THE media has to play a critical role “through robust and engaging communication and advocacy campaigns” on Government’s new economic blueprint — the first National Development Strategy (NDS 1) — that will be launched this month.
NDS will replace the interim policy, the Transitional Stability Programme (TSP), which has managed to create a sustainable foundation for economic growth.
The TSP will run its full course by December.
Government has already made strides to increase access to information through creating an enabling media environment and expanding media space, with six new television stations and community radio stations expected to be licensed by month-end.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a 2021 Strategic Planning Workshop in Kariba last week that information was critical in achieving developmental goals set by the Second Republic.
“NDS1 is expected to be launched in November 2020,” she said.
“The ministry, thus, has a critical role to play in bridging the information gap through robust and engaging communication and advocacy campaigns on the NDS, how it relates to Vision 2030, as well as the role of the ordinary Zimbabwean towards the attainment of Vision 2030.”
She implored Government departments and the media to ensure that people understand the trajectory that will be outlined through the NDS to achieve a relatively prosperous society within the next decade.
With the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) on July 1 and promulgation of the Freedom of Information Act, added Minister Mutsvangwa, Government was inching towards completing the legislative reform process.
Freedom of Information Act promotes access to information by allowing voluntary disclosures of information in the public interest and timely response to requests for information.
Government is at various stages of finalising outstanding Bills, including the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, the Protection of Personal Information Bill, Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill and the Draft National Media and Film Industry Policy.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the Media Practitioners/Regulatory Bill, which focuses on mainstreaming self-regulation by media practitioners’ associations and co-regulation in Zimbabwe’s media and information sector, would be tabled in 2021.
She hailed Zimpapers and other media organisations, including ZBC and New Ziana, for playing a pivotal role in containing the spread of Covid-19 through disseminating critical and relevant information.
“You will agree with me that the ministry and its parastatals, namely the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Zimpapers Group and New Ziana left no stone unturned in churning out information and educating the public on Covid-19.
“Information was packaged in various formats, including skits, jingles, as well as animation, which in some instances were done in national official languages such as venda, chewa and kalanga,” she said.
As a result, Zimbabwe is among a few countries in the world with the least infections and deaths from Covid-19.
As part of major milestones by the ministry, commissions and board of governors for parastatals and State entities under the ministry’s purview have been constituted and sworn in.
Some of the entities include the Zimbabwe Media Commission, which had been operating without commissioners for the past six years, while the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust had been operating without a board for roughly 20 years.
While the Digital Terrestrial Television Project (ZimDigital) digitisation process was lagging behind, she said, Government has decided, as a stopgap measure, to license privately owned television stations.
“This national project is, however, lagging behind due to financial constraints. Completion of the ZimDigital Project will facilitate the diversity of viewing programmes to the citizenry.
“In view of the slow pace of the project, the ministry decided that Zimbabweans should at least derive some benefit from the investments made towards the project through the licensing of privately owned television stations,” she said.
Public hearings have already been done for 14 prospective television stations, with the successful six companies getting their licences by month-end.
To further increase access to information in line with Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution, Government has licensed a campus radio station at Great Zimbabwe University, while applications from other tertiary institutions are being processed.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is presently conducting due diligence visits to communities which applied for community radio licenses.
Awarding of licenses is also expected by the end of November, while a digital television transmitter was installed in Gutu in September and another one is being set up in Tsholotsho.
Government is targeting to further enhance access to information in marginalised communities through improving the radio transmission network and coverage by the installation of gap filler transmitters in areas that do not have or have limited radio transmission.
Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the media was key in articulating the devolution programme.
She thanked Government for licensing more players as the province was benefiting from the expansion of Nyaminyami FM.
Meanwhile, Minister Mutsvangwa toured Nyaminyami FM studios to appreciate its operations.
She was accompanied by Minister Mliswa-Chikoka; Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana; Zimpapers board chairperson Mr Tommy Sithole and chief executive officer Mr Pikirayi Deketeke and officials of other parastatals in the ministry.
Mr Deketeke said Nyaminyami FM has been playing the role of informing the community in line with Government expectations, and is now moving towards profitability.