I came into office in October (2018), my Minister came in September, my Deputy Minister also came into office in September as well.
By November we had started asking for position papers on what we felt needed to be done as far as reforming our media sector was concerned and at the centre of that was the aligning of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) to the Constitution.
We received a number of papers from most of the organisations that are represented here. One of the suggestions that came from our stakeholders was that AIPPA mixed three issues in one. So the suggestion was that we unbundle it and each issue stands as a separate legislation.
It was a request that was acceded to and we called for round tables which ran from the 26th to 30th of November. Most of you came and again gave an input and spoke to some of the position papers you had. Those who came without position papers at that point were asked to submit all the same.
Then we arranged an all-stakeholders meeting that took place between the 7th and the 8th of December at Pandari, most of you came. Again, you spoke to the positions that you had on different matters. We debated, we discussed, found each other, we diverged in some places, but very few of those places.
The drafters were in the room, they were picking different expectations and they would listen very carefully to what we were saying and they would see where the consensus was and that is what they would put in the Bill.
So they furnished us with the principles, after we took those to the Cabinet; at that point we were dealing with primarily four bills now because their planning had started.
So we were dealing with the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Freedom of Information Bill and Protection of Personal Information. So the ZMC Bill was reformed by Section 248 to 250 of the Constitution.
The Access to Information Bill, which is the Freedom of Information Bill, was reformed by Section 62 of the Constitution as well as 61.
The Protection of Personal Information Bill was also reformed by the Section 57 of our Constitution then the last one was amendment to the Broadcasting Service Act which was reformed by quite a number of sections in our Constitution.
We took all three to Cabinet and the first to be looked at was the ZMC Bill and the President suggested that we needed to take up those Bills moving as a bundle so that when AIPPA is repealed and new legislation takes its place simultaneously. So we were given a week within which to bring in the other two Bills.
We worked miracles and we managed to do that. The following week the Minister presented to Cabinet the other two Bills, principles rather and they were passed and the drafting started, so we gave a drafting instruction to the Attorney-General. They did some drafts and we arranged a workshop in Nyanga together with Centre for Applied Legal Research, the consultants in this process and the Inter-Ministerial Team on alignment was also in place.
Lawyer Mr Chris Mhike was there, another lawyer Mr Tafadzwa Mugabe was there as well and he stayed until the last aorta had been put in there, but we diverged on a number of issues, but we found each other again.
We have a good idea of what we put on those Bills. The good thing is through our journey we were together. We walked that journey together up to this point. Yes, obviously, there happen to be disagreements. Naturally, we will disagree, that’s natural, but the major thing is we agreed on the core issue that we needed a free media in Zimbabwe.
A media that does not toxify our people. A media that does not polarise our environment. A media that is not polarised itself. That’s we agreed on.
We agreed on a media sector that has integrity and that takes responsibility and we also agreed that we needed to serve the national interests above everything else.
We may have diverged on the issues of what percentage should a foreigner have and what in our media sector and so on, but we were together, we were doing a Zimbabwean thing which we all agreed on.
Now where are we on that journey?
Our drafters are letting us down because after the write up that took place between the 21st and 25th of March we expected to have because most of the things had already been agreed on and we expected them to do house keeping, tied up the sections, language and give us the bills in the most possible time, but last week they managed to give us the Freedom of Information Bill which Minister Mutsvangwa took to Cabinet,and thankfully it was approved.
We expected it to have been gazetted last Friday. A quick check suggests it might not have been gazetted again, I think one or two things that have been suggested by Cabinet is probably being tied up.
I think it will be gazetted on Friday, so that’s good news.
The bad news is that we are waiting for the other two that is the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill from the drafters. We are agitated as a Ministry and as Government because we want this out of the way. I am sure so are you. But we hope this week; we will get those and we really are pushing hard. Trust me.
We have really escalated and we have written letters and we have done what we needed to do, to bring the powers that support our cause to have this bill done.
Everything being equal we may get them this week. We will try to get them before the Cabinet committee on legislation on Monday (next week) though it normally seats on Thursdays so if we get them before Thursday we would push them to go on Thursday. If we don’t, we will have an extraordinary one on Monday so that we can present them to Cabinet on Tuesday next week. This is our hope.
The Broadcasting Services Act Amendment Bill principles were passed by Cabinet on Tuesday. We also gave the drafters instruction. And I have signed it.
We actually did the draft to the Broadcasting Services Act. So we have what we believe was captured in the principles which had not been approved then, but we still went ahead to do the draft there we are, that’s what we have.
I am made to believe that the names that needed to pass to constitute the board — the Broadcasting Authority board — have passed and some have failed. I am just waiting to have that paper so that the Minister may make appointments of board members.
Once a board is in place — that’s the thing that has been stalling everything — we will be able to license some community radio stations and we will be able to also license some other players and have more channels above ZBC in as afar as television is concerned.