We’re basking in re-engagement strategy success: Minister Muswere Speaking after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said the launch of the YSZ will take place at Nhakiwa Vocational Training Centre in Uzumba-Maramba Pfungwe district.

NRTV presenter Tendai Garwe had an interview with Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere (JM) on the show, “Yes Minister” on Sunday. The programme focuses on what will be happening in the ministries. Here are the excerpts of the show.

NRTV: I’m very honoured to be sitting with our very own Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Honourable Dr Jenfan Muswere, Welcome to NRTV, sir. 

JM: Thank you. 

NRTV: How do you view the engagement and re-engagement policy being implemented by Government? 

JM: Sokostina, we are basking in the success of the engagement and re-engagement strategy, which was formulated and is also led by His Excellency, the President, Dr ED Mnangagwa which clearly articulates that we are a friend to all and an enemy to none. But also given the success stories around engagement and re-engagement, as a country, we have managed to break the ice. 

The President, His Excellency, Dr ED Mnangagwa has participated; he has been invited to various international multilateral platforms to tell the correct Zimbabwean story, to also be able to articulate a number of achievements in the New Dispensation.

Vice Presidents, various ministers, and accounting officers have also participated in a number of forums, seminars and international summits. It is also underlined by a number of initiatives that under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, we have managed to score. And not only score, but score big in terms of the revision of our strategy to be a member of a number of regional blocs, to be able to be a country which is in a position to participate at various forums. The Conference of Parties is one of such platforms that have been provided to the Republic of Zimbabwe. The hosting of various conferences, summits, meetings, and exhibitions in Zimbabwe, which also includes the coming on board and the participation of five Heads of State during the Transform Africa Summit last year.

The success story around the engagement towards Zimbabwe is rejoining of Commonwealth. I am for one, I was invited when I was Minister of ICT to come and participate to do presentations during the Commonwealth telecommunications organisations meeting in London.

NRTV: So you were invited before even coming back into the platform? 

JM: I was invited when I was Minister of ICT Postal and Courier Services, which shows that there is a change of attitude towards Zimbabwe from the Western countries. But you also realise a number of changes in terms of the solidarity around the anti-sanctions. 

Various international institutions, including the United Nations have also condemned the sanctions, which clearly shows that the engagement and re-engagement strategy has produced a number of results. Yes, of course, there’s been kind of a revision or whatever, the re-introduction of sanctions under a different platform by the United States government. 

And we still condemn all sanctions. The background was that there was no need for sanctions in the first place, sanctions on Zimbabwe. And that it is illegal, it is illogical and it is irrational to apply sanctions to the Republic of Zimbabwe. 

And also when you analyse the current sanctions regime that have been put in place, they also include His Excellency, the President, Dr ED Mnangagwa which means that it is a direct attack on the people of Zimbabwe, it is a direct attack on the Republic of Zimbabwe when a head of state is put on sanctions. 

And there is no need to put the rest of the business community and the other leaders who also include the Vice President and the First Lady, a philanthropist, who has done wonders to eradicate poverty across all provinces. 

So the sanctions are illegal, they were never supposed to be there in the first place. So there is nothing to celebrate about a revision. It’s a no brainer to put it across. We say no to sanctions, but also to appreciate the resilience that has been exhibited by Zimbabweans across the country as we fight against these illegal sanctions in terms of the innovation and also in terms of sustainability.

But also to highlight and appreciate the support that we’ve received in SADC, the support that we’ve received in Africa as a continent and from many other progressive countries.

We’ve realised that the sanctions are illegal, they are inhuman, they are not logical. And they emanate from an issue related to our right to sovereignty, our right to self-determination in that historically the sanctions were imposed illegally on us when Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform programme, which is a historical issue. 

And also in terms of correcting the historical injustices, the Government of Zimbabwe embarked on a sovereign issue, which is the right to self-determination to redistribute the land in order to correct the racist illegal land (ownership) pattern that had been brought about by white settlers starting from the 1890s, which also includes a number of pieces of legislation that were passed in order to ensure that there is a totalitarian dispossession of the black majority people by a racist white minority, which had taken over illegally the wealth, the land, and everything in the possession of the black majority. 

So the sanctions are illegal, they are inhuman, they are also a direct attack on the people of Zimbabwe. And we still insist that they should be removed.

NRTV: I can see that there are a lot of efforts that have been put into the engagement and re-engagement, not just regional, but international. But what I really am so excited about you coming into the office of this particular ministry is you are fighting sexual harassment one of the biggest issues in our industry. I know that you also validated the Zimbabwe Media Commission sexual harassment draft policy. I know that you heard this when you went around media houses. What was the biggest issue as the minister that got you to this point of saying we are going to have a sexual harassment policy? 

JM: Yes, working together with the Zimbabwe Media Commission, ZUJ, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, and many other journalists, one of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Information is to ensure that there is a robust media industry, that we work together to develop policies and legislation that support the growth of media practitioners and the media houses. 

