Mat North leads na­tion in dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion pro­ject

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Pamela Shumba Se­nior Re­porter

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

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