The government says it will prioritise the alignment of all media laws with the constitution during the coming year, Nick Mangwana, the secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting has said.
Mangwana made the pledge when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Broadcasting on 25 October 2018. He was giving testimony on his ministry’s budget proposals for the 2019 fiscal year.
Mangwana said one of his ministry’s focus areas for 2019 was the complete alignment of all media laws with the Zimbabwean constitution. He said this required a multi-stakeholder approach, stating that organisations such as MISA Zimbabwe have a role to play in assisting his ministry in its media law and policy reform mandate.
He said his ministry would distil the findings and recommendations of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), to influence and shape local media policy.
Mangwana’s submissions to the Committee provided insight on other areas of media and broadcasting that his ministry will also focus on in 2019 and beyond.
Update on the national digitisation project
In 2015, Zimbabwe embarked on its project to digitise local broadcasting services. This drive to transition from analogue to digital broadcasting was part of a greater initiative led by the International Telecommunications Union. The project has for the past three years, progressed at a slow pace and Mangwana indicated that his ministry required $100 million to complete digitisation in Zimbabwe.
Mangwana said the Minister of Finance advised the Ministry of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services to cap their estimated budget to $45 million. This would cater for the ministry’s project costs and operational costs. Mangwana indicated that at this rate of financing, the digitisation project would only be completed sometime in the year 2021.
Licensing of additional channels
The fact that Zimbabwe still has one national television channel was a cause of concern to Mangwana. He, however, said his ministry is of the view that additional broadcasting television channels be licensed after the completion of the ongoing digitisation programme.
This means the prolonged delay in the completion of the digitisation programme is a delay in the realisation of media diversity and plurality in Zimbabwe.
In his submissions, Mangwana also referred to the need to license community radio stations. He said his ministry currently does not have the funds to license community radio stations. This is not the first time that a government official has spoken about the need to license community radio stations, unfortunately, none of those past declarations was followed up in any practical way.
MISA Zimbabwe takes these revelations with mixed feelings as various government officials and representatives have in the past made similar pronouncements, with little or no action taken thereafter.
We, therefore, urge the government to take concrete steps towards fulfilment of these long overdue media reforms.