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Communication, development, empowerment: Interview with Givemore Chipere, Community Radio Harare
Upenyu Makoni-MuchemwaKubatana.net
August 20, 2009

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Givemore ChipereWhen was Community Radio Harare started?

Community Radio Harare started informally in 2003, when a group of journalists and some concerned Harare residents came together after realizing that there was not enough information for ordinary grassroots people. So these concerned people came together and decided to come up with a community radio station for the ordinary people of Harare. It was more of an idea until 2006, when we got registered as a trust organization. That's when we became more serious about the issue of coming up with our own radio station.

As a community radio station who is your target audience?

Our target audiences are the ordinary people, mostly in high-density suburbs, and of course people in low-density suburbs.

What sort of programming do you put together?

With the current media set up, issues are taken on a national scale. But we realized that there are so many interesting issues taking place in the grassroots, in Kuwadzana, in Mbare. For example if we are talking about cholera, if you got to Mbare there is cholera, but if you talk to the people they have so many brilliant ideas about how to curb this scourge. So our programs consist of those issues that are of concern to marginalised people.
Listen

What media channels do you use to disseminate information and why?

At the moment we are not yet broadcasting, we don't have a license. So we've got a monthly newsletter called Talking Harare. The stories there are written by very ordinary people. What we do here is to put their ideas together and make them readable. We also do documentaries, where we produce documentaries on topical issues of the day, where we put them on CDs and DVDs and we distribute them to the ordinary people. We also hold roadshows and community meetings. The way we organize things is such that its like we are live on air. So people can come in and discuss anything about refuse collection, about the new constitution, about politics, about social issues, about economics; people can discuss them at the roadshow.

What has the response been to your newsletter, roadshows and community meetings?

I think the response has been quite ok. But people here in Harare and in general, are quite skeptical about this thing called radio. They think what is this? Is this radio Zimbabwe? Who is the owner? Is it a government thing? So at first we had problems because people could not understand us. But because of our advocacy programs that we have been engaging in, now people are beginning to appreciate what we are doing. There is a lot of feedback. You realize that even in our Talking Harare issues, most of the content are letters to the editor from the people. People giving feedback on what they think about our CDs and also our newsletter and roadshows. Listen

From your feedback, what issues have you seen most affecting people living in Harare?

The major issues are issues of service delivery. The issue of the current political setup, people want to relate the failure by local authorities to the political system. People have been very keen to speak on political issues, especially the issue of the new constitution, what they want to see in the new constitution. Listen

You mentioned earlier that you met with the Minister of Media Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu. Can you tell me what the outcome of that meeting was?

We met with Minister Shamu yesterday; he was the one who called for that meeting. He wanted to meet all community radio initiatives. It was more of a consultative meeting. He wanted to find out how far we have gone with the preparations for broadcasting. It was a very good meeting because for the first time I think we have got recognition from the government. It was recognition of the work we are doing, because we also send him documentaries and newsletters. In that meeting he promised us that the process of constituting the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is going on and we are going to be invited to submit our applications for broadcasting licenses. So it was a very good meeting. Listen

As a community radio station, what is your vision and mission?

Our vision is that of wanting to see a Harare community that is informed and empowered. People who are actively involved in communication, because we believe that without communication then there won't be any development in Harare. So our vision is to see an enlightened community, a community that has access to information. Listen

As a community radio station would you say you engage in activism?

Yes I think we are, because by conscientizing people into realizing that they can actually have their own radio station I think we are activists. People really do not understand about this issue of radio. They think radio is supposed to be state owned only. So now people are beginning to understand that they can have their own radio station, and by so doing we are involved in civil activism.

How can people become involved with Community Radio Harare?

Because we are a community project every Harare resident can become a member. Those who want to become a part of Community Radio Harare are free to come to our offices and fill out some membership forms. But what we have also done is that we have set up community advocacy committees in most high-density suburbs. So in each of those areas, say in Budiriro, Epworth or Mabvuku, there is a Community Radio Harare Constituency Advocacy Committee. That is a committee that we have empowered to market this idea of community radio. Those people have got membership forms there at grassroots level. So if people are interested, they can either go to the constituency advocacy committee in your area or you can come here to our offices and you can fill in a membership form.

Our offices are at 66 5th St corner Livingstone Ave in Harare. Our postal address is P O Box 9247 Harare and our email is radioharare@yahoo.co.uk. Our contact numbers are 04-290 6084. Our cell phone numbers are 0912 886 969 and 023 782 323.

What challenges do you face in operating?

There are so many challenges. Some are to do with finance problems. We survive on donations from members and other interested individuals and organizations. But because of the current economic environment at national level and the global recession issue, we find we have got problems of finance. Then the other problem we are facing is that of equipment, having enough and adequate equipment to carry out our duties. To be there when there is a burst sewer in Highfields, it takes us time to go and board a combi. There'll be an accident and you can't get there on time. And even the general political environment where you are not very sure, you are afraid that if you are seen video-filming a burst sewer pipe, you are afraid that you are going to be arrested and all those things. So it makes our job more difficult because of this environment.

Have you faced harassment from the authorities?

We have not faced any serious harassment from the authorities. But maybe from some informal groups like when you are holding a roadshow in Kambuzuma, and people are speaking about the constitution and then someone comes and says but what are you doing. But we have not received any serious harassment from state security agents, no. What we do is that, when we have our roadshows, our community meetings and even our documentaries, we submit copies to the authorities so that they are aware of our existence. Most of them actually support us because even the police realize the importance of having a community radio in Harare. They are involved in fighting crime so if there is no vehicle for communication with the people how can they fight crime without such a vehicle. We are happy that even the police are beginning to realize the importance of having a community radio station for Harare, because they realize that they are also an integral part of the community.

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