COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS – THE MISSING LINK IN THE DOMESTIC TOURISM DRIVE.

Community radio stations have been provided for in Zimbabwe’s constitution since 2001 but remain unlicensed up to this day. So why even bother to talk about them here? They remain an untested quantity that might not be utilised at all; after all. That might be the case on the surface, but anyone who has a modicum of intelligence in them can see the great potential that a sceptical government has laid to waste through unjustified procrastination in licensing them.

What are Community Radio Stations?
Community radio stations, for the purposes of this article, can be simply defined as radio stations owned by communities and licensed to transmit to their communities or stakeholders. They are different from public and commercial radio stations in both size and scope. The bulk of the programming concerns each community’s particular stakeholders.
It is common knowledge that not every story gets to national broadcasters or to commercial radio stations because of their intrinsic nature. How then do marginalised communities tell their own stories? Community radio stations sound like the ideal option for localised news items and announcements.

Domestic Tourism
Due to the marked drop in foreign tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe in recent years, it has been suggested that domestic tourism could be the panacea. Experience has shown that it can keep the industry going if well implemented.
The problem with this proposal is that it involves a cultural revolution in that the majority of Zimbabweans are not used to visiting tourist resorts or other places of interest in their country or communities. This was a preserve of the supposedly monied (and previously deliberately privileged) white communities and their Asian counterparts. Such travel was considered a white culture. The black culture expected and demanded that one visit his or her folks in their rural homes. Sightseeing or “unfruitful” travel was considered a waste of meagre resources. One would be considered uncultured to partake in such travel or trying to imitate the white man – kuda kuzviita murungu or kuda kuzviita munhu ane mari (mimicking a foreign culture or shamelessly displaying wealth). It still largely remains unappreciated in poorer communities because food and clothing come first in the hierarchy of needs and wants. Travel is never budgeted for – it is something that happens when there is extra, disposable income; never a priority.
Even going out with one’s family to eat out is an alien culture. You must have married a lazy wife to do that. Why can’t she cook at home (like other cultured women vakabva kune vanhu)? The man of the house, if he is lucky not to be just ridiculed without being told why, will be warned that his wife will bring him financial ruin.
This, fortunately, is changing and most urban families now consider an annual holiday a priority for health and other reasons. The experiences of those who have travelled would be appreciated by their communities if these were to be shared. And this is where Community Radio Stations come in – people sharing experiences, knowledge and being entertained in their own languages and in familiar surroundings. Word-of-mouth has always been touted as one of the greatest marketing tools by marketing gurus. People get awakened to what is surrounding them, the issues they should be addressing and the “in places” in their localities or country. People become alive to their environment.
In one of the talk shows this writer attended as a panellist at Patsaka Nyaminyami Community Radio station in Kariba, it emerged that many people are not aware of the various services they could be enjoying affordably in their community. Some dismiss them as simply not meant for them but “tourists”. They could not be bothered to check them out for fear of humiliation by being chased away or ridiculed, for instance.
The next natural question to be addressed appears to be: who is a tourist? This could then be expanded to what or who is a domestic tourist. I refuse to be confined by academic definitions – I prefer local communities to put their own understanding to such terms. The strict, academic and classroom definition is limiting. Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Engineer Walter Mzembi, has even proposed licensing “Hospitality Centres”, otherwise known as Shebeens in Southern Africa. You would have to be embedded with your community to know these. Community Radio Stations will, therefore, play a significant role, not only in extolling the virtues of travel, but by also highlighting those places and areas that might answer your quest for what makes you happy, please your palate, renew and re-invigorate your love life and a host of other things. Their affinity with their communities makes Community Radio Stations a unique and cheap tool to disseminate whatever information is available in the most appropriate way.
The continued non-availability of licensed Community Radio Stations could be the missing link in our quest to perfect our Domestic Tourism Matrix. Advertising would be cheaper and most information would be current (as opposed to outdated brochures with old contact details). The Community Radio Stations licensing issue deserves a deeper look and should be supported by the Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry.

By Laiton Kandawire
About the author: Laiton is a certified ZimHost and an area-based Kariba Destination Planner who has transformed many holidays into unforgettable experiences. He can be reached on: +263 0772 817733 or e-mail: ulakariba@gmail.com