Rural citizens robbed of election news


DRAMATIC events that led to the proclamation of elections for July 31 dominated the news in Zimbabwe and instantly became a topic discussed by many concerned citizens.

Report by Nduduzo Tshuma

However, somewhere in Bulilima and Mangwe districts, villagers live their lives “normally” oblivious to the political processes that rocked the country in previous weeks and the name Jealousy Mawarire does not ring a bell.

Southern Eye on Friday came face to face with villagers from the two districts who revealed the divide between urban and rural communities in the country.

Sabelo Ndlovu from Empandeni, Bulilima district, said he only heard that elections were set for July 31, but had no idea how political leaders had arrived at that date.

“We do not have access to newspapers and radio,” he said. “There is no electricity in the area so if you do not hear from business people who visit Plumtree town once in a while, you remain in the dark.

“As I speak, I know there are a lot of people from where I come from who do not know when elections will be held and some have not even registered as voters.”

Ndlovu said if local businesspeople did not go to Plumtree, communities relied heavily on rumours and the grapevine, but the news was hardly reliable.

Theodora Mvundla from Mphoengs echoed Ndlovu’s story, saying they did not have access to news sources on current affairs.

“There is a problem of access to local news,” she said. “The radio and television signals do not reach the area that I come from.”

Most of Plumtree and surrounding districts do not have access to any local radio and television signal and they have to rely on Botswana services, depriving them of Zimbabwean news and current affairs.

“Those fortunate to have generators get television and radio signals from Botswana,” Mvundla explained.

“In some remote areas, some mobile telephone networks do not have a signal and villagers use Botswana mobile numbers.”

Asked if the name Jealousy Mawarire rang any bell, Mvundla said he had never heard of the name.

Mawarire approached the courts seeking to compel President Robert Mugabe to set June 29 as the election date.

The courts then ordered Mugabe to declare an election date by July 31.

Simon Tshuma from Mangwe said information gets to them three weeks to a month after a certain incident would have occurred.

“The transmission of information is slow in this part of the country,” he said.

“You get to know of things that happened three weeks ago when one of the villagers brings old newspapers either from Plumtree town or Bulawayo.”