And that we should also abide by Section 61 and 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in terms of the freedom of expression and also in terms of ensuring that there is access to information for all Zimbabweans and also all media houses. I’ve already indicated that I’m a minister of all media houses. 

And also to add that it is also the responsibility of the Ministry utilising a stakeholders’ approach to liquidate sexual harassment pests in all media houses because we end up with a situation where people are promoted not on the basis of merit, that media houses thrive and media practitioners thrive, on the basis of merit, hard work and effort and qualifications, but not through exploitation, which is illegal. 

But of importance is drawing the line between labour legislation which deals with sexual harassment matters and the criminal nature of some of the issues and the abuse that has been going on across media houses. 

So the validation of the sexual harassment policy, the launch of the stakeholders approach as we developed working together with the ZMC, the sexual harassment policy framework, it included the participation of all media houses, the participation of academia, the participation of journalists and many other media practitioners so that we develop this policy. 

So it is a declaration by the Government of Zimbabwe that we should liquidate sexual harassment pests in all media houses. And this is precisely the reason why we had to formulate and also to launch the sexual harassment policy, because it inhibits the growth of human capital development. 

It also inhibits the growth, the diversity of media houses and of the practitioners as well. So it is Government policy that we do not want that kind of behaviour in any way. 

NRTV: There’s also incidences of people who get paid to publish or to not publish a story. What is it about the welfare of journalists and how much they get paid, how they are treated will make us reduce this brown envelope movement. 

JM: Sokostina, I want you to appreciate that the Government of Zimbabwe has got zero tolerance in terms of corruption and that the brown envelope is not a good thing. And that working together we will be in a position to extinguish that menace. 

But at the same time, the Constitution of Zimbabwe enables us and allows us as a ministry to be able to champion and develop legislation that deals primarily with the media regulation. 

And I’m happy to announce and also to advise you that recently Cabinet made a decision to adopt and to approve the principles of the Media Practitioners Bill. So the Media Practitioners Bill will deal with the conduct, the ethics of journalists. It will deal with the investigative framework, the complaints, the dispute resolution mechanism. 

It will deal with the membership, the qualifications, the expectations, the training, the professionalisation of media practitioners as we journey towards an upper middle income society. 

So the bringing on board of the approval of the principles of the Media Practitioners Bill will go a long way to curb some of these challenges. So after this, we have now engaged into the legislative processes and all media practitioners are in a position to be able to participate, to contribute towards the development of the Media Practitioners Bill. 

TG: And how do they do that? 

JM: We believe that as soon as the Media Council is established, then media professionals will be in a position to regulate themselves. 

TG: A Media Council,  will it not clash with the (Zimbabwe) Media Commission? What is the council about?

JM: No it will not clash. The council will have delegated authority. And the secretariat will still belong to the Zimbabwe Media Commission because this Zimbabwe Media Commission is a Chapter 12 institution with the supreme responsibility and authority to look after the media issues. But there’s also a need to professionalise, to deal with other issues, to define who is a journalist and who is not because in this particular case, the registration can mean any other person, but we have to define that in terms of education. 

And the first and most important issue is that we have to define and agree that journalism is a profession.

The moment we define that it means we now need to develop the industry and how do we develop the industry? We have to have ethics. We have to have a code of conduct. We have to ensure that journalists, media practitioners are accountable for their actions, positive or negative. That there is a complaint mechanism, which also allows the public, to be able, to report about some of the issues that might be taking place within the media industry, but also to be able for the media practitioners themselves to report each other so that we straighten some of the challenges. 

So the Media Council will run almost, clearly we envisage to run along the lines of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, where lawyers govern themselves, their conduct. The brown envelope systems will come to an end. And we are certain that journalists are professionals, media practitioners are professionals. They should be able to govern themselves, but principally, the supreme, institution will be the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

 So there will be no clashes, but we need to define who is a media practitioner and who is not, because, the fourth industrial revolution has brought about citizen journalism.

It has also brought about, data imperialism and social media imperialism. But we also need to professionalise.

TG: Are we going to professionalise media houses, but not social media. Like how are we going to balance that out? 

JM: We can be able to balance if we are able to define who is the media practitioner and who isn’t the easier, the better. But, this information has been generated and disseminated by media houses. This is citizen journalism. This is too opinionated, but this is factual. This is credible and it is based on facts.

TG: So which means social media, anybody who’s on social media and say they are pushing a narrative, do they have to register with the council? 

JM: That is part of the legislative process. We’ll get to know precisely what the people of Zimbabwe want because there is a Parliamentary process. There are public hearings. So at the end of the day, the legislation is being developed, for the people of Zimbabwe. 

So the final output we will get to know. But it is the Government’s intention to ensure that we recognise media practitioners as professionals in terms of the law that they are in a position to be able working together with the Zimbabwe Media Commission to develop ethical conduct frameworks to be able to deal with the conduct within the media spaces.

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