Remarks by the Honourable Minister of Information, Publicity And Broadcasting Services, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, on the occasion of NewsDay’s 10th anniversary celebrations
First and foremost, I wish to thank the Alpha Media Holdings family for inviting me to this auspicious occasion – the 10th anniversary of the founding of the NewsDay, one of the country’s well-circulated daily newspapers.
I, therefore, take this opportunity to congratulate you the NewsDay, the founders of the papers, indeed the owners — that is the shareholders and the directors, the management, the indefatigable team of journalists embracing the editors, reporters, photographers and all support staff that make it possible for us to receive the paper at our doorstep every morning.
Congratulations! Makorokoto! Amhlope! May your newspapers live to celebrate many more jubilees in the future. I am happy for your growth and for your success in the newspaper business.
I salute and congratulate Newsday and Alpha Media Holdings on the 10th anniversary as a paper and publishing house. You came about during the epoch of the Government of National Unity.
I recall the promise of political inclusion and openness of the information space ushered in as all Zimbabwe hankered for a new era of economic growth and prosperity.
Sadly, the ensuing political developments then proved that the expected goal of a new and rewarding economy would be illusory. Instead, a singular drive towards the politics of marginalisation once again took hold.
The former President’s decline as a geriatric slid into a more sinister inclination towards a dynastic pretence in favour of his young if unhinged spouse.
The silver lining remained in the continued existence of a free Press which continued to expose the festering national rot. I am here to commend you for your role in those trying times.
I am happy that as the private free Press you evinced a patriotic sense of belonging and dutifulness to a shared historical destiny. Specifically you respected the fact that Zimbabwe was a nation born out of an armed struggle where many suffered and perished. You wrote that the sacrifice of the 1960-70s generation would not be in vain.
Bang! Comes November 2017 and the glorious revolution of Operation Restore Legacy. You were at the forefront, informing the people of the momentous and unfolding story!
As the dynastic pretentious vanished, you celebrated the people’s victory. I have to personally pay homage to your courage and tenacity in that grand political endeavour. You will recall I am the Senator who read the charges of impeachment of (the late former) President Robert Mugabe.
Thus we found each other in the shared political trenches of a common patriotic commitment.
Zimbabwe is two-and-a-half years into the Second Republic and its new dispensation. I started my government assignment as Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister. After 2018 elections, I was appointed Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.
All Zimbabweans had hoped for electoral closure and a shift to the arduous task of renewal and nation-building. This has turned out to be an elusive endeavour to date.
An opposition leader has starkly refused to concede presidential defeat even as a sizeable clutch of his Members of Parliament happily discharge parliamentary duty after winning in the same electoral contest.
He finds succour and comfort from the post-imperial powers rooted in the colonial praxis of the 1884 Berlin Conference on the Partition of Africa.
I delight on your patriotic stance against the intrusive and ruinous ZIDERA [Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001] and other sanctions. You have vindicated those who argue that a private Press cannot be rooted in patriotic duty.
Among all the current political noise, the COVID-19 menace and its body blow to national economic activity, I stand in absolute confidence that it is a good blessing to have a free and private Press.
We will brave these difficulties together. I am your minister as much as I am for the publicly-owned media. I make no distinction or favour. Mine is a revolving door to all fraternity of the media — public or private.
After all the advent of the digital era places common challenges in the face of social media and ubiquitous publishing licence.
I have a developmental assignment to maintain your relevance and viability through marshalling investment into new digital technologies and formats. I have to ensure you continue to survive and thrive.
It’s a worthy and satisfying ministerial assignment despite the various challenges I face. The most daunting being limited resources in difficult economic circumstances.
I have one message of assurance. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has full confidence and trust in the free and private media. He will strive to give you the space you desire just as much as he will help you stave off the hostile encroaches of greedy foreign political and business interests. We both share a sacred patriotic commitment to a bright and prosperous future for our nation, Zimbabwe.
