FULL TEXT: … Allow Participatory Democracy To Flourish – Mutsvangwa

Below is a speech by Minister of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting services, Monica Mutsvangwa on delivered at Great Zimbabwe University to mark commemorations of the World Press Freedom Day. Read the full text:

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you today, at a moment we are marking the 2019 World Press Freedom Day commemorations under the international theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.

I guess that it is no coincidence that today’s lecture has been aptly themed “Media, Social Innovation and The Restoration of Democracy in the Second Republic”.

I believe that both themes uniquely dovetail our Government’s call for the media to play its democratic role in ensuring free circulation of ideas that stimulate robust discussion of various initiatives by Government, to ensure that everyone participates.

Government is doing everything within its capacity to make sure that all constitutional provisions which guarantee freedom of expression and the media and access to information are practically realised.

Work is ongoing to align different pieces of legislation to ensure they conform to the Constitution in tandem with the ideals of the Second Republic in its desire to restore the true legacy of Zimbabwe.

It gives me immeasurable joy and satisfaction to be with Great Zimbabwe University staff and students at this historic moment in our country.

My presence here is no vain testimony of the undivided devotion to the sustenance of democratic ethos espoused by the Second Republic.

The mere mention of ‘Second Republic’ evokes the spirit of celebration among patriotic Zimbabweans who unequivocally spoke in November 2017, and your listening President, Cde ED Mnangagwa, has committed himself to deliver according to your wishes and aspirations.

The Second Republic was birthed by concerted efforts of all Zimbabweans who were clamoring for a new lease of life and the return to constitutional democracy.

We are dedicated to ensuring that the confidence and trust that Zimbabweans, students included, have reposed in us, by renewing our mandate to lead during the 2018 harmonised elections, does not go to naught.

The Second Republic is the product of the fervent aspirations and wishes of Zimbabweans and we will forever be guided by the values of servant leadership.

You will recall that, in his inauguration speech, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in November 2017, alluded to the birth of a New Dispensation guided by the urgent need to restore the nation to democratic governance.

Such a mammoth task can only be achieved if we harness our media in facilitating the participation of all Zimbabweans in their own governance.

The Second Republic is committed to move beyond the challenges of the First Republic and make sure that citizens play a central role in the developmental processes of our country, Zimbabwe.

Such a herculean task will remain a pipe dream unless we create an atmosphere that celebrates the free flow of information and allow participatory democracy to flourish.

Our efforts are a clear indication of the commitment we have towards media plurality, diversity, and freedom, but it remains the prime role of our institutions like Great Zimbabwe University to produce patriotic cadres who will immensely contribute to championing a new narrative that celebrates our diversity, that celebrates the economic turnaround initiatives and policies, and, above all, that celebrates patriotism.

For the media to play its expected role, there is need to rise above egomaniacism, parochial and sectional interests and create a public sphere in which non-violent controversies erupt.

Malcom X once said “the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, and that is power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

My ministry is making sure that the media plays its democratic role of ensuring the free production and circulation of ideas that shape the developmental narrative of our nation.

As such, we cherish efforts that elicit novel system-solutions like the establishment of a campus radio station by Great Zimbabwe University.

I am doubtless that this radio station is the harbinger for a return to professional and ethical journalism that is grounded in the desire to serve the community.

Our Constitution provides for a devolved State, and this radio station today stands as a giant example of how stakeholders ought to find solutions to local problems.

Access to information goes a long way in stimulating active citizen participation in democratic and governance processes.

Because of what I presume to be monopolies and shortcomings of our media institutions, we have inevitably exposed our citizens to the nefarious and frivolous agendas of political and economic saboteurs who circulate fake news on social media.

I am much elated to see that universities have responded to our call for the return to professional and ethical journalism.

Our country is doing a lot but there is serious lack of journalists who are fully committed and professionally equipped to unpack complex economic issues for the ordinary citizen.

In the absence of professional journalism, we will continue seeing our citizens being driven by sensational news peddled on various social media platforms.

The establishment of the radio station by Great Zimbabwe University uniquely dovetails with Government’s thrust to revamp educational institutions into becoming the dependable guiding lights for social, economic and political transformation in line with the tenets upon which the Second Republic was founded.

You will agree with me that our Government has made clarion calls towards the seismic shift in our academic approaches in an effort to produce graduates who are ready to be critical cogs in the modernisation thrust of the Second Republic as enunciated by Vision 2030.

This can only be feasible if academic institutions cease to produce graduates who are desirously seeking employment and bereft of creative and innovative ideas to move the country forward.

Such an era is past and gone and we are looking at producing a whole student who is equipped for the market and for providing the much-needed solutions to the day-to-day issues affecting not only Zimbabweans, but humanity in general.

Until we reach such a stage, can we say we have fulfilled the focus of the New Dispensation?

The Great Zimbabwe University campus radio station stands as a colossal testimony of the role that academic institutions ought to play in the social transformation agenda of our nation, indeed through social innovation.

We have suffered and continued to suffer from the toxic effects of media polarisation in our country at a time when we are calling every Zimbabwean to play a role.

Where there is innovation and progress, we do not hesitate to play our part as Government in making sure that such projects get all the support they deserve.

We have licensed a number of commercial radio stations and the coming on board of university radio stations is a positive gesture that will go a long way in bringing competition, professionalism and sanity to the media fraternity. We know that for one reason or the other, some people end up in the studio without the requisite skills and knowledge.

This campus radio station should, therefore, set the tone for a return to professional journalism in the country.

As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day today, we need to be introspectors and judges of ourselves.

We need to ask ourselves if we have done all that we could potentially do and indeed ought to do to reflect on the cultural diversity of our country.

Our constitution clearly indicates that we have 16 official languages.

But is our media environment reflective of this enormous diversity?

If not, how can we innovatively transform our media system into stimulating robust citizen participation in economic, democracy and governance issues?

This is what we should be asking ourselves as we exult in the World Press Freedom Day commemorations.

I am happy that as GZU, you have the right to stand tall and congratulate yourselves for always moving apace with the changing times.

One of the celebrated media scholars, James Curran says “new times call for new thinking”.

This is the kind of flexibility and reflectivity that we long to see prevailing in our academic institutions.

If we fail to adapt to the dynamic and ever-changing media environment, we are doomed for good.

We will have none but ourselves to blame.

With a Government that is committed to upholding the fundamental rights to access to information and freedom of expression and the media, we have no excuse whatsoever to be lethargic in transforming our media sector.

For so long a time have we relied precariously on Western narratives of ourselves.

That Western gaze which borders and cling fast on stereotypic representations can only be rebutted and dislodged if we stand our ground and speak for ourselves.

The historic imbalance in the flow of information has been very harmful to our conception of ourselves and in the process, we have accepted our supposed inferiority in the marketplace of ideas.

But with efforts of this nature, which GZU has exhibited, I am glad to say that it’s the dawn of a new era that resonates with the Second Republic. We need to tell our own Zimbabwean story from our own perspective.

We are fully cognisant that there is need for a broadcasting license for this state-of-the-art radio station to be fully operational and benefit not only the students but the broader community in Masvingo and beyond.

The motion for the issuance of the licence is already in place, and once we have finalised all the logistics, I am certain that Great Zimbabwe University will be granted its licence.

Our President is on record saying that Zimbabwe is open for business and by this, we mean serious business even by our own institutions like Great Zimbabwe University.

I thank you!

Minister Mutsvangwa is the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. She made this speech at Great Zimbabwe University to mark commemorations of the World Press Freedom Day.

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