STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES
HONORABLE MONICA MUTSVANGWA (SEN),
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2021 WORLD RADIO DAY COMMEMORATIONS, 13 FEBRUARY 2021
Fellow Zimbabweans, the country joins the rest of the region, continent and indeed the globe in celebrating World Radio Day (WRD) 2021. The event is being celebrated against a backdrop of incessant disasters plaguing the world and the country. The scourge of Covid-19 is upon us in which worldwide, 1.4m people have succumbed to the disease, whilst nationally more than 1400 lives have been lost. May their dear souls rest in internal peace. It is only as recent as 2019 that Zimbabwe and other countries in the region were devastated by Cyclone Idai. Lives were lost, livelihoods and infrastructure were destroyed and the region is yet to fully recover from the carnage. Whilst we are grateful to the Lord for the rains that have come in abundance this year as the countryside has indeed been transformed into a greenbelt, the incessant rains coupled with Cyclone Charlene once more wreaked havoc in some parts of the country.
In such disaster situations, media plays a pivotal disaster management public service especially in broadcasting alerts, warnings and advisories. Media can also play a helpful role in supplying needed information to decision makers as well as supplying information and directions to the affected public. I want to take this opportunity to thank our media for rising up to the challenge both during cyclone Idai as well as during the Covid19 pandemic. Media played a critical role in helping Zimbabweans to cope with the calamities that have hit the nation in recent times. Media played this vital role despite facing many operational challenges that included not being adequately prepared and equipped to operate in such life threating circumstances. The nation is most grateful and I urge you to continue playing this critical role of serving the nation. You are indeed our heroes and we remain indebted.
Notwithstanding the mishaps that have befallen us as a nation in recent times, Zimbabwe has to move ahead. We all yearn for a better Zimbabwe. The nation needs to be galvanized towards national prosperity. To that end, His Excellency, the President, Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa espoused Vision 2030 which aims at making Zimbabwe an upper middle-income society by 2030. The roadmap towards this vision 2030 was the Transitional Stabilization Programme (TSP) which ran from 2019 to 2020, the five-year National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 running from 2021 to 2025 and the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2 running from 2026 to 2030. Despite the challenges Zimbabwe was facing as a result of repeated droughts, the effects of the illegal sanctions and later on the Covid19 pandemic, the TSP was to a large extent a great success laying out a firm foundation for the rolling out of NDS 1 and 2.
Media has an important role to inform the nation to ensure the success of our national vision. The National Development Strategy needs to be unpacked to the nation in way that is palatable to the men and women in the street. We need a national buy-in by citizens if they are going to meaningfully contribute to national development. Beyond informing the nation on what each of us can contribute, media also plays a watchdog role holding government to account for its promises to the nation whilst at the same time scanning the environment to give alerts to threats that can derail our national effort. I thus throw the challenge to our media to play its role in gearing the nation towards our collective aspirations. In addition, media also plays vital roles of projecting a good national image to make Zimbabwe competitive, as well as educating and entertaining the nation. The media needs to be conscious that the quest for national development is part of the wider continental vision as encapsulated in the Agenda 2063 as well is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is thus the role of our media to reveal the linkages, the opportunities and challenges that present themselves to the nation from these noble goals.
The Second Republic under the visionary leadership of President ED Mnangagwa is cognizant of the important role that media plays in making Zimbabwe a better country and has committed to creating an enabling environment for the media. This is coming by way of streamlining and improving corporate governance in the sector as well as implementing the Zimbabwe Digitalization project which seeks to modernize media platforms for the efficient and quality dissemination of information and programmes. In an environment of competing national priorities, the Zimdigital project is slowly but surely progressing well given the circumstances.
Further to the progress the country is making in improving media platforms, the Second Republic is implementing media reforms to align media laws to the Constitution as well as transform the sector to match international best practices with regard to viability, diversity and plurality. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was repealed following wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders and citizens at large. The Freedom of Information bill is now an Act whilst the Zimbabwe Media Commision and the Protection of Personal Information bills at advanced stages of enactment. The Broadcasting Services Act is also going to be amended to address the concerns of the sector meanwhile a media policy is being worked on. The nation is beginning to enjoy the fruits of these efforts as we have seen more players being licenced in the print and broadcasting sectors albeit at a pace dictated by the progress that we are making in improving capacity of the platforms.
Today we are celebrating the role that radio continues to play as one of the most enduring and effective platforms for communication. The World Radio Day 2021 celebrations are being held under the theme, ‘New World, New Radio’, as well as three global themes; evolution, innovation and connection. The theme speaks to the imperative that has been placed on radio given the critical role it plays in society in an environment in which communication is being revolutionized by developments in technology. We are living a technological revolution that has dramatically changed how we share and access information – and, yet, in the midst of deep change, we still have large parts of our country which do not have access to the internet or new technologies. As such, radio remains the most dynamic, engaging and important medium of communication. Because of its simplicity and affordability, radio should play a leading role in galvanizing the nation towards Vision 2030 as well as cope with calamities that befall us, meanwhile educating and entertaining us.
The Broadcasting Services Act of 2001 and its subsequent amendments provides for a three-tier radio service in Zimbabwe. It is however unfortunate that in practice this took a while to realize. Government is happy to announce that we now have public, commercial and community radio stations that are already in operation or are in the process of being set up. To that end, we are thankful to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that has continued to provide moral, technical and financial support to help improve the media environment in Zimbabwe. Although more needs to be done to fully open up airwaves, significant progress has already been achieved. Over and above the public broadcasting radio stations under the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, in recent times Zimbabwe has licenced and operationalised the following commercial radio stations: Breeze FM, Diamond FM, Hevoi FM, Nyaminyami FM, Skyz FM, Star FM, Ya FM, ZiFM and 94.8 FM. In addition, for the first time ever, Zimbabwe has an online radio Commercial radio station, the Heart and Soul Radio Station. To complete the three-tier radio service, Zimbabwe also licenced six Community Radio Stations, three of which are campus radio stations, Great Zimbabwe University, Midlands State University and the University of Zimbabwe to support our tertiary education while the other three cover formerly marginalized communities in Manama, Mberengwa and Nyanga.
As out capacity improves, we expect that more Community Radio Stations will be licenced giving priority to other areas that remain outside the radio broadcasting network. As the proliferation of radio stations increase, we are confident that communities will not only be passive consumers of media products but that they will participate in the crafting of their own stories. It is gratifying to note that finally we have managed to initiate the process of empowering our communities so they can share their own stories, desires and aspirations. I want to thank media stakeholders in particular the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) for walking the long and difficult journey with us confident that Government will deliver which it has done. The downstream effect of this in terms of employment creation is enormous-Engineers, DJs, Producers, Reporters, Camera people, the list is endless.
Let me end my address by congratulating those that have been licensed and implore you to use the platforms for the development of Zimbabwe. It is my fervent hope that you will put in place systems immediately to ensure that we serve our targeted communities. Failure to do this will be a major disservice to the nation. Further to this, the Government of Zimbabwe, working with our cooperating partners, will continue to offer technical and material support to ensure that radio continues to deliver on its core mandate. To the old and seasoned players in the industry, radio is key, and will remain as such for a long time, in promoting public access to information, including for the hard-to-reach populations and the hitherto marginalized communities.
I thank you.