As I have already alluded, the development, progress and prosperity of nations also hinges on these principles and their practical implementation. The national vision to guide Zimbabwe’s development for the next decade was enunciated by President Mnangagwa when he took over the reins of the Second Republic in 2018.
It is to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by the year 2030. All government institutions — ministries, departments and parastatals alike have been oriented to the attainment of the national vision.
Hence, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services’ thrust in the first two years of the Second Republic administration of President Mnangagwa was shaped by Vision 2030 and the Transitional Stabilisation Programm (TSP).
Our thrust in the ministry has been one of creating an enabling media environment that empowers mass media institutions to competently play their role towards the realisation of Vision 2030.
Generally, government programmes in the media (hence the ministry’s work) have been four-pronged as follows:
Aligning media laws to the Constitution, and regional and global best practice.
Instituting media reforms as per nation-wide media consultations undertaken by the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) in the year 2014.
Implementing the national Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project — entailing the migration of broadcasting services from analogue to digital platforms.
Increasing the publicity of Government programmes and projects to citizens, the region and the broader international community.
The alignment of media laws to the Constitution is now at a very advanced stage. The process was, as expected, broadly inclusive, involving all media stakeholders and benefiting from the media experts we have in the country as well as the international community.
Following the processing of new Bills within the framework of the Inter-ministerial Taskforce for the Alignment of Legislation to the Constitution (IMT) and European Union technical assistance that came through the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CARL), significant progress has been accomplished as follows:
As at 18th March 2020, the Freedom of Information Bill had sailed through the third and final reading stage at Parliament. The Bill now awaits the President’s assent to become law.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bills is at the second reading stage in Parliament.
The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill awaits presentation to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation this month (June 2020)
The Protection of Personal Information Bill is still with drafters at the Attorney-General’s office.
Government remains committed to completing the media legislative reform exercise within the period of the TSP to enable the sector to be on firm legal ground when the first national plan for realising Vision 2030 is launched.
The National Media and Film Industry Policy which seeks to guide the development of the media and film industry in terms of agreed findings and recommendations, based mainly on the IMPI report and national consultations carried out within the media law reform process, is at the stage of being prepared for presentation to Cabinet.
The migration of the national broadcasting services to digital platforms, though lagging behind due to financing and foreign currency constraints, is progressing.
We have adopted the policy of commissioning facilities that have been completed to make sure that citizens benefit from the investment put into the project.
The current milestone, at which the digitalisation project is, involves the licensing of private television stations for which a call for applications was made on February 20, 2020. The processing of the applications is expected to start in early July following the closure of the deadline which was extended to June 30, 2020.
Closely related to this milestone, under the normal business of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, is the licensing of community radio stations starting with 10 language-based ones.
The regulations were promulgated on February 7, 2020 and the call for applications was made with a closing deadline which was extended to July 31, 2020.
Judging from the foregoing, it is very apparent the government is fully committed to opening up the airwaves. The challenge now is with the players, who we wish well in their endeavours to establish media services in the country.
Living up to the government’s commitment to enhance citizens’ access to information, the ministry established social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Post-Cabinet media briefings were introduced by the Second Republic administration to increase transparency with respect to government policymaking, programmes and projects that affect citizens.
Looking forward, as government will be initiating programmes towards the realisation of Vision 2030, the ministry wishes to see a media sector that will serve the nation well in terms of informing, educating, entertaining and more importantly, mobilising the citizen behind national developmental programmes and projects.
It is also the media sector’s solemn duty to advocate for the full realisation of citizens’ rights espoused by the Constitution, and through investigative journalism aid the government and society at large in fighting social ills akin to corruption, which continue to draw back our progress as a nation.
In closing remarks, I wish to once again profoundly congratulate the NewsDay on the occasion of your 10th anniversary. You have done well in establishing yourself as a daily brand.
It is my wish that your mission and vision as an “Everyday News for Everyday People” go beyond just providing news to people, but also contribute to the building of a prosperous Zimbabwe with citizens that take pride in their self-worth, historical and cultural heritage. Congratulations! Makorokoto! Amhlope! NewsDay.
I thank you for your attention.