On stage is DJ Mahobho and Queen Blonde. They are gyrating to the latest Alick Macheso hit song Pfuma Yacho, deep down at Mataga Growth Point in the Midlands Province.
Just below the stage, the foot-stomping gathered crowd is in amusement, struck awe by DJ Mahobho and Queen Blonde’s nimble footedness.
But DJ Mahobho and Queen Blonde are not in Mataga just to entertain the crowd. They have a serious mission to accomplish through entertainment and education – edutainment. They are part of a star-studded team deployed by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) to educate consumers on their rights and responsibilities in the usage of postal and electronic communication services and apparatus.
“We have been sent by Potraz, not only to entertain you, but to conscientise you on your rights as users of postal and telecommunications services,” DJ Mahobho says to the appreciative crowd. “Gone are the days when service providers are allowed to trample upon your rights.”
The Matanga show was the first of a seven-day campaign by Potraz in parts of the Midlands and Masvingo provinces which commenced on September 2 and culminated in the main event at Hama Growth Point in Chirumanzi last Saturday.
The Potraz team had roadshows in Mataga, Buchwa, Zvishavane, Mberengwa, Mandamabwe, Shurugwi, Chachacha, Chivi, Mashava, Chatsworth, Mvuma and the big one at Hama. It was part of a nationwide campaign that started about three years ago.
Besides entertaining and educating the crowd, Potraz gave away a lot of prices to the people who grasped what they were taught and those who helped to keep the entertainment morale high.
“I was not alive to the rights we were taught today,” says Antony Chakaona of Makwasha suburb in Zvishavane. “Cellphone network providers have not been fair to us, airtime disappears and at times connectivity is a nightmare, but we didn’t know how to get redress. We have now been empowered.”
At the main event at Hama Growth Point, Radio Zimbabwe, the country’s hugely followed radio station, broadcasted the event live.
Several people complained about poor cellphone connectivity. They lamented lack of access to service providers.
Senior Potraz officials present, George Manyaya and Talent Munyaradzi, took turns to educate the people on their rights and responsibilities. They also fielded questions.
The officials spoke of 12 consumer rights Potraz is advancing and advocating for.
1. The right to choice
2. The right to disclosure
3. The right to access high quality service
4. The right to accurate bills
5. The right to privacy
6. The right to protection against market abuse
7. The right to a responsive regulatory authority
8. The right to consumer education and awareness
9. The right to safety
10. The right to be heard
11. The right to complain and redress
12. The right to end or change a contract
The officials also educated the people on consumer complaints procedure, which entails, among other things, that all complaints should be first be dealt with by the affected operator.
“Service providers should make available to consumers their complaint handling procedure manuals at all customer service centres with the aim of resolving disputes in an effective and efficient manner,” reads one of the fliers distributed during the roadshows. “Service providers should provide consumers with clear written and verbal complaint procedures. Service providers are encouraged to provide a free phone number for inquiries. Service providers should also make Potraz contact details available for consumers, notifying consumers that they may raise their complaint to Potraz if their original complaint is not handled to their satisfaction.”
During the roadshows, Potraz implored parents to monitor their children’s usage of the internet and various social media platforms to guard against abuse.
“Schools are now encouraging children to use the internet for research. That is good,” Munyaradzi told the crowd at Hama Growth Point. “But we are saying while it is good, parents should monitor how their children are using the internet. There are social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. Your children may be enticed by bad people resulting in their abuse or exposure to bad influence. We must guard against that.”
Added Munyaradzi: “We are looking at children’s safety when accessing Internet. Internet is now becoming a basic thing for all age groups, but there is also a bad side which Internet users may not know which we think as a regulator we need to educate people on.
“One of them is the issue of cyber bullying, cyber-crime, black mailing and many more, but we think those things may be avoided if people get to know that whenever they put their things on internet, they are there forever.
“So, to the young ones I think it’s advisable that they must not engage in those things because there are some repercussions of posting unnecessary things on Internet.”
The roadshows were indeed an edutainment to the rural-folks in the Midlands and Masvingo.