Ques­tion and An­swer with Hon Se­na­tor, Mon­ica Mutsvangwa

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Tra­di­tional me­dia is to­day fac­ing se­ri­ous non­pro­fes­sional in­di­vid­u­als that post con­tent on the world-wide-web’s so­cial me­dia plat­forms — Face book, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, What­sapp and oth­ers. News is no longer a do­main of pro­fes­sional or­gan­ised me­dia houses, as every Tom and Jack thinks they can chat, blog, shoot a video or take a pho­to­graph and post the con­tent to the whole world on so­cial me­dia. In most cases the con­tent would be serv­ing par­tic­u­lar in­ter­ests, of­ten mis­in­form­ing and at times may be to­tally false or fake. In essence, so­cial plat­forms are chal­leng­ing tra­di­tional me­dia to timeously re­lease news us­ing the same mod­ern ICT plat­forms.

The big­gest chal­lenge has been fake news. We will keep an eye on what other more de­vel­oped coun­tries (in tech­no­log­i­cal terms) are do­ing. We will see what we can use to model our own way of deal­ing with is­sues around fake in­ter­net con­tent. But there is no cur­rent con­ver­sa­tion in govern­ment of putting in new leg­is­la­tion un­der my Min­istry ex­cept that which is com­ing un­der the Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Act which is be­ing driven by my col­league in the ICT Min­istry. My be­lief is that to every false nar­ra­tive out there, there is a cor­rect one. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of in­di­vid­u­als, in­sti­tu­tions or cor­po­rate en­ti­ties to ar­tic­u­late the cor­rect nar­ra­tives. Fake news thrives in in­for­ma­tion gaps.

RB: Zim­babwe has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions missed the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion dead­line to up­grade from ana­logue to dig­i­tal. As a re­sult of our fail­ure to digi­tise, there is a vis­i­ble dis­par­ity on the qual­ity of Zim­babwe’s broad­cast­ing con­tent and our re­gional coun­ter­parts such as South Africa. What is your im­me­di­ate task to en­sure that we ex­pe­dite the process?

We are aware and in­formed that de­lays in im­ple­ment­ing the na­tional digi­ti­sa­tion pro­gramme, which en­vis­ages mi­gra­tion from ana­logue to dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion, have been mainly caused by the for­eign cur­rency chal­lenges fac­ing our econ­omy. How­ever, con­sid­er­ing the sig­nif­i­cant progress and in­vest­ment that govern­ment has al­ready made to­wards the ZimDig­i­tal Project, US$63mil­lion al­ready in­vested, nine tow­ers al­ready digi­tised and ready to trans­mit, not to men­tion dig­i­tal equip­ment and dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture that has been fit­ted, fixed and ready to be ex­ploited at broad­cast­ing stu­dios in Pock­ets Hill and Mon­trose and at trans­mis­sion sites and cen­tres op­er­ated by Trans­me­dia Cor­po­ra­tion, it is im­per­a­tive that the na­tion en­joys the fruits of digi­ti­sa­tion al­beit even be­fore the whole coun­try is cov­ered. There­fore my fo­cus as a new min­is­ter is to make sure that the ZimDig­i­tal Project is com­mis­sioned as soon as pos­si­ble. We are in­formed that for that to hap­pen about a 100 000 set-top boxes need to be im­ported. We are al­ready en­gaged with the project man­age­ment team, project fi­nanc­ing part­ners, project im­ple­ment­ing stake­hold­ers and have di­rected that the re­quired set­top boxes be im­ported as soon as pos­si­ble to en­able an im­me­di­ate par­tial launch of the dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion project within the next 100 days. ZBC TV view­ers will tes­tify that since we com­mis­sioned ZBC’s dig­i­tal stu­dios re­cently, the pic­ture qual­ity and graph­ics of the sta­tion’s pro­grammes are in­deed not only pleas­ing and inviting, but a prom­ise of the good times to come af­ter the launch of ZimDig­i­tal.

RB: Com­mu­ni­ties across Zim­babwe are ag­i­tat­ing for com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions but the Govern­ment has been slow in re­spond­ing to the call. What chal­lenges is Govern­ment fac­ing and how soon should the na­tion ex­pect to get com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions?

