The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services requires $3,7 billion in the 2021 National Budget for it to effectively pursue its objectives of ensuring access to information, training of its personnel, among other duties, legislators heard yesterday.
The ministry said the $851 million envelope that Treasury has earmarked was not enough to carry out its constitutional and national mandate like disseminating information on global pandemics like Covid-19, including Government’s historic plans to license six national television and community radio stations.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Secretary, Mr Nick Mangwana said this yesterday while giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Publicity.
The committee chaired by Matabeleland South MP Ms Sipho Mokone (MDC-T) was carrying out pre-budget consultation for next year.
“Treasury has capped us at $851 million only, compared to $500 million for last year,” said Mr Mangwana. “In real terms, we are getting less than what we got last year. We want to be able to speak to the people, access to information is a universal right.
“If people cannot access information because the ministry has no capacity, we are not doing any justice.”
Mr Mangwana said the ministry ought to disseminate information on a lot of Government activities such as devolution and Pfumvudza, among others. He said had the ministry been effectively funded, the effects of Cyclone Idai could have been mitigated through disseminating information.
Mr Mangwana said this was evidenced by the positive results that came as a result of effective communication on Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the nation registering nominal damage.
“If we had not played a critical role on preventive measures we could have lost more lives,” he said. “For us to accomplish all these programmes we need $3,7 billion only. This will make a difference in your constituencies through making sure that information gets to everyone. For us to do it we need your support.”
He described the impending licensing of six television channels as historic as it was part of the Second Republic’s broader objective to have reforms.
“There is need for more transmitters for Transmedia to ensure that every part of the country has access to radio and television services,” said Mr Mangwana.
More funding, he said, was needed for digitalisation programme being spearheaded by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe that will also cover ZBC studios.
“The biggest highlight is that this year we will license six television channels. It should not be just a highlight for this year, but for the past 40 years,” said Mr Mangwana.
Some of the achievements registered by the ministry include licensing campus radio stations at institutions of higher learning and the pending establishment of community radio stations in outlying areas, some of which had never had broadcasting reception since independence.