In the heart of Zimbabwe, Jasper Maposa symbolizes hope and resilience, rising above the country’s difficult political past. As a figure of press freedom in the country, Jasper is Deputy Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, and also stands as an advocate for peaceful youth involvement in politics. A few years ago, he founded Community Voices of Zimbabwe, a non-profit organization that fosters dialogues that encourage accountability, transparency, and responsible governance. He is also a fellow of Missions Publiques’ Global Fellowship Program.
Missions Publiques: You founded Community Voices Zimbabwe. Could you tell us about this initiative and its significance in the Zimbabwean context? What stories have you shared through Community Voices for Zimbabwe and what impact have they made?
Jasper: Community Voices Zimbabwe was established to empower ordinary citizens to share their stories and experiences. We distribute community newsletters written in multiple languages, making them accessible to rural areas. This initiative not only promotes citizen narratives but also addresses various issues, from maternal mortality to disabilities. By amplifying these voices, we encourage transparency, accountability, and civic engagement within communities.
For example, Community Voices Zimbabwe played a pivotal role in addressing the enduring environmental and health challenges faced by the Kweke community, which is known to be a gold and iron mining town with many artisanal miners. By publishing an article online, the organization successfully influenced the Kwekwe City Council to take decisive action, leading to the clearance of dumpsites. This not only alleviated immediate risks but also prompted the community to adopt a more vigilant approach to waste management.
Taking the initiative further, Community Voices Zimbabwe produced a podcast that facilitated a comprehensive discussion among key local figures—the Councillor, the Mayor, and environmental experts. Together, they explored sustainable solutions, giving rise to actionable recommendations. Community Voices Zimbabwe enabled the establishment of Community Health Plans for each ward. This involved training community health workers to educate and monitor waste management practices, engaging 30 community members in each ward. The success of this model was profound, prompting Community Voices Zimbabwe to organize regular feedback meetings, fostering a continuous dialogue within the community. (1)
Other stories can be more sensitive, but not less important to address. Many LGBTQ+ individuals face discrimination, stigma, and marginalization since Zimbabwe criminalizes same-sex relationships. It’s a sensitive issue, but we work to address it indirectly by focusing on broader topics of inclusion and exclusion. Our stories and documentaries touch on these issues without exposing individuals. By advocating for the rights of marginalized groups, we hope to create a more inclusive society for everyone.
Missions Publiques: The freedom of the press is your battle in Zimbabwean media and political landscape. Can you tell us about your journey into journalism and media activism? You’ve mentioned witnessing violence and political fights during your early years. Can you share more about that pivotal moment in your life?
Jasper: My journey into journalism began with a strong desire to serve my community and amplify the voices of marginalized individuals in Zimbabwe. In high school, I received guidance from teachers and lecturers on pursuing journalism as a career. So, I quickly enrolled in a journalism degree program, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, I not only work as a journalist but also focus on developing the media industry and advocating for media freedom and diversity across the country.
Indeed, my early years were marked by bloody political conflicts and violence. People were beaten, and lives were lost, particularly in rural areas. Under the late President Robert Mugabe’s regime, many Zimbabweans suffered greatly. Some of the youths were drawn into these conflicts and witnessed horrific events, which had a lasting impact on them. These experiences have even led some to turn to drugs. It’s tragic, but it’s essential to understand the context in which these young individuals are living and the trauma they’ve endured.
It’s in this context that I lead the Zimbabwe Organization For Youth In Politics (ZOYP) a community-based organisation that is located in Kwekwe. My primary objective is to ‘conscientize’ young people, helping them understand their roles and rights within their communities and the broader political landscape. We aim to empower them with knowledge and awareness, allowing them to make informed decisions. We also focus on training these young individuals to become ambassadors for peace, advocating for non-violence and responsible political engagement. The response from the community has been largely positive. We’ve witnessed a growing awareness and interest among young people to engage in politics responsibly. ZOYP has become a platform for them to voice their concerns, discuss critical issues, and learn about non-violent political participation. Over time, we’ve seen a shift in attitudes, with more youth embracing the values of peaceful coexistence and constructive engagement.
"We also focus on training these young individuals to become ambassadors for peace, advocating for non-violence and responsible political engagement.
Founder Community Voices of Zimbabwe
Missions Publiques: You have worn so many hats. Can you tell us about your role as Deputy Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the significance of your work there?
Jasper: The Zimbabwe Media Commission is one of the five independent constitutional commissions established in Zimbabwe to promote democratic practices. Our role is multifaceted, from promoting diverse media to enforcing a code of conduct for journalists and monitoring media breaches. We also oversee public media, ensuring it reflects the diversity of Zimbabwe’s population. This also takes into account to protect the freedom of expression, media plurality, and media diversity, which are enshrined in our constitution and international agreements.
While Zimbabwe has a rich tapestry of languages, we primarily operate in three: English, Shona, and Ndebele. English, a legacy of colonialism, is widely spoken and understood. Shona is the majority language, particularly in the capital city of Harare, while Ndebele dominates in the city of Bulawayo. These languages are crucial in our work because they allow us to reach and engage with the majority of the population effectively. However, there’s room for improvement in including other languages, a goal that may require more resources.
Missions Publiques: Do you see progress toward greater media freedom, digital rights, and democratic practices in Zimbabwe?
Jasper: I am optimistic. Over the years, we’ve made significant strides in promoting media diversity and digital rights. We’ve engaged with the government and international organizations to learn from best practices worldwide. These efforts are slowly bearing fruit, although challenges persist. It’s a continuous journey, and I believe that with unwavering commitment and collective efforts, Zimbabwe will move toward greater openness, both in media and governance.