‘Write to unite the nation’

Monica Mutsvangwa Special Correspondent
Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Honourable Energy Mutodi; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Ndabaningi Mangwana; senior officers in the ministry; editors from across the media houses; ladies and gentlemen.

May I take this opportunity to once more welcome you all to this meeting, whose main objective is to share ideas on the main issues affecting the media sector.

You may recall that this is the second time that I have met editors in the media industry.

I invited you late last year for a similar meeting following my appointment as Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.

In that meeting, we got to know each other and I took the opportunity to share with you the Second Republic’s plans for the media sector and Government’s expectations in the discharge of our main mandate, that of informing the nation.

It is now more than six months since that meeting and a lot has happened, warranting that we meet again to update each other on gains made this far, the drawbacks/shortfalls encountered and to hear your concerns and contributions as a way of collectively reflecting back to review our progress.

That will help us map the best way to confront the future for increased efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of our information mandate.

Allow me to recall that in our first meeting, I alluded to the fact that the Second Republic, under the leadership of His Excellency the President Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, encapsulated a vision for the nation that seeks to make Zimbabwe an upper-middle income economy by 2030.

The effort towards attaining this vision was triggered by the adoption and implementation of a two-year Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) that is underpinned by the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business,” a policy of re-engagement with willing nations in the international community, drive for investment and putting in place an enabling infrastructure.

As repeatedly pointed out by His Excellency the President, the going is not going to be a walk in the park as there are many national issues that need to be corrected.

However, the nation has achieved a lot in the short term.

The country has made notable progress in infrastructure development, including road rehabilitation and expansion. Notable achievement has also been realised in our drive for investment, with many companies — existing and new  — being revitalised and opened.

The Second Republic is also implementing reforms across all needy sectors to create an enabling environment for our people and businesses to thrive.

Common sense dictates that the benefits of these efforts to turn around our economy and set our country on a recovery path will not be fully realised in the short-and-medium terms. It against this backdrop that the nation faces challenges in service areas, one example being the energy sector which is riddled by shortages of fuel and electric supplies.

We also have an unstable financial sector that has led to price increases and inadequate foreign currency supplies and is affecting the economy in a negative way.

We expect the situation to be made even more difficult because the 2018-2019 year was not a good one in terms of agricultural yields. I am advised that an assessment baseline study carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture found out that this season, the main cereal — maize — which is our staple, the yields were slightly over half of what we got last year, with some areas having nothing at all.

The year 2019 was to a great extent a drought year. A concluded Vulnerability Assessment shows that many families will need food assistance to go through to the next harvests. Government is, however, proactively making plans to ensure food security, including working with partners to widen solutions.

As if the troubles we are having as Zimbabweans are not enough, disaster struck and the country was ravaged by Cyclone Idai.

We all followed the harrowing Idai story and the suffering it brought to people, especially in the eastern regions.

Some parts of Manicaland, for instance, will no longer be the same again. People’s personal security and livelihoods as well as the environment in general were trampled upon with devastating effects.

Government, however, responded to the calamity in good time and proactively. The results were that some lives were saved and in some instances, suffering ameliorated.

The disaster, however, tested and stretched our capability to deal with unexpected occurrences that come with national security threats of the magnitude presented by Cyclone Idai.

More still needs to be done and it is my hope that you will continue to help the situation by reporting on the issues that remain unresolved and the gains made.

The challenges we face as a nation require collective effort and unity of purpose at all levels. It is for this noble cause that His Excellency the President called for national dialogue across all political parties so we put our minds together to confront our challenges and work as a nation to move the country forward.

I want to take this opportunity to clarify that dialogue is not the same thing with power-sharing negotiations. Every time we go for elections to elect a government, losers selectively choose components of the election results to accept and reject.

We have individuals and parties that choose to disrespect the electoral and judicial systems for their selfish ends. Such uncouth behaviour projects our country as a nation with unresolved political questions when deep down their hearts these entities and personalities know very well that they lost in a fair and credible plebiscite.

