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    Thursday, 28 November 2019

    Be wary of the Ministry of Information- Sibanda warns stakeholders


    HARARE – A Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairman has warned media stakeholders to be wary in their dealings with the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services which he described as capable of being dishonest and changing goal posts.
    Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Committee chairman, Prince Dubeko Sibanda said his committee has lost trust in the Ministry and this mistrust is shared by citizens.
    Sibanda did not only accuse the Ministry of changing goal posts during public consultations on the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill (ZMC) and the Freedom of Information Bill but of making numerous policy pronouncements without any supporting policy frame works.
    Sibanda who was speaking at the 2019 Annual Media Stakeholders Conference held at the Jameson Hotel in Harare two weeks ago said his committee has learnt during consultation on the two bills that the Ministry has been shifting goal posts after entering into agreements with stakeholders.
    The two bills are part of the new dispensation’s major law reform programme which it promised both citizens and the international community during its term in office. Law reform is one of the yardsticks that President Mnangagwa’s Government will be judged on when it comes to democratic reforms.
    “As the Parliamentary Committee with oversight over the Ministry of Information we demand to know the policy framework underlying the issuance of new licences. We demand a truly reformed sector in the country.
    “This demand by your committee is a clear indicator that there is mistrust between the citizens and the Ministry.
    “This mistrust is not without basis as the committee has learnt during consultations on the two bills that the Ministry has been shifting goal posts after entering into agreements with the stakeholders,” said Sibanda.
    The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe chairman Thabani Moyo reinforced Sibanda’s sentiments and complained that the Ministry was engaging stakeholders in bad faith. He said the Bill was a far cry of the input that came from media stakeholders.
    Sibanda said that the Ministry has had a habit of making policy pronouncements regarding the opening up of airwaves and the licensing of community radio stations.  What worried him, he said is that the committee is in the dark on the policy frameworks that the Ministry is using for those policy pronouncement.
    Responding to Sibanda, Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary, Nick Mangwana said that the new Government must be given time because some of the reforms that it has to implement date back to the time of the enactment of the new Constitution in 2013.
    He said that some of the stakeholders who were complaining against the Ministry were only good as critics as they never submitted anything to the Ministry on the two bills.
    Sibanda said the Ministry’s insincerity on reforms is also seen through its inability to stop partisan reporting in the public print and electronic media which goes against the 2013 Constitution.
    “Part of the mistrust emanates from the fact that despite the coming of a new Constitution in 2013 and a promise of the new dispensation in 2017, all State-owned media remains entrenched in partisan and biased reporting regardless of the provisions of S61 (4) of the Constitution that demands impartiality,” said Sibanda.
    Zanu PF MP for Makonde West, Kindness Paradza who is also a member of the Committee told the conference that President Mnangagwa was sincere in his pledges for reforms. Paradza, a one time president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said he initiated the reform agenda with Mnangagwa in the 90s’ when the latter was then Minister of Legal Affairs. He said Mnangagwa’s stance on the need for reforms never changed.
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