We are aware of the out­cry in the coun­try re­gard­ing the licensing of com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions. My task as the Min­is­ter is to com­plete the process of free­ing up the air­waves. We will soon be tack­ling that is­sue with a view to en­sur­ing that com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions come on stream in the new dis­pen­sa­tion. We think that they are crit­i­cal in an en­vi­ron­ment where Govern­ment is de­volv­ing gov­er­nance and pro­vi­sion of ser­vices to the prov­inces. There­fore, within our first 100-Day Work Plan as Min­istry, we are go­ing to be work­ing on a pol­icy frame­work for the licensing of com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions.

In the mean­time, it is im­por­tant to know that broad­cast­ing spec­trum fre­quen­cies are a limited re­source, im­ply­ing that not every will­ing ap­pli­cant can be given a li­cence. There is a need to pri­ori­tise the use of na­tional ra­dio broad­cast­ing fre­quen­cies. Com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions will ben­e­fit from the ra­dio spec­trum that re­mains af­ter the needs of na­tional and com­mer­cial ra­dio sta­tions have been fully met. The rea­son why the licensing of com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions was left for the very last phase was the need to en­sure that part of the ex­cess fre­quency spec­trum is used. We are work­ing hard to en­sure that all grey ar­eas — places with poor ra­dio sig­nal re­cep­tion for na­tional and com­mer­cial ra­dio ser­vices due to bad ter­rain — are catered for.

RB: New Ziana’s cur­rent state is a cause for con­cern. Does the Govern­ment have any plans to re­sus­ci­tate it and when?

You are aware that Cabi­net has rec­om­mended that New Ziana be con­sid­ered for re­struc­tur­ing as an or­di­nary Govern­ment depart­ment. That rec­om­men­da­tion was made un­der Govern­ment’s ini­tia­tive of re­struc­tur­ing Govern­ment paras­tatals with a view to firstly, re­duce their de­pen­dency on the fis­cus and se­condly, en­sur­ing that they are vi­able and self-sus­tain­ing in the medium to long-term while ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively de­liv­er­ing their man­dates. In view of the Cabi­net’s de­ci­sion and the fact that we have a com­pletely new top man­age­ment team in the Min­istry, we in­tend to se­ri­ously an­a­lyse New Ziana, re­view its man­date and de­ter­mine the way for­ward con­sid­er­ing sub­mis­sions from the in­sti­tu­tion it­self. We ex­pect se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions of the paras­tatal’s fu­ture and ten­ta­tive fi­nal de­ci­sions to be made at the Min­istry’s pend­ing plan­ning work­shop. Mean­while, the sit­u­a­tion is that New Ziana op­er­ates as a fully gov­ern­men­towned pri­vate com­pany and presently it is in the news busi­ness em­ploy­ing me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers whose re­mu­ner­a­tion will have to re­main com­pet­i­tive to other me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions. In the face of dra­matic changes in the de­liv­ery of or­di­nary news and in­for­ma­tion un­der the dic­tates of rev­o­lu­tion­ary ICTs, New Ziana has op­por­tu­ni­ties to take ad­van­tage of de­liv­er­ing its man­date. Per­haps con­trary to trans­form­ing the in­sti­tu­tion into a fully-fledged govern­ment depart­ment what it lacks and needs is an as­tute and pro­fes­sional board of di­rec­tors, which it has not had since 2015,to guide the in­sti­tu­tion. It also needs a com­pe­tent man­age­ment team that fully ap­pre­ci­ates the go­ings on in the ICT world, so­cial me­dia, and the con­ver­gence of news plat­forms as well as tech­nolo­gies driv­ing the con­ver­gence in the de­liv­ery of news, and even to the most re­mote ru­ral ar­eas.

RB: The wel­fare of jour­nal­ists re­mains a cause for con­cern. Pal­try salaries, poor work­ing con­di­tions, sex­ual ha­rass­ment of fe­male jour­nal­ists and crony­ism, are among a co­terie of is­sues af­fect­ing their per­for­mance and qual­ity of jour­nal­ism in Zim­babwe. What should jour­nal­ists ex­pect in the new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion?

