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Mashudu Netsianda Bulawayo Bureau
THE Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) on Thursday commissioned a high-tech digital printing press at its Bulawayo branch as the integrated media house continues to consolidate its market share in the cut throat industry. The unveiling of the new machine at the company’s Typocrafters building in the city’s Belmont Industrial site has increased Zimpapers’ capacity threshold to higher levels of quality and efficiency.
The printing press has capacity to print 40 000 newspaper copies in an hour for both broadsheet and tabloid sections in full colour.
Speaking during the official opening ceremony of the printing press, Zimpapers chairman Dr Tommy Sithole said the new facility, the Manugraph Cityline Express, brings the latest third generation offset litho web printing to the country’s Southern region.
“We are giving Bulawayo and surrounding areas access to the most modern printing technology,” he said.
Zimpapers will be able to print all its four titles published in Bulawayo on the new press and these are: Chronicle, Sunday News, uMthunywa and B-Metro.
Dr Sithole said the state-of-the-art printing press would drastically cut costs, improve efficiency and colour positions, thereby attracting increased advertising volumes.
“Obviously, the first customers of this new press will be our four titles written and published in Bulawayo: Chronicle, Sunday News, uMthunywa and B-Metro. They will now be modernised in appearance and be able to offer advertisers more flexibility. But we at Zimpapers are also keen on simultaneous printing of our national and specialised titles in both big cities.
“We do not see why readers in the South and West should wait for ever while a delivery van negotiates an ever-busier highway and half a dozen toll gates when modern communication technology allows us to squirt the pages down a cable to be printed for pre-dawn delivery,” he said.
The company last modernised its printing centres in Bulawayo and Harare in the early 1980s, with the first-generation web litho presses, bringing colour printing to the newspaper business in Zimbabwe.
Dr Sithole said while readers might well appreciate good content, they still enjoyed having that presented in decent modern wrapping, hence the switch in the second decade of the 21st century to third generation full colour litho technology.
“Our advertisers have become ever more demanding, wanting not just full colour everywhere, but also innovative products such as jackets, flappers, spreads and the like. We are not limiting our press to ourselves. We are serious that this facility is here to serve the southern region, and even to serve our competitors. Anyone needing fast modern printing in the south is welcome to talk to us,” he said.
Dr Sithole said Zimpapers was already eyeing the foreign market in neighbouring Botswana’s Francistown where potential customers have already worked out that Bulawayo is a lot closer than the second nearest press in Gaborone.
The investment in the printing press by Zimpapers is the second major venture the company has made in a year in Bulawayo.
Last year, the country’s largest multi-media company commissioned an exercise book press and opened a new line of business for its commercial printing division.
Cognisant of the migration of the growing number of readers from print to digital media, the company has also developed its digital platforms that are compatible with mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets and android devices.
The group has also introduced online advertising and platforms that suit various economic sectors including the informal sector. Despite increased competition in the newspaper industry, Zimpapers’ titles such as The Chronicle, The Herald, Sunday Mail, B-Metro and H-Metro continue to maintain leadership in their respective markets countrywide as evidenced by independent surveys on readership and circulation figures.
Zimpapers is the leading integrated media, commercial printing and packaging company in Zimbabwe.
It is the country’s oldest newspaper publisher and commercial printer, having been in the industry since 1891.