A group of women receiving training in Citizen Journalism at a workshop by Women Coalition of Zimbabwe
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Addressing Underreportage of Village Court Cases for a Balanced Zimbabwean Information Ecosystem

The contents of this report are a collection of insights and ideas gathered at a training workshop on court reporting hosted by MISA Zimbabwe in Harare on July 19, 2023.

In case you didn’t know, It is estimated that over 70% of civil disputes in Zimbabwe are settled in village courts. Zimbabwe has more than 290 chieftains and 36 chiefdoms that were recently restored, which confirms the previous claim that village court cases are acutely underreported. This article exposes a treasure trove of underreported court stories in remote areas. Increasing media coverage of village court stories will significantly add value to the information ecosystem in Zimbabwe. By so doing, mobile journalists can fill in the information gaps by covering underreported court stories in remote communities that are not covered by mainstream media.

It is already problematic that there is acute underreportage and airplay of village court stories from the southern regions of Zimbabwe. This article can authoritatively state that Zimbabwe television channels and other digital media outlets have 0% coverage of village court stories in the southern region. At that point, the coverage of the northern region is still in its infancy, with only one television program titled Village Court covering only a handful of village courts in the northern region. This observation already points out the void or lack of coverage of village court stories in Zimbabwe.

I recently attended a training workshop on court reporting organized by MISA Zimbabwe with training led by Dr. Tarisai Mutangi, a legal expert. During the training, I deliberately chose to pick up the aspects of court reporting that are not taught in journalism school. I chose to represent digital media contributors (mobile journalists) who are often in the peripheries of the so-called journalism fraternity. It is important to acknowledge that digital media tools have empowered citizens to tell their stories during their exercise of freedom of expression.

In this article, I will unpack how ZNCJ shared knowledge with Madziwa Community Radio Citizen Journalists on the significance of hyperlocal village court reporting against the background of democratizing the media space in Zimbabwe.

Village Court stories are just as important.

It was probably shocking to a number of journalists when the village court (Dare raMambo) was identified as a type of court in Zimbabwe. The learning experience paved the way for the new knowledge that court reporting does not revolve around the magistrates. Dr. Mutangi explained the importance of reporting on village court cases and why omitting village court cases is undermining the public’s media consumption in the quote below.

“Village Court cases are not petty, but they play a crucial role in resolving disputes that will not necessarily overburden the bigger courts. So, if the media decides not to cover village courts, assuming that it is not  important, unfortunately it is an injustice to matters of public interest.”.

It is important for mobile journalists to make use of digital media and platforms, such as community radio stations, to cover village court cases. The ripple effect comes back to benefit the communities by allowing them to share the lived experience of the statistically proven 67 percent of Zimbabweans living in rural areas.

In many rural areas, there may be a lack of mainstream media coverage. Community radio stations can bridge this information gap by serving as a reliable source of news, including updates on court cases that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Village Court Reporting is a call for citizen journalists.

Recently, in August, I visited members of ZNCJ who are citizen journalists volunteering at the Madziwa community radio station. We had a diary meeting with a group of 17 citizen journalists with one problem in common. We don’t know where and how to find court stories. Our team of volunteer trainers was excited to share with them that they could tap into reporting village court stories to hyperlocalize the content to increase their subscribers.

By covering village court cases, citizen journalists stimulate community discussions about legal issues and dispute resolution. This open dialogue can lead to a better understanding of the justice system and foster a sense of communal responsibility.

Village court cases are part of the local history and culture. Citizen journalists can document these cases, preserving a record of legal proceedings and their outcomes for future generations.

It was explained that village courts were in their area of influence where local community radio citizen journalists can authoritatively report on their local stories before a crew of a media startup journalists from Harare come with cameras and tripods set up for filming and upload the content on YouTube for the diasporans to watch.

Village Court Reporting is a call for local citizen journalists to empower themselves to be authoritative reporters on court stories in their communities.

Call to action

This article underpins the position of ZNCJ: media coverage of village courts will significantly enrich Zimbabwe’s information ecosystem by covering underreported stories in remote communities.

  1. There is an urgent need to build the capacity for village court reporting trainings for community radio citizen journalists.
  2. There is a need to expand collaborative efforts between civil society and government to unlock the potential of underreported stories.
  3. Customized village court reporting trainings for mobile journalists.
  4. Meaningful engagement and initiative from the government departments to support grassroots mobile journalism in rural areas.


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By Richard Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.

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