Politics leads the way in statecraft and if we are not stable as people, all other areas in the country will not become stable.

Such behaviour is holding us back as a nation as it stifles our re-engagement efforts and will make recovery more painful. We need to get out of the election mode that continues to seize us and work together to build our country.

However, dialogue which is underpinned by sharing of ideas to come up with national solutions is plausible and welcome.

Let me take this opportunity to update you on the developments that have happened in the media sector since our last meeting in which I pointed out that the Second Republic was committed to creating an enabling media environment.

This process involves aligning the media laws so they can be in sync with the supreme law of the land, as well as repealing those pieces of legislation whose spirit and construct stifle growth in the media industry.

The ministry managed to hold media stakeholder consultative workshops, whose thrust was to gather inputs that will contribute towards the formulation of the envisaged media laws and policy.

The workshops were a great success and their outputs constitute a rich compilation of ideas on how to move our sector forward. I want to thank you for your participation and inputs.

We value the contributions.

Empowered by your contributions, the ministry set in motion a media reform process in which the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which you repeatedly labelled as the elephant in the room, will be repealed.

The ministry presented to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation the principles that will shape the Bills that will be the successor legislation to govern the information sector.

These are: the Freedom of Information Bill, the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Broadcasting Amendment Bill.

Related to this is that Government has set in motion a process to repeal the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). It is the ministry’s considered view that once these Bills are passed into law, the governance of the information sector will never be the same again.

I am fully aware that the sector remains anxious on the route the ministry will take with regards to outstanding issues such as the licensing of community radio stations.

The ministry wishes to assure the nation that by the end of the year, the country will be having community-based radio stations. It also encouraging that the ministry now has a draft media policy which I will present to Cabinet next Tuesday.

Another important issue that has been hampering the process to move towards our intended destination with regards the management of the information sector is the absence of boards for our parastatals and regulatory bodies. I want to assure you that the ministry has set in motion a process that will see the appointment of all the boards under our purview in the near future.

Another aspect which is key to our creating an enabling media environment is that of infrastructure development signified by the ongoing digitalisation project.

The project continues to progress, albeit delayed by inadequate funding due to foreign currency shortages.

It is now 37 percent complete and we will continue to push for funding to complete it in a reasonable time.

Whilst it is difficult to give time frames, these three aspects: media reforms, setting up of good corporate governance structures and infrastructure development when completed should create an environment conduce for you to give the nation the best in telling the Zimbabwean story.

Government effort to create an enabling environment for the media sector puts a substantial responsibility of governance into your own hands. The media has in modern times been referred to as the Fourth Estate, taking after the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

This was necessitated by the important role the media sector plays in nation building.

Allow me to share with you that the issue of nation building is to a great extent driven by the notion of national interest.

It is a fact that scholars on this subject are not agreed on what constitutes national interest, with some arguing that a nation has to collectively come out with a definition of its national interests and their priorities.

It is, however, generally agreed that in a world characterised by anarchy in which there is no central government, the number one national interest for all nations is national survival in which the national polity collectively works to mitigate or avoid threats and reinforces and exploits opportunities for national well-being.

National survival is thus the main guiding framework for choosing what we think is our main national interest.

As Zimbabweans with a quest to build a strong nation, we are individually and collectively responsible for our national well-being. The media is not an exception in this regard.

Whilst we have a role to inform the nation for nation building, we should also be conscious as media that we have a national duty to play in advancing that national interest which I said should be about promoting viewpoints that guarantee national survival.

I implore you to write to unite the nation, write about that which does not harm the nation, write to protect Zimbabwe’s competitiveness and that which promotes the interest of the country whilst exposing that which harm us as a people.

With these few remarks, I want to thank you for coming and listening to my remarks. I now want to open the floor for comments and questions.

I thank you.

These remarks were made by Honourable Monica Mutsvangwa (Senator), Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services in a meeting with editors yesterday.

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