitutes a community or how to define a community radio station) to further delay the licensing process and gain an upper hand in ownership and control. Creation of a community radio sector in Zimbabwe was not possible in the early 2000s. But it is possible now and Zimbabwe is obliged under international law to protect the right to freedom of expression of everyone in the country, especially those communities marginalized by mainstream media, according to Amnesty International. Building a resilient and diverse community radio field could be an answer to that. [2]


Trevor Mtisi wrote:

Upon her September 2018 appointment as minister responsible for information, publicity and broadcasting services portfolio, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) congratulated Monica Mutsvangwa. With the new dispensation, they looked forward to a better media sector which served the community under the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” philosophy. As community broadcasters, they wished work in developing the country, and playing a role of promoting access to information to all citizens including those in rural communities.
The 28 members of ZACRAS, have awaited licenses for close to two decades, since the broadcasting services act was promulgated, and drew your attention to the fact that Zimbabwe remains one of only two countries in the region together with Swaziland without licensed community radios.

[3]

Beyond Tokenism: The Need To License Community Radio Stations In Zimbabwe [4]

[5]

[6]

In February 2022, ZACRAS wrote:

The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) an umbrella body of community radio stations and initiatives of the same, lament legal restrictions, custom duty on imported equipment and personnel retention challenges, as some of the hinderances in their endeavor to see that more community radio stations are established.

Acting National Coordinator Mlondolozi Ndlovu, said in a statement to commemorate The World Radio Day, that they have been working extremely hard in the lobbying and advocacy work since its inception in 2003 to help more community radio initiatives mature to fully-fledged community radio stations. To date, they assisted six community radio stations initiatives to be licensed, out of the 14 licensed community radio stations. Examples were Inyangani, Chimanimani, and Inxaba community radio stations. And there was the need to complete the three-tier system. He cited prohibitive custom duty levied on imported equipment by government as another deterrent challenge faced by many community radio initiatives.

Further Reading

  1. [1], Kubatana, Published: 27 September 2017, Retrieved: 15 June 2020
  2. Community Radio Takeoff in Zimbabwe: Delayed Indefinitely?, Central European University, Published: 20 June 2019, Retrieved: 15 June 2020
  3. Congratulatory Message, Kumakomo Trust, Published: 11 September 2018, Retrieved: 12 June 2020
  4. Beyond Tokenism: The Need To License Community Radio Stations In Zimbabwe, Amnesty International, Published: May 2015, Retrieved: 15 June 2020
  5. Community radio station initiatives key for localised development, Eastern Times Zimbabwe, Published: 25 February 2019, Retrieved: 27 May 2020
  6. ZACRAS commends the Government of Zimbabwe for licensing national and local commercial radio stations in recent years, ZACRAS, Published: 14 February 2017, Retrieved: 15 June 2020