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Zimbabwe: Cyclone Idai impact would have been minimized by liberalised airwaves

Popel carry coffins as mourners attend multiple burials at the Chimanimani Heroes Acre on March 18, 2019 in Chimanimani, eastern Zimbabwe, after the area was hit by the cyclone Idai. - A cyclone that ripped across Mozambique and Zimbabwe has killed at least 162 people with scores more missing. Cyclone Idai tore into the centre of Mozambique on the night of March 14 before barreling on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, bringing flash floods and ferocious winds, and washing away roads and houses. (Photo by Zinyange AUNTONY / AFP) (Photo credit should read ZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

Aku Harriet

GWERU – The impact of Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe could have been minimized had the affected areas had community radios to provide information to the people, Amnesty International said this week.

Addressing delegates in a meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations in Gweru, an official with Amnesty International Roseline Muzerengi said lives could have saved had the affected communities received enough and vital information prior to the tragedy.

“The impact of the Cyclone induced floods could have been minimized if the affected areas had got information through various means and in this case we feel community radios could have played a big role in information dissemination,” said Muzerengi.

“We are calling upon Zimbabwean authorities to reconsider the issue of issuing operating licenses to community radio stations, in the country.”

“In this case we are talking of villagers in Chimanimani and Chipinge who had no information at all of the weather patterns. Radios on their own have weather forecasts and we believe that such information had it been availed to the affected communities lives could have been saved,” added the Amnesty official.

“This is a learning curve and we hope our leaders have learnt enough and should move with speed to grant community radios operating licences. Community radio is an important tool for development and as Amnesty International we believe access to information is a basic human right.”

Cyclone Idai swept across Chipinge and Chimanimani districts in eastern Zimbabwe killing hundreds of villagers and leaving a trail of destruction.

Roads, bridges, schools and even police stations were swept away during flooding.

Thousands of villagers were left homeless while hunger and starvation have tightened their grip other affected communities as food was also swept away.  The Zimbabwean government has declared the situation a national disaster.

The floods also hit Malawi and Mozambique where hundreds died and thousands are still counting on their losses.

 ZACRAS, a mother board for Community radios initiatives in the country says it has over 22 community radio initiatives ready to go on air if given operating licences by the government.

Zimbabwe and Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, are the only Southern African countries without a single community radio station.

There have been calls by several communities in the country for the government to liberalise the  airwaves and allow community radios to operate.

However the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to licence several community radios in the country before the end of this year.

The minister of Information media and broadcasting services Monica Mutsvangwa said the issue of liberalizing the airwaves is high on her agenda since she assumed office last year.

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