PRINCE Dubeko Sibanda, the Information and Media Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson says during his five-year tenure as head of the committee he would like to see through the licensing of more independent players in the media sector.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The Binga North MP holds a master’s degree in financial economics and is currently a final year law student and says he has also attained numerous other diplomas.
“I joined the MDC in 2004 in Victoria Falls. To me, it was the only political party that could bring about the best in me in terms of creativity as it allows interaction of ideas,” Sibanda said.
“It was also more receptive to new members in its structures and it allowed talented individuals like myself to rise in its ranks to the extent that in 2008, while I was the district secretary of Hwange West, we managed to win all the 11 local authority elections for the first time,” he said.
Currently, Sibanda is the provincial party chairperson for Matabeleland North province and says he will continue to give any Zanu PF candidates in future elections a run for their money.
During the 2013 Parliamentary elections, Sibanda beat Patrick Nene Sibanda during the MDC primary elections.
Narrating how he beat the other Sibanda in the elections which made him MP for Binga North, he said: “The major complaint that the people had against the former MP was that he never gave feedback to the constituency and that he never meaningfully debated in Parliament – a situation that inhibited their issues from being heard by the Executive.
“My major achievements have been consistent and constant feedback and proffering a good representation in Parliament that has brought Binga district in the limelight. Whereas all along Binga district was just another marginalised district, now it has become one of the most notable districts in the country.”
Sibanda is one of the several very outspoken MPs in Parliament and he says through his oversight and representative roles, he brought most government departments to account as he demanded service delivery and an end to corruption.
“In my constituency, obviously, I have assisted in the construction of such infrastructure as dams, schools and clinics. Above all, I have given back to the district the dignity they deserve by being recognised as equal citizens of the country.”
In his role as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Sibanda said: “I want to see media reforms and these are basically premised on issues that have been complained of all along by the citizens directly or through elections observer reports; issues of media freedom as stipulated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
He said the Zimbabwe media space must be opened up, including licensing up of more liberalised newspapers and radio stations to allow more players and to reduce government control both in ownership and regulation.
“We need multiplicity of ideas being expressed through ownership and content of media products. I look forward to a situation where government becomes a facilitator for an environment conducive to investment in the media sector through reduction of cost of doing business by reduction of taxes, provision of media infrastructure such as transmitters at low cost, and ensuring constant supply of power at affordable cost,” he said.
He said his dream is to see a media sector without bias, where the public media is not a mouthpiece of the ruling party, and where information dissemination and expression of ideas is spread freely without government interference and threats to the media practitioners.
“Government has so far been talking good, but their actions don’t give us confidence about their sincerity. For example, the editorial policy of public broadcasters and newspapers still remains firmly under the control of the Executive at Munhumutapa Building. Most of the licence holders in broadcasting are pro-government institutions and this is unacceptable as we continue to hear a predominantly pro-Zanu PF ideology. I hope this will change through an array of legislation coming to Parliament soon,” the MP said.
He said the media playing field is not level, while public broadcasters and pro-government institutions can get licences easily.
“Freedom of expression is still a pipe-dream in the country. No wonder why we have so many citizens currently appearing before the courts for (merely) expressing their views on how the country is being governed.
“Government has been too restrictive to the media sector. For example, any media house that reports negatively on government loses advertising revenue from government institutions. This has seen most media houses stampeding to report positively on government. This is not good for democracy,” he said.
On social media, he said it remains one of the reasons why citizens appear in courts usually for criticising government or politicians in government, adding it is unacceptable.
Commenting on the work of the Information Portfolio Committee, Sibanda said currently it has been familiarising itself with the media sector to understand its challenges.
“Our objective is to play our oversight and legislative role in a manner that will make Zimbabwe really open for business in the sector by reducing barriers to entry and operational costs in the sector. That way, I believe the aspiration of Zimbabweans, as enshrined in section 61 and 62 of the Constitution, will be activated.”
He added that the committee was currently scrutinising the Freedom of Information Bill, and thereafter will subject is to public hearings in terms of section 141 of the Constitution.
Sibanda pointed out that he was not satisfied with the Bill in its current state.
“I look forward to a good product after all the processes are done. At the end of the day, it is Parliament that makes the law and by the time the Bill passes through both Houses, it will be Parliament’s product and not that of the Executive,” he said.
The MP said he will ensure all media Bills adhere to constitutional provisions during his tenure.