Tafadzwa Zimoyo recently in Randburg, South Africa
It has been said that one great television show can change the world.
Television is a gateway into worlds we may never see, a portal to endless journeys and struggles we may never experience.
Since the invention of the television, the minds of human beings have been transformed into something beyond exceptional. Television shows can possess educational value and can be entertaining, but most importantly, can offer a guiding voice to those who watch and listen.
There is nothing as enriching, inspiring and thought-provoking as meeting the “big sharks” in the filmmaking industry, particularly the likes of Hollywood giants Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the local scene are also talented film personalities like Joe Njagu, Simon Itayi Mungazi, Danai Gurira and Munya Chidzonga.
Such a chance meeting will never leave you feeling the same, and this is the same experience which this reporter went through when he met the administrators and creative directors at MultiChoice’s DStv base in South Africa during a three-day tour of their facilities.
The tour was meant to familiarise on content in the television industry and on how Zambezi Magic, MultiChoice and DStv’s youngest baby, conducts its operations.
Zambezi Magic is DStv’s channel 160.
During the tour, it emerged that the channel, despite its short operational period, has so far scored huge successes, which should serve as a good example for other broadcasters in the region.
The channel was launched on July 1, 2015 as part of MultiChoice’s pay TV service whose sole aim and mission is serving the Southern African region with programmes whose content has a direct bearing on people in the region.
Zambezi Magic TV’s content executive director, Kwangu Liwewe, took time to give highlights of the road that the channel has thus far travelled, adding that they have faced both positives and negatives.
Liwewe started by accounting on the successes that the corporation has scored over the year they have been in operation, saying African film-makers were headed in the right direction.
The Zambezi Magic boss emphasised the need for African filmmakers to stop imitating foreign products in terms of concepts.
“Africa is a land of great talent, and this is evidenced by the level of productions that we have been receiving and beaming on Zambezi Magic since last year, in the form of productions like ‘Generations’, ‘Jacob’s Cross’, ‘Gold Diggers’, ‘Tonight With Zororo’ and Makosi talk-show among others.
“While we have always been calling for concepts or scripts that have a bearing on people of the Southern African region, we have sadly received some productions which clearly copy concepts from other societies like the West which do not have a direct link on issues which people in the region face,” said Liwewe.
Asked how she rates Zimbabwe when it comes to content, she said the productions were fair just like in other countries in the region like Zambia, Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania among others.
“Scriptwriters and concept developers are the main culprits in the end and if we don’t educate them then there we will not make it because what we are looking for is originality.
“Zambezi Magic TV was created to be original, authentic and exotic to that African section of society, and this is the reason why we have good programmes like ‘Zimbabwe’s Top 10’, ‘Tonight with Zororo’, and ‘Wedding Diaries’ from Zimbabwe, among others, but sadly, most of the stuff we are receiving from Zimbabwe is not original. The challenge is some of the productions we are receiving do not reflect the true stories on their ground,” she said.
Liwewe said there is a lot of talent in Africa, but those behind the making of the films do not want to portray their lifestyles.
“This is where South Africa is a street ahead because some of the South African productions tell a true story about its people; for instance street violence, farm and mine uprisings, muggings, murders and shootings, all these are told and then solutions offered.
“But this is not the case with most producers and filmmakers who copy from other cultures. Their productions should tell the real story; the storyline should be steeped in the real issues, with a culture and language that is purely people-oriented,” she said.
“This does not mean that other foreign languages are prohibited, since we believe that language is not a barrier in as far as art is concerned, but our message here is that we are not keen on superficial scripts,” Liwewe said.
She said they were still appealing for more concepts and scripts, and for as long as they suited their desired frame of things, nothing would stop them from being accorded screenplay.
“We take productions on merit, and although we still have a backlog of other works for consideration, we are at the same time calling for new material which we hope will be of better quality.
“If you do not hear from us within the prescribed 90 days, it does not mean that you have lost out completely since we can give you a second chance to rework your script according to the set requirements.”
“Some Zimbabweans are spot-on when it comes to film production, but their biggest challenge is lack of funding as they reveal,” she said.
The affable content executive, who is imbued with a strong passion for the television industry, did not hide the fact that Zambezi Magic channel, in its short life span, has been found wanting when it comes to the area of training practitioners so that they are versed in the strings and the requirements of the game.
“Yes, we have covered the length and breadth within a year in this business, but we feel more still needs to be done especially in the area of conducting training workshops. These are meant to impart knowledge, and there is a big loophole towards that regard,” she noted.
Since MultiChoice and DStv are headquartered in South Africa, some critics were of the assumption that it was purely a South African project meant to spearhead and project issues that are related to that country alone.
Liwewe, however, was quick to dispel that notion, saying the channel is purely for everyone who wanted quality TV entertainment, viewing and education, regardless of where they came from.
“This is the reason why we also receive unsolicited proposals, which we give a fair consideration and assessment, and if the ideas are good and suit into our required frame, then why not take them on board and develop them for screening?
“This whole thing is not a singularly South African project as some people would like to think. It is for you and me.
“This is the reason why we have a great desire to see Zimbabwe growing and surpassing its current standards when it comes to television,” she said.
Our dream is to develop a more realistic channel that will be rated next to none, and this will also include our drive to improve on the live transmission of our programmes in countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi among others,” said Liwewe.
Dubbed “the home to Southern African TV entertainment”, the channel is on DStv Premium, Compact Plus and Compact subscribers in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and Swaziland.
“This channel is tailor-made with the Southern African viewer in mind and will offer the most sought-after archive content that has so far, not been available outside of South Africa.
“Zambezi Magic will entertain viewers with riveting plots on award-winning soapies ‘Generations’, ‘Muvhango’, ‘Isidingo’, ‘Zone 14’, and ‘Jacob’s Cross’ while getting a healthy dose of critically-acclaimed edutainment TV series, ‘Intersexions’ and ‘Yizo Yizo’ that explore various societal issues and have sparked debates around issues like the HIV and Aids epidemic, love and relationships.”
Also popular on the station is the “Zim Top 10” musical videos show, which is also produced by Zimbabwe-born Gilbert Chapara, Zambezi Magic content intern.
The show focuses on promoting and giving a feel of Zimbabwean videos and according to him, they are not selective.
The show is not only for elite musicians as some would want to believe, but if the video is good and can be rated it gets attention.
Fans of lifestyle shows will be spoilt for choice by the quality entertainment line up on Zambezi Magic.
“Viewers will learn how to create scrumptious meals alongside the vivacious Siba Mtongana, the host of ‘Cooking with Siba’ and watch as long-lost family and friends are reunited on the heart-warming ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’ dubbed, ‘the truth and reconciliation of the soul’. Sitcoms like ‘Stokvel’, ‘City Ses’La’, ‘The Coconuts’, ‘Kota Life Crisis’, ‘Skwizas’ and ‘It’s For Life’ will tickle viewers’ funny bones with their cheeky humour and dialogues, packed with a razor-sharp wit.
“Zambezi Magic will also feature exciting films from the Lokshin Bioskop film library.”
While mixed feelings are always the order the day, the fact is that Zambezi Magic TV has managed to play a significant role in being the feeder of the SADC region in as far as TV broadcasting is concerned.
With its wide range of programmes that appeal to a cross-section of viewers around the world, the introduction of Zambezi Magic has managed to bring the much-needed shift and dimension in television viewership and entertainment.