I am re­li­ably in­formed that most of the con­cerns you high­lighted were raised dur­ing the IMPI process. As in­di­cated ear­lier we will be pri­ori­tis­ing the com­ple­tion of the IMPI process with a view to en­sur­ing the adop­tion of all pos­i­tive rec­om­men­da­tions therein con­tained by way of de­vel­op­ing in­dus­try­wide poli­cies and rec­om­men­da­tions. The 2030 up­per mid­dle in­come vi­sion which Zim­babwe is em­bark­ing on is in essence a call to cit­i­zens to work to­wards the en­hance­ment of their so­cio-eco­nomic wel­fare and full en­joy­ment of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity guar­an­teed rights. Women jour­nal­ists, as pro­fes­sion­als are ex­pected to stand up against sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work place. They are ex­pected to take the lead in firstly, demon­strat­ing that women are equal to their male work­mates, and se­condly, in ex­pos­ing any mal­prac­tices and cor­rup­tion in their me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions. It is every jour­nal­ist’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to fight for gen­der par­ity. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of every stake­holder in the me­dia in­dus­try to ad­here to our Zim­bab­wean con­sti­tu­tion per­tain­ing to gen­der par­ity. RB: What vi­sion do you have for the min­istry?

The vi­sion for the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, Pub­lic­ity and Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices is to be the lead in­for­ma­tion agency that shapes pub­lic opin­ion and en­ter­tain­ment in de­fence and pro­mo­tion of Zim­babwe and its in­ter­ests. How­ever, un­der my watch, my vi­sion is to see the Min­istry in the new dis­pen­sa­tion and Sec­ond Repub­lic of Zim­babwe be­come the hub in re­brand­ing Zim­babwe from the pariah state it was in the old dis­pen­sa­tion, to be­ing a free so­ci­ety whose cit­i­zens en­joy their hu­man rights to the fullest, char­ac­terised by free flow of in­for­ma­tion, a mem­ber state of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that that con­trib­utes pos­i­tively to the de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion and the world; while be­ing a favourable des­ti­na­tion for for­eign in­vest­ment. This vi­sion will see the Min­istry be­ing a crit­i­cal player in the re­al­i­sa­tion of the Pres­i­dent’s 2030 vi­sion of an up­per mid­dle in­come Zim­babwe.

RB: If you were to write your own book about your per­sonal achieve­ments, aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions and your nar­ra­tive in the war, what would you in­clude? Who is Hon Mon­ica Mutsvangwa your val­ues, dreams and as­pi­ra­tions?

Mon­ica Mutsvangwa (nee Parireny­atwa) was born in Mutare. Af­ter wit­ness­ing and experiencing the po­lit­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic in­jus­tices that blacks were fac­ing dur­ing the Bri­tish colo­nial regime, I left Mu­tam­bara High School as a teenager to join the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. Af­ter in­de­pen­dence in Novem­ber 1980, my hus­band Chris Mutsvangwa and I were the first diplo­mats of Zim­babwe to be posted to Brus­sels, Bel­gium. I hold a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­gree from New York Uni­ver­sity and Masters in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion from Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, New Jer­sey Amer­ica. In 2008, I was elected Se­na­tor for Chi­man­i­mani, a po­si­tion I cur­rently hold. As a woman politi­cian, I am proud, and feel greatly hon­oured to be the vice pres­i­dent of the Sadc Par­lia­men­tary Fo­rum and Chair­per­son of the Zim­babwe Women’s Par­lia­men­tary Cau­cus. It is my hope to in­spire fel­low women to also ven­ture into pol­i­tics and other per­ceived male dom­i­nated sec­tors. Prior to my ap­point­ment to the post of Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion, Pub­lic­ity and Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices; I was Man­i­ca­land’s Min­is­ter of State for Provin­cial Af­fairs. I have in the past served as Deputy Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Ser­vice, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare, as Deputy Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion, Me­dia and Broad­cast­ing be­fore be­ing ap­pointed Deputy Min­is­ter of Macro-Eco­nomic Plan­ning and In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion. My val­ues em­brace hon­esty, trans­parency and sin­cer­ity. I as­pire to see a united Zim­babwe, cit­i­zens com­ing to­gether to re­build our na­tion re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions, re­li­gion, race or gen­der. I also as­pire to see Zim­babwe fully reen­gag­ing with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and I dream of a sanc­tions-free Zim­babwe. I am a mother of four lovely sons and a grand­mother of two.

RB: What is your mes­sage to all Zim­bab­weans, who are ea­ger to see the coun­try mov­ing ahead?

Let us all em­brace the Pres­i­dent’s mantra — “Zim­babwe is open for busi­ness”as our na­tional ral­ly­ing point for build­ing an af­flu­ent poverty-free Zim­bab­wean. Let us no longer be en­grossed by pol­i­tics but rather by busi­ness and eco­nomics in or­der to make our econ­omy work. It is also in­cum­bent upon every one of us to ex­pose cor­rup­tion and bring its per­pe­tra­tors to shame.

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