Basic Communication in Zimbabwe

von Markus Brauckmann

Harare: Training councillors and committee members

Three, two, one – action! The camera starts rolling and the three local politicians are visibly nervous. But the trio are not deterred. They deliver their statements accurately, and are rewarded with hearty applause from the participants. Welcome to the final exercise of the successful workshop, ‘Fundamentals of Communication: Theory and Practice’, in Harare, Zimbabwe on March 8-9, 2011, a KAS Media Africa project, with support from KAS Zimbabwe.

These days, communication is one of the key disciplines in modern politics. Transporting messages, views and assessments professionally can be a decisive advantage in political competition. In Zimbabwe, this is a big challenge for the democratic forces. The members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) barely have access to the media to convey their core message and opinions to a wider public. In a country which has been shaped over the last decades by one-party rule and a corresponding media landscape, most MDC members lack practical experience in dealing with newspapers, radio and television as well as basic knowledge in this field. They have some catching up to do in communicative skills.

To meet these needs, the Regional Media Programme Sub-Sahara Africa of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation developed a two-day seminar on the basics of communication, with both theoretical and practical components. In close collaboration with KAS Zimbabwe, a detailed program was created which takes the local experiences of the participants into account. As background: the office of the foundation in Harare, under the direction of Helga Rothfritz, has been working for some time now with a group of elected councillors and committee members from Harare and Marondera, Mashonaland East, and has already carried out several strategy and management training courses with these politicians. The workshop, with a target audience of twenty-five selected participants, was established on this basis. The ultimate goal was to support democratisation by helping the group contribute to opinion making in Zimbabwe in a more skilled and confident manner, if they ever get the chance.

The Media Progamme signed on the South African, Paula Fray, to be the trainer. As a former Harvard University Nieman Fellow, she enjoys an excellent reputation in the southern part of the continent. She was supported by the trained TV journalist, Riyaz Patel, from the KAS Media Programme. First, the seminar focused on the communication process, language, and the identification of target audiences, as well as the media landscape. Particular attention was paid to the formulation of key messages. On the second day, the participants put their new-found knowledge into practice. In order to monitor results optimally, a camera team filmed each participant in a realistic interview situation. These shots and sound bites were shown on TV to the whole group, complete with tips, comments and critique from the trainers and participants.

The subsequent feedback regarding the workshop, collected through personal conversations and written evaluations, highlighted the important steps forward the participants had taken in the field of communication. The practicality of the workshop was especially praised, as well as the increased self-confidence with which political concerns could now be communicated to neighbours, voters, colleagues and the media. “KAS Zimbabwe did an excellent job on training the target group,” said Markus Brauckmann, Director of KAS Media Africa, “these democratic forces need support in the field of communication and the Regional Media Programme will do its part, in consultation with KAS Zimbabwe of course.”