Mat North leads nation in digitalisation project
MATABELELAND North province is leading the country in terms of infrastructural progress on the digitalisation programme, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr George Charamba, said yesterday.
Mr Charamba, who was in Nkayi District to assess progress on the Cross Zenka transmission site which has just been completed, said he was happy that Matabeleland North was taking the lead in the massive project as the province had been lagging behind in television and radio transmission.
“Overally Mat North is ahead of all other provinces and maybe that’s how it should be because if we look at the deployment of social infrastructure, Matabeleland North was lagging behind and our philosophy in the ministry is to say let’s start from the periphery coming back to the centre to try and reverse the colonial legacy. I’m so happy that this dream is coming true.
“This project alongside Hwange and Tsholotsho are the outstanding ones and I’m so happy that Nkayi has now come on the grid,” said Mr Charamba.
He, however, said there was still a lot of work to be done on the sites adding that funding was the major setback on the completion of the project.
“We still have to work on Hwange and we haven’t started any work in Tsholotsho. Besides Hwange and Tsholotsho, we have a site in Victoria Falls which was condemned.
“This means we’re literally pulling down the whole structure to start afresh. For this province we owe them work in three areas — Tsholotsho, Hwange and Victoria Falls — which we have to pull down and start afresh,” said Mr Charamba. Lack of funding, he added, is a nightmare for the ministry. Mr Charamba said financial constraints had forced the Government to change the project from a self financing model project to one that would be put under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
“Under PSIP there are a number of programmes that are running concurrently. This means this project has to bid for resources alongside many others. We had a timeline and also contracted a commercial entity, Huawei,” he said.
Mr Charamba said the pace of PSIP would have to match the agreement that the Ministry has with the Chinese company.
“This is where we’re having a problem. As I speak now, we owe Huawei $29 million and slowly they’re beginning to feel the pressure of non-payment,” he said.
Mr Charamba said Huawei was holding on to some of the equipment in warehouses, awaiting payment.
“But also there’s some very vital piece of equipment which is still abroad,” he said adding that in the absence of payment, the equipment would not be brought into the country.
“It’s a major setback. I’m happy that the predicament of the project itself is well known by the Government. We had Cabinet Ministers visiting the project and each time we have our briefing with His Excellency the President, we’re always dramatising this project and the urgency of backing it up with the necessary resources.
“I have no doubt that sooner than later the Ministry of Finance will be able to mobilise resources. The Minister of Finance appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Communications a week ago and he made a concrete promise to that committee, I’m hopeful he’ll fulfil the promise,” said Mr Charamba.
The digitalisation programme is expected to see the country achieving universal television and radio coverage, with the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Mr Charamba said the programme, costing in excess of $200 million, had enormous potential for new economic opportunities.
The country has a target to complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television transmission by end of this year, but is likely to miss the target due to lack of funding.
Mr Charamba, who is also the Presidential spokesperson, was accompanied by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) chief executive officer Mr Obert Muganyura, the Nkayi District Administrator Mr Mandlamakhulu Moyo and officials from BAZ and the Ministry. — @pamelashumba1