INFORMATION, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa (MM, pictured) said her office is forging ahead with its mandate of ensuring a functional media landscape despite the prevailing budgetary constraints. In an interview with our reporter Freeman Makopa (FM), the minister said budget allocation by Treasury was not enough to address the requirements of the ministry. Below are excerpts of the interview;
FM: Are you happy with budget allocation for the Information ministry to carry out its mandate. If not, how much does your office require?
MM: The world over, budgets are never enough for the work of government ministries, let alone a key ministry like the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. Some of the activities done by my ministry are not easy to predict.
The inflationary environment also wreaks havoc on our purchasing power on key tools that we need to deliver on our mandate as the fourth estate. However, we take comfort in that Treasury is doing all it can to support the ministry.
To be specific, the budget allocation released so far is not enough to address all requirements of the ministry. The ministry was allocated ZW$2,6 billion for the 2022 financial year against a bid of ZW$8,3 billion leaving a gap of ZW$5,7 billion.
FM: Under NDS1, what is the government’s focus now?
MM: Yes, the focus is still on rehabilitation and construction of infrastructure projects that enable economic development and growth.
However, you should take note that the government has taken a multi-pronged thematic approach to ensure that all efforts lead to sustainable, balanced and inclusive development, hence the mantra “leaving no place and no one behind”.
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A good example being improved government visibility in previously marginalised communities like Binga and Tsholotsho. Under the National Development Strategy (NDS1) the government has 14 thematic working areas where there are projects being executed under line ministries.
FM: What plans do you have as a ministry for 2022?
MM: The ministry’s role is to provide policy direction to the media sector. In addition, the ministry plans to strengthen the work of new media players licensed by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).
You may also be pleased that as the spokesperson of the Cabinet, the ministry will continue informing and educating the nation on all government projects and programmes. The ministry will bring the voice of the President and Cabinet to the people.
FM: Several companies have expressed interest in working with Zimbabwe on the completion of its digitisation programme. What is the progress thus far?
MM: The following has been completed to date;
- Two out of four Pockets Hill Television Studios, Master Control Room and Playout System
- National Digital Television Head-end
- Satellite Earth Station
- Backup power and air-conditioning units for completed installations
- 18/48 digital transmitter sites: Kamativi, Kenmaur, Mutare, Nyanga, Susamoya, Harare, Chimanimani, Bulawayo, Kadoma, Gokwe, Mutorashanga, Binga, Kotwa, Chivhu, Gweru, Gwanda, Karoi and Chiredzi
- BAZ Central Content Monitoring System and eight remote monitoring stations
- 16/24 new tower installations completed: Binga, Kotwa, Bindura, Nkayi, Mashava, Gokwe Sengwa, Zvishavane, Honde Valley, Hwange, Kwekwe, Siyakobvu, Chikombedzi, Maphisa, Gutu, Wedza and Tsholotsho.
- 5/25 FM transmitter sites: Mutare, Susamoya, Kamativi, Kenmaur and Nyanga
- 48 Electronic news gathering kits delivered
- Four OB/DSNG van shells delivered including 16 camera OB van horse
- Seven radio gap filling transmitters at: Gokwe Nembudziya, Zvishavane, Kanyemba, Rusitu, Maphisa, Madhlambuzi and Tugwi-Mukosi
- Revamping of radio transmission has also been carried out at: St Alberts, Mt. Darwin, Kadoma and Chivhu
- Four phases of content production completed
- 19/25 transmitter foundations: Binga, Kotwa, Bindura, Nkayi, Mashava, Gokwe Sengwa, Zvishavane, Honde Valley, Hwange, Kwekwe, Siyakobvu, Chikombedzi, Maphisa, Gutu, Insiza, Wedza, Murehwa, Kariba and Tsholotsho
- Benefits of Digitisation Programme
- Good picture and sound quality
- Supports HD and UHD
- More television channels
- Supports Electronic Programme Guide (EPG)
- Supports parental control on programme viewing
- Spectrum efficiency
- Energy efficiency
FM: What are the challenges faced by your sector and how do you intend to solve them?
MM: The ministry issued licences to 14 community radio stations, six commercial television stations and seven campus radio stations.
The challenges are around sustainability of the new players and the media industry in general. While for the broadcasting sector, it is the issue of securing cutting edge technologies and equipment, recently we saw the print side struggling with procuring the newsprint.
The media is capital intensive and carrying new players under the wings and nurturing them to succeed is complex. We need all hands on the deck, the industry and commerce, diaspora, advertisers and grant funders to play their part. My ministry’s role is to coordinate and facilitate the conversation on the investments.
FM: What are some of your major achievements as a ministry?
MM: The media environment is now conducive for the press to function without hindrance. New players are coming on board. The tensions and polarisation between the state and journalists have thawed. The media community can now sit at the same table and discuss the way forward on issues that divided us.
FM: What are you doing as a ministry to ensure the media plays a huge part in nation building?
MM: The ministry has intensified media engagement at every level. As a ministry we are transparent and predictable to the media players.
For example, every Tuesday we hold post-cabinet media briefings and all members of the media industry across the aisle are invited to attend to field questions to members of the cabinet.
We hold all international media days together with media players. We collaborate and consult with the media before, during and after the drafting and crafting of media laws and regulations.
FM: Is the government providing grants to help boost the Information sector?
MM: The ministry is not mandated to provide any grants. That is the function of the Treasury. However, the ministry sometimes procures content from independent media content producers.
FM: What is the situation in terms of bilateral cooperation with China in the area of trade and investments?
Zimbabwe enjoys cordial political and economic relations with the People’s Republic of China since before independence. Economic cooperation between the two countries is governed within the framework of the Joint Commission on Economic, Technical and Trade Cooperation whose focus is mainly on trade, investment and infrastructure development.
The 10th Session of the Joint Commission on Economic, Technical and Trade Cooperation between the two countries was held in Beijing, China from March 29-30, 2018. The Joint Commission was followed by the state visit of President Emmerson Mnangagwa from April 2-6, 2018.
China continues to be a significant trading partner and major source of investment and technology transfer for Zimbabwe.
The number of Chinese business people visiting Zimbabwe to explore business opportunities has been increasing. But of late, the numbers have decreased due to travel restrictions triggered by the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Zimbabwe and China signed a protocol in 2021 to facilitate the exportation of Zimbabwe citrus fruit products to China. Processes are also underway to facilitate other agricultural products to China.
There is great scope to increase these trade figures if the trade potential and market access opportunities between our two countries are fully tapped. Zimbabwe flowers have now found a market in China and the demand is growing.
Zimbabwe and China have a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) entered into in 1998. The two countries are considering reviewing this Bippa to improve its scope in line with new international best practices.
China continues to be Zimbabwe’s biggest source of foreign direct investment into such sectors as mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, services, transport and tourism.
FM: You gave radio and television licences to various players in the media industry, have they started their operations and what are your expectations from those that received licences?
MM: Expectations from these stations is that NRTV and ZTN will be on air by July 31, 2022 and the rest by December 31